An Open letter to all Political Parties and Politicians who wish to govern this Country in the Years to come. (Some Random Thoughts on Good Governance and Democracy in Sri Lanka)
Posted on December 24th, 2009

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara President Mahanuwara Senior Citizens Movement

Everybody these days is talking about “ƒ”¹…”good governance’ and “ƒ”¹…”Democracy’ although none of those who alternatively come to power, pledging for good governance and democracy is least concerned about them after assuming power. They are only empty political slogans used as catch words and baits to hook the voters. They all promise sun and moon at the elections but conveniently forget about the promises so made immediately after they come to power and carry on the governance for their own convenience. Good governance means different things to different people. But for the politicians it means only a process that guarantees their power and perpetuates their own well   being.

Democracy is usually defined as the “ƒ”¹…”Government by the people, for the people and of the people’ by political philosophers. But in this country of late it has become merely “ƒ”¹…”the government by the politicians, for the politicians and of the politicians’. Under the prevailing system voters have got reduced to mere helpless spectators who have no alternative but to watch how these power-hungry politicians alternatively rob their sovereignty and ruin the country.

The celebrated American saying that “ƒ”¹…”democracy is a form of government where a pack of asses are ruled by a set of cunning foxes’ I think is more appropriate to our context than to America. Absence of an apolitical national leadership who could mobilize and empower the people to tame these crafty politicians, I think is the biggest lacuna we face as a nation.

 Today most electorates in the country have no representatives in Parliament. Those who have gone their do not represent any body other than their self interest. Although we are labeled as a representative democracy the people in a given electorate have no right even to select their representatives at elections. The leaders of political parties name them and the voters have no choice but to vote them in to power.

If you carefully analyze how things took shape in recent years you will see the dramatic changes that have taken place in Sri Lankan politics particularly since 1978, even though the deterioration was to be seen gradually settling in since early 1970s.

I remember even in early 1970s we had a small Parliament (168 MPP) with a smaller Cabinet Headed by a Prime Minister who commanded the majority in the Hose.                          Unlike today those days politicians were not paid salaries as such. In fact in early days they were not concerned about a monthly salary either. Because most of them had enough money and many of them came to politics from good background for prestige. Service to the country preceded concern for financial perks unlike today. Then an MP was getting Rs 500 a month as an allowance whiles a Junior Minister Rs 750 and a Minister Rs 1000 only. There were no official cars or dozens of back up vehicles packed with army or police officers who try to fly on the roads unlike today to cause public commotion on highways either. They also did not have an army of personal staff including dozens of advisers and Coordinating Secretaries etc to run their political agendas in the ministries at the expense of the general public. The Permanent Secretary, a carrier public Servant and his staff then ran the ministry. Politicians also had no body guards and lethal weapons to seek protection from the voters either.

Outstation MPP and even Ministers had to come to Colombo by train or bus and during their stay in Colombo all of them had to stay in Sravasti, the official residence of MPP and Ministers. During that time every electorate had a MP who represented the people of that particular electorate. They were also people from the electorate who resided within it. Majority of them were people of standing with a good education, social back ground and character. When a sitting MP died or is unseated there was a by election to fill that vacancy. That served as an interim barometer to test the pulse of the people. It also acted as a mid term evaluation of the performance of the government. Public Service and the                         Judiciary were based on meritocracy and they were run by the PSC and JSC which were independent bodies set up under the Constitution.

This independence of the Public Service and the Judiciary came to a sad end in 1972 with the abolition of the PSC and the JSC and vesting these powers with the Cabinet. However the real tragedy and the appalling situation we witness today actually started in 1978 with the promulgation of the new Constitution. The 1978 Constitution increased the number of MPP in the Parliament to 196 and subsequently another 29 were added by the 14th amendment to the Constitution. They were called national lists MPP thus making room for the party leaders to nominate whom they wanted either from the list submitted for that purpose within the nomination period specified for that election or from those who have contested but not got elected. People so appointed represented the interests of the party leader but they did not represent the people. Therefore they were only answerable to their political masters and this nullified the principle of representative democracy.

