16 December, 2017

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“What Matters Is The First Five Minutes” – Nehru

By S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

In the very early years after India’s Independence, an important issue needed resolution. Nehru was of a strong opinion while the higher echelons of the Indian Civil Service (ICS) had a different view. The latter delegated KPS Menon a much respected member and a confidant of Nehru to present their views. As the discussion proceeded, it became clear that Nehru was in no mood to change his mind. He told Menon, KPS you have done horse riding, in that what matters is the first five minutes. Either you decide or the horse decides for you. Diplomatically, convincingly and yet obliquely Nehru conveyed that in the initial phase of decision making he has to be swift, decisive, unwavering, and firm.

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) is in place with the Chief Minister formally elected and is poised to assume office. It is at this moment that a myriad views will begin to float around. In the last two months, he has shown his capacity for independent thought and action. His ability to chart an unconventional course is becoming clear. Detractors have seen their negative wishes pulverized by the discerning voter. In a Province where elected institutions have ceased to be functional for far too long and where military rule was getting increasingly riveted, the need has become all the more insistent to initiate a fresh process of governance. In such a circumstance, it seems likely that not a minute will be allowed to be lost. Taking the cue from Nehru, the CM Elect will give no pace for the horse to gallop about. Who calls the shots will come to be known all too soon. The decisiveness of the mandate is making for vaulting expectations in the country and outside, which can leave no rest for the Chief Minister and his lieutenants.

What has welled up for long will now seek to burst its banks. The water has to be shored up and purposefully canalized. How? Through sound policy and spirited execution. By whom? The former by those elected, having a sense of power through the mandate and a feel of people’s pulse. The latter by the permanent bureaucracy with legitimate authority flowing from the central and provincial apparatus and with a sense for the practicable. Policy thus is never formulated in the void but is jointly forged, for which effort study and analysis are basic. The bureaucracy has to gain its competence not by age but through intellectual equipment and experience.

In this context may be seen the value of the Civil Service. The British built it first in their home country and then transmitted it to the colonies. Lloyd George one time Prime Minister of UK, called the ICS the steel frame of the British Empire. Patel, Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said that without it India will go to pieces. Today IAS with selection on merit, fills its cadres through open competitive examination held unfalteringly annually. The officers put through the paces by the world class Administrative Training Institute, Ahmedabad and imbued with super abundant confidence, assume responsibility as a cut above the rest. They are buttressed with the same authority as prior to independence if not more and account for India’s forward movement. The same holds for Malaysia and Singapore. Ceylon also had it till 30th April 1963 and on May 1st this year, celebrated the 50th anniversary of tearing it to smithereens.

Now the Northern Province is in dire need of Administrative Service officers to occupy strategic positions. At all levels down the line a robust officialdom has to be built. A partially frayed system needs a thorough revamping. The NPC is not a social service league to employ unemployables. It has to build a lean bureaucracy, shorn of fat, possessed of an athletic physique, agile and alert at the same time and fully committed to delivering to a population seventy times its own size. All these cannot be done with Platonic Love. Uncompromising steadfastness to the principle of merit selection and promotion banished ‘preferment, patronage and purchase’ in the British Civil Service after 1850. It was said that thereafter, ‘dunces’ were denied access and people reaped the benefits. So be it with the NPC. In the FIRST FIVE MINUTES this is not a choice but a compulsion.

Where do we see the origin of reform and change? Always from the leadership. When a boulder is thrown into a river, water cleaves and flows. A pebble is washed away. We hear often of pressure being brought to bear. A total untruth. What do we read in Julius Caesar – “Not that he (Julius Caesar) is a lion but that we are sheep”. It is only the sheep types that get blown over. The polity should fortify the measures that the CM takes to remove the cancer. This is the starting point of change from the pernicious canker of back door entry which has permeated the country pervasively.

While we think of the first five minutes, the government has its own First Two Minutes. Abrogate land powers in the first and police powers in the next. This is the inglorious way in which the government seeks to extend its hand of cooperation. The NPC not to be disheartened by it, needs to exploit the space spared for it. If it wants a field of labour it can find it anywhere. Like Deng Ziao Ping, let the CM and the Council prepare for it. In the meantime, people can be made to see a spectacularly clean and efficient administration which can prepare the platform for worthwhile launches of the future.

We are very much in an undeniable pitiable pass which we ourselves have brought upon us. ‘Boycott Politics’ which had unchallenged run from State Council election of 1931 to Presidential election of 2006, for no less than 75 years has had its inevitable impact. It did not confine itself to elections alone but made its foray into all offers from 45/55 of DS to GGP as a compromise, to Oslo Proposals of 2003 with a viable federal arrangement. We had gone through all the malefic effects and yet almost tripped into its magical trap in 2013. We were salvaged by the pragmatism of TNA. In every aspect of governance, we were moving fast into the pastoral age when the slide has been arrested by the recent election. But the marks of the toll are unmistakable.

A fresh beginning is unavoidable. 1931 is where we Tamils have to get back to. Partial self-rule, preparatory to independence was the substance of Donoughmore Reforms. So it was in India with Montagu – Chemsford Reforms of 1921. Looked at through the political prism only, it might have seemed a move by the British to stall progress towards independence. When the perspective is widened to include governance and administration, it is seen as a necessary induction to the art and science of self – government. It is in such a stage that the North is placed as of now.

How correct am I when I say this? To many Ceylonese, the   Indian independence movement was the very epitome of struggle and sacrifice. Nehru in an interview in mid-fifties, to Ms Zinikin a foreign journalist and author said, “Independence came too early to India. We didn’t struggle hard enough for it. We never had a Long March as in China”. Preparation too was inadequate both in India and in Ceylon. Well educated politicians with hands on experience in governance are required in the North. Administrative capacity and technical competence among officials are very much needed. Professionals in several fields have to grow up. The Council requires power, responsibility, finances and ever widening opportunities to develop them all.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Why was CM/NPC-designate allowed to travel by car – unaccompanied by security personnel – from still unsafe route from Jaffna to Colombo? This is a risky affair. Thankfully, the Police and the Sinhala politicians in the area where the Petrol/Gas Station is – took care of security. Mr. CWV must be provided with adequate and safe security from now on.

    Justice Vigneswaren must proceed cautiously seeking powers to his NPC.
    Laying divisive issues like Land and Police matters in the front of his Agenda can be
    injudicious. Rajapakses have their troubles too from a Sinhala electorate rife with ultra-chauvinist rabble-rousers. A successful and democratic run NPC will be a lesson the South will imitate in no time.
    Signs for the political regeneration of this country looks bright.

    Kettikaran

  • 0
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    The NPC should move with caution in the ‘first five minutes’, but without getting distracted from its goal. What is necessary first and foremost is to get the ex-military Governor replaced by a civilian because without that there will be no breathing space for democracy in the North. That move should be followed by extensive de-militarisation to make the new born democracy in the North vibrant.

    Let us hope that the democracies of the West and the largest democracy on Earth, namely India will extend full support for these initial targets. Their attitudes will show where they stand.

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
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    TNA has a PC without land powers!! That is too only half of what Vadakundi resolutions called for.

    What a joke is this?

    Tamil Madu Jeyalalitha wants TNA to get FULL independence from SL. IF TNA tries to do that they get what Perumal got – kick out.

    LTTE or other hardline Tamil groups will target TNA if it is seen as toeing the government line.

    TNA doesn’t have a future in NPC. Either Tamil Madu, SL government or Tamil terrorist groups will shoot it dead.

    • 1
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      Go see a psychiatrist, mentally ill people don’t realize they have a problem: Your problem will be solved then!

      • 1
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        Thiru

        Though appearing to be unforgiving, you are kind in suggesting a cure for a personal ailment and abating a public nuisance.

        Someone higher than us would have said, Father forgive her, for she knows not what she writes.

    • 0
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      Fathima
      Have you got any comments on:
      The ethnic imbroglio continues, 27 September 2013,
      http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=88937

  • 0
    0

    Judging from the manifesto and the statements coming from the TNA immediately after the election, economic development and governance are not priorities. The thrust now will be the legal wrangling to do with police and land powers and then federal status. Their manifesto it is devoid of any real plans for economic or administrative development. Of course economic failure can always be blamed on lack of cooperation by the central government.

  • 0
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    I am liking this man’s columns more and more because they are so well written. i love the expressions such as a pebble being washed away and the section about lions and sheep being blown over. This man is a very talented writer and must be an excellent conversationalist.

  • 0
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    Sivathasan:

    Grow up.

    Grow out of your excessive selfishness and Greed.

    I am pretty sure, right now, you are living in neither Indian nor Sri Lanka. Because, you are so greedy and you could not understand anything higher than your greed so you escaped.