The Proportional Representation (PR) system introduced by the 1978 constitution further complicated and nullified representative democracy. In fact it made representative democracy a big mockery by introducing firstly, the concept of electoral districts taking the administrative district as the basis of getting members elected in place of the former electorates and secondly by the new concept of preferential vote system. This killed the very spirit of representative democracy by enabling a candidate to get elected on the total number of preferences he collects from the whole district. Apart from alienating the MP from the voters of a given electorate this system also made elections utterly expensive, complicated, cumbersome and corrupt. Every successive election turned out to be a “ƒ”¹…”pissu balu pore’ as people call it among the members of the same party in addition to inter- party rivalries. At the end of every election people are left high and dry without a representative to represent their grievances and on the other hand the country is burdened with a set of utterly irresponsible and parasitic set of self-seeking political ticks as those come in Aesop’s fables. For example the 2004 General Elections ended up with eight electorates in the Kandy district without representatives. As a result Minipe,Teldeniya, Kundasale, Galagedara, Yatinuwara, Udunuwara, Hewaheta and Kudasale today do not have representatives in Parliament. Under this situation how can we say we have representative democracy in this country?

 Again the setting up of new Provincial councils under the 13th amendment created an army of nearly seven hundred (700) new breed of politician called Provincial Councilors with 45 as Provincial Council Ministers with 9 Chief Ministers. These Provincial Councils were camouflaged as an interface between the Central government and the periphery as an instrument of good governance. But ultimately they turned to be a curse in the body politic that not only confused and complicated the whole process of governance but also came to stay as the most chronic political creations which bred overlapping, duplication, corruption and waste and inordinate delay in delivery of services and finally settled down as a mere tool of political gerrymandering adding only a cancerous political appendage and another monster to our political system.

 In addition the Country also got an Executive President who is not answerable to the Parliament or the people, with constitutional immunity as a special privilege enabling him to act with impunity as long as he/she holds that office. He/she became the Head of the Government, Head of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief of the forces and the Head of the Executive Machinery in the country. In addition all the Presidents starting from Premadasa also had been functioning as the Ministers of Finance, who were ironically not responsible to the Parliament either. In the words of the father of the 1978 Constitution, J.R. Jayawardena, he only couldn’t make a man a woman and vice versa under that Constitution. So much so he became the most powerful Head of any state in the whole word. Not satisfied with the enormous power already he had under that Constitution JRJ also amended the Constitution to enable him to call for a fresh Presidential election after four years in office. Under this constitution the President can act like a dictator. In short under this Constitution the governance of this country has got reduced to a one man’s show.

Provinces also got a Governor for each of them. They were selected and appointed by the President at his will and held office at his pleasure. They were not required to have any basic qualifications. Often they were handpicked from among defeated politicians or persons who have close connections with the President with the ultimate aim of strengthening his position.

With the inauguration of the1978 Constitution all politicians got a whole package of unprecedented privileges including enhanced salaries, allowances, personal staff, security personals, vehicles with a facility for a tax free vehicle every five years etc. Mind you all politicians were qualified for a pension in five years and they carry a fat pension for life even if you lose an election (rarely happens under the present PR system). So the list goes on and on and every one in this country has a rough idea of what they get but no one knows what and how much they get. But everybody knows that today to be a politician is the best job one can get. It is the only job which does not ask for any educational or other qualification. They are also not accountable to any one other than the leader of the party in power. Accordingly it has become a super job, much secure, safer, powerful and attractive than all other jobs under the sun. It spins power and money in a way that no other job does on earth. Thus political office in this country ceased to be an instrument of service to the people with this constitution.

Usually today all candidates are nominated by the party leadership in Colombo. Once they are nominated and sent to the electorate the people have to vote them whether they like them or not. They also don’t represent the people today unlike in the past. They only represent the alternate party leader in the capital (here again there is no one leader unlike in the past as they keep on frog jumping after every election to get portfolios in the new government) while safeguarding his own interest and that of his leader on whose pleasure and will depends his fortunes in office and nomination at the next election. They can do any mischief and get over with impunity provided you are in the good books of the party leader. The law of the country does not apply to the politicians and their family members or their friends. They are the law unto themselves and they are the government. Separation of power is a thing of the past. The politician today is legislator, executer as well as the adjudicator. All three harmoniously blended in one. Under our system of governance “ƒ”¹…”necessity hath no law’ as Oliver Cromwell once said. All politicians with very few exceptions are thugs, rogues and mutts. Some of them are criminals. Those saner few also fall in line with the majority by planting the stick to suit where the creeper goes mainly for survival. All government activities including matters pertaining to day to day governance such as appointments, transfers and disciplinary matters, issuing of permits like taverns and government contracts within their regions are either done by the politicians or their family members or their agents. The officials from the Ministry Secretaries downward to the office peon in the periphery are only just yes men to the politicians.

In short today democracy in this country has become a big fast.  It is simply “ƒ”¹…”government by the politicians, for the politicians and of the politicians’. This country today has set up a world record of having the biggest cabinet in the world and it has 157 ministers including many more political positions of Ministerial rank. In other words government today has boiled down to the tyranny by the politicians in this country. The constitutions are made by the politicians for the benefit of the politicians. They are amended and interpreted to safeguard the interests of the politicians. They are violated and sometimes even court orders are not obeyed in order to safeguard political interests. Modern political theorists have stated the purpose of the State as “ƒ”¹…”the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. But it has to be re-invented and re-written in our context as “ƒ”¹…”the greatest happiness of the politicians and their families’. It is a shame for a country that has been following the teachings of Gautama the Buddha which has laid down the fundamental social and ethical code even for the recluse with regard to service to people based on the classic humanitarian principle of “ƒ”¹…”Charata Bhikkhave charikan Bahujana sukhaya bahujana hitaya‘ that no political theorist down the ages could ever outdo.

Over the years Public Service, Judicial Service and all government departments and corporations have come under the political hammer. Powers of politicians range from   appointing Supreme Court Judges, Ambassadors, Ministry Secretaries, Vice chancellors down to even scavenging labourers. Most departments and corporations are overstaffed with supporters of politicians, some of them drawing the salaries and enjoying all other benefits while either staying at home or attending to the needs of their political masters while they don’t do any service to the organization under which they are supposed to be employed. I would like to cite few random examples. Take for instance the CTB, Petroleum Corporation and the present Water Board. The first two were loaded with political catchers by all successive governments. The Minister overload with his catchers and the President or the Prime Minister silently condones with it as he has to depend on his Minister to collect the votes for the party.  I would like to cite a classic example from the National Water Board. These days the Water board disconnect water meters the moment the outstanding amount exceed Rs 500/=. On inquiry I learnt that the Board has got instructions to do so as the Board is now finding it difficult even to meet the monthly salary bill. The reason they say is overloading the board with Minister Amanulla’s people from the electorates in the Eastern Province like Ampare, Samanture and Akkarapattu on the pretext of Negenahira Udanaya. Although they were expected to work in the East now they are posted all over the Island as there is no room for any more in the East. I am also told that the cadre of the Water Board has now has exceeded by 4000 (four thousand) as a result. The same source said when Minister Dinesh Gunawardhana was in charge he never did this type of things. All this is done by Amanulla to fatten his vote bank at the expense of the whole nation. I only cited three instances. But the same situation is true of all government institutions.  It is a pity that the President is keeping a blind eye on this type of treacherous and corrupt activities of his own Ministers just to get their support to keep the government going. The same sources told me that what happened to the CTB will happen to the Water Board as well very soon. So it is no wonder that these government corporations run bank corrupt. As a result very little public service takes place in these institutions. They all have turned to be simple arteries that channel public funds to the pockets of the politicians and their lackeys. All State corporations have turned out to be simple arms of the party in power. All their employees from top to bottom are political appointments and all their physical and human resources are purely utilized and mobilized for political ends.  So much so, if you consider the overall purpose of the state to be “ƒ”¹…”public good’ it has almost come to a level where there is hardy any governance exists in this country from that point of view. Everything flows in one direction. That is in the direction of political power. Everything is done for them to come in to power, consolidate the power so obtained and finally to remain in power as long as possible. How you do it is immaterial provided their aims are satisfied, following the Machiavellian principles of the Prince to the very letter?

 This unfortunate situation I think has to stop forthwith and a complete new political culture has to be installed in the seats of government if justice is to be done by the people of this country.

The following thoughts are listed with an idea of arresting this degeneration and restoring good governance in this country for the benefit of the general public. I know they will as usual fall on the deaf years and the blind eyes of both those who are in power and others who are trying to come to power. But I am presenting them to you, the general public, even though with very little hope for their acceptance or implementation, by the politicians with the fervent hope that first, they will be at least get recorded some where as a desperate call by a dejected solitary citizen who had a love and feeling for his country and people. Secondly with the hope that it will at least create some live discussions among the wise people and start a national campaign to change this unfortunate situation and try to bring about a new political culture  that will be people centered and work for the good of the people and the country at large. Law and order, discipline in all quarters in society, public accountability, honesty, integrity, dedication and full commitment and patriotism at higher levels should form the fundamental qualities of good governance.  

I will highlight some of the important issues randomly comes to my mind under different areas so that the readers could expand on them and prepare their own Election demands to be presented to the political parties and agitate for a system they wish to have in this country in place of the present practice of enforcing by force what the politicians, very often the so-called leaders, have prepared based on their own agenda for coming to power, consolidating the power so gained and finally remaining in power as long as they could that could be subsequently passed on to their children and even grand and great grand children as a heritage.

Political

In the first place election manifestos should be based on people’s needs and aspirations and not the needs and interests of the politicians. The five pillars of the manifesto should be,

Political stability, law and order, discipline, economic and social prosperity and equality and justice.

In order to achieve these goals the following steps need to be addressed immediately

1. Abolition of the Provinces (created by the British to achieve their divide and rule policies) and Provincial Council system (One of the main conspiracies invented by the 13th A to divide the country on ethnic grounds) and consolidating a District based strong mechanism of governance.

2. Draw up a new political map for Sri Lanka comprising three Ratasabhas, making use of the time tested ancient Tunrata concept (that formed the solid foundation of the Sinhale Kingdom from 327 BC to 1815 AD) so that

A) Divisive ethnic and communal tendencies could be eliminated and national integration could be permanently established.

b) Both natural and human resources could be effectively and economically harnessed and mobilized for national development

c) The burden of political and administrative institutions on society could be minimized to the minimum level as given in the following table.                                                                                                           

 

                                                             TABLE 1

  Present Proposed
President 1 1
Prime Minister 1 1
Governors 9 3
Total 11 5

 

  Present   Proposed
MPP Parliament 225   125
Provincial CS 638 (3 Ratasabhas) 150
Ministers Parliament 109   15
Provincial Councils 45 (3 Ratasabhas) 45
Total No Politicians 10+225+638= 873   4+125+150=279

(Since the PM is included within 225 and 125 he is not included to the total)

This hypothetical calculation is made on the presumption that the country will be governed by one central government and three Rat Sabhas and 27 districts.

In addition we can have even a deputy Prime Minister to be reserved for the minorities to be held alternative by Tamils and Muslims (For E.g. T=3 years and M+2 years).This is on the assumption that the country will be governed by one government at the centre with a Parliament headed by a President and three Rata Sabhas, Ruhunu, Pihiti and Maya.

When the solution is so clear why should this country be burdened with the luxury of maintaining 873 politicians (including 9 Governors and about 155 Ministers) at the National and Provincial levels when it could be run more efficiently with about 280 politicians, ten to fifteen Ministers and ministries, the most at the national level and 27 Government Agents at the district level as shown in the above table after devolution of power to three ideal political divisions and decentralization of administration to 27 districts? (It is interesting to note here that in countries like United states of America regional states five or six times larger than Sri Lanka like Texas and California are governed only by one Governor).

Simultaneously political and administrative institutions and carders have to be reduced even at the Pradesiya levels

I think Sri Lanka has already established an unbeatable world record (rather a Guinness record) as the country that has the highest pro rata number of Ministers, Ministries, politicians and public officials (over12,00,000) and political and administrative institutions. It has been reported that including those below the Provincial level there are over 4000 politicians in this country who have to be maintained by the public. The country also spends the highest percentage of the national income to maintain them, compared with all other countries in the world. This also means the biggest burden to the public coffers adding very little or nil to national production. The Provincial Council system and proliferation of unwanted and superficial public institutions (Both government and semi-government) are the biggest burdens we face today as a nation. The purpose of the State should be the good of its people where the supremacy of the popular will on basic questions of social direction and policy will take precedent over all other matters.

Arresting proliferation of both political and administrative institutions therefore is a sine qua non, if any one is serious in good governance that marks efficiency, honesty and economy, in this country. The existing system only accelerates negativity in nation building and distances us far and further away from positivity and prosperity. It is a national crime to waste so much of money to maintain such an army of politicians and public servants. Most of them do not contribute anything positively to the national product. They only serve a political purpose where the power and the well being of politicians take precedent over public good very often at the expense of public welfare. The general feeling in the country is that politicians and public servants jointly