    So, ultimate result is, your grand children will speak some foreign language and not tamil; and your children WOULD have married (?) some foreigners too.

    If you are a true Tamil lover you should have stayed in Sri Lanka or in Tamilnadu and should have promoted Tamil.

    Now, you feel very worthless as a Tamil living in a foreign country. So, you take that desperation from the country where you were born.

    See how anti-Hindi and anti-Hindu Tamilnadu Tamils are doing. Their leader, at present is a Tamil Speaking North Indian Brahmin and other times Tamil speaking Keralite (I could have been one too). They speak in an English mixed Tamil dialect and not THE TRUE TAMIL.

    WHY YOU ARE SO DISHONEST TO YOURSELF ?

    • 0
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      Jim Nuty [edited out]

    • 0
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      “One who incurs the wrath of many by uttering nonsense, is laughed at by all” – Thirukkural

  • 0
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    Sathasiva Aya,
    Your contributions in CT are worth reading more than once. This one has highly valuable advice to the TNA charioteer. Thank you.

  • 0
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    Hope all the TNA folks read it – hope it is translated into Tamil and Sinhala for wide distribution.

    A good lesson prepared free of charge for teachers of politics in schools and universities.

  • 0
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    Mr Sivathasan is a former top civil servant himself. As an ex Tourism man, I had occasion to interact with him briefly during Mr. Thondaman’s tenure as Tourism Minister – one of the best we had, I minght add. Between the two of them, they were able to get so many projects off the ground, the most notable being the Heritance Kandalama hotel. They were never phased by anything, taking it in their stride, and always being able to think outside the box. I wish there were more like Mr S, not the spineless lackeys masquerading as civil sevants now!

  • 0
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    I concur with Mr. Sivathasan. The most impact has to be made in the first few days in office and this must be chiefly directed at the provincial bureaucracy. They should know who is the new boss and no nonsense will be brooked when it comes to commitment, work, honesty and service to the people. Although the bureaucracy is theoretically under the governor and have worked with him directly for almost five years now, they have to now function under the NPC and no games will be brooked. The people must feel that this bureaucracy has been driven to work for them. There should be fewer meetings, less travelling and more work. The education and agricultural sectors need serious attention,

    If this breakthrough can be made and the best of the brains and the skilled in various fields can be harnessed to formulate and prioritise projects for the NPC, it will be a flying start indeed. The present Governor, I am sure has formulated projects for the coming year and if these are acceptable , they should be taken forward with vigour by the NPC, as a first step.

    The second step must be to keep at bay the favour and fortune seekers, while attending to the needs of those who are marginalised, need help and are driven from pillar to post by heartless men/women in the public services. . The line should be firmly drawn between the two. The favour and fortune seekers will be bane of the NPC.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Dr.RN

      A good comment suggesting sane, practicable and very necessary measures.

  • 0
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    TNA: Call Mr Sivathasan to srilanka and his services.

  • 0
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    For survival NPC has to deliver. NPC and it’s CM cannot in the future make excuses of their inability to deliver on the Governor and the Central Govt. As Sivathasan says an efficient administrative cadre is a must.
    The TNA is a loose coalition and the CM is an outsider. One of his key tasks would be conflict management arising out of different interest groups on demands on resources and personnel. Caste issues are bound to play a major role. This was evident that in the past Jaffna Tamils preferred non Tamil Govt. Agents who could play a neutral role.
    Will the militant politicians allow the CM to play his assigned role?

  • 0
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    Mr.Sivathasan,

    I think we have crossed swords before and the last time you said to me that I am always right and the others are wrong.
    But on this let me be a bit Cheeky and say that you reach anti climax in the first 5 minutes.

    But here I would say that you have to learn to Crawl before you Run or have any ambition to become a sprinter.

    Let us just analyse the following two

    1) As the discussion proceeded, it became clear that Nehru was in no mood to change his mind. He told Menon, KPS you have done horse riding, in that what matters is the first five minutes.

    Nehru was assuming office as a Prime Minister and the Civil Service you are talking about applies to Prime Ministers not Chief Ministers.

    2)The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) is in place with the Chief Minister formally elected and is poised to assume office. It is at this moment that a myriad views will begin to float around. In the last two months, he has shown his capacity for independent thought and action. His ability to chart an unconventional course is becoming clear. Detractors have seen their negative wishes pulverized by the discerning voter. In a Province where elected institutions have ceased to be functional for far too long and where military rule was getting increasingly riveted, the need has become all the more insistent to initiate a fresh process of governance. In such a circumstance, it seems likely that not a minute will be allowed to be lost. Taking the cue from Nehru, the CM Elect will give no pace for the horse to gallop about.

    *** The above I don’t think is relevant or applies to the office of a CM who is working within a confined space which is like a horse box where the Horse cannot bolt, let alone gallop.

    3) Who calls the shots will come to be known all too soon. The decisiveness of the mandate is making for vaulting expectations in the country and outside, which can leave no rest for the Chief Minister and his lieutenants.

    I agree with the above entirely and as I have said many times 13th Amendment falls short of Tamil Aspirations and Needs. The election of the CM is just a starting point and the battle lines have already been drawn. I take comfort from the fact that this time we not alone as we have the World on our side.

    Some people have commented on the Ruling By the Sri Lankan Supreme Court and I am surprised at the speed and the need to pass the Judgement which amounts to SUPREMACY OF SRI LANKAN law.

    The following might help readers to understand the problems MR will face in sticking to his Guns without consulting India applying the 13th Amendment as he sees fit.

    Precedence of European law

    According to the precedence principle, European law is superior to the national laws of Member States. The precedence principle applies to all European acts with a binding force. Therefore, Member States may not apply a national rule which contradicts to European law.

    3) Now the Northern Province is in dire need of Administrative Service officers to occupy strategic positions. At all levels down the line a robust officialdom has to be built. A partially frayed system needs a thorough revamping. The NPC is not a social service league to employ unemployables. It has to build a lean bureaucracy, shorn of fat, possessed of an athletic physique, agile and alert at the same time and fully committed to delivering to a population seventy times its own size. All these cannot be done with Platonic Love. Uncompromising steadfastness to the principle of merit selection and promotion banished ‘preferment, patronage and purchase’ in the British Civil Service after 1850. It was said that thereafter, ‘dunces’ were denied access and people reaped the benefits. So be it with the NPC. In the FIRST FIVE MINUTES this is not a choice but a compulsion.

    I have already answered it above and this point in time we don’t have the luxury of choosing but that will come later when we at least get a State within a State.

    4)How correct am I when I say this? To many Ceylonese, the Indian independence movement was the very epitome of struggle and sacrifice. Nehru in an interview in mid-fifties, to Ms Zinikin a foreign journalist and author said, “Independence came too early to India. We didn’t struggle hard enough for it. We never had a Long March as in China”. Preparation too was inadequate both in India and in Ceylon. Well educated politicians with hands on experience in governance are required in the North. Administrative capacity and technical competence among officials are very much needed. Professionals in several fields have to grow up. The Council requires power, responsibility, finances and ever widening opportunities to develop them all.

    *** The answer to everything you have talked about lies in the last sentence I e ” The Council requires power, responsibility, finances and ever widening opportunities to develop them all and above all recognition by the Power Players.

  • 0
    0

    Dr.Raja Raja Cholan,

    What are you suggesting. It sounds like a choice of deserts after the main course Meal. Strawberry & Custard, Ice Cream Salad or Gulab Jamun.
    The patient has just had a Mutiple Organ Transplant and has been given a new lease of life. New Heart,New Lungs New Liver and New Kidney.

    The patient is on Anti Biotics until March 2014 and is succeptible to Rejection of the New Organ ( Courtsey of Racist Chandrasri ), Attack by Virus and Bacteria ( The Army, EPDP) and inflamation (arrests , attacks, and summons to appear at the 4th Floor).

    My prescrition is take it slowly and gently keep taking the medicine and visit the Dr ( India, US State Department the UN) for follow ups and then flex your muscles and the body will be fully operational.

    • 0
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      Kali

      Fine imagery. A conspicuous omission in your prescription is life blood, without which anaemia will follow with sure immobility. A specialist should know.

      • 0
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        Siva,

        You are worrying unnecessarily as there is no bleeding and the body has enough erythrocytes to deliver oxygen to the tissues so no danger of anaemia.
        Sleep tight and I have given the Patient a clean bill of health as I am an expert on Reincarnation.

        • 0
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          By lifeblood I alluded to FUNDING, not just to survive but to prosper.

  • 0
    0

    Don’t worry,

    You will be surprised at the pace and the extent of investment waiting to flow in once the conditions are right.

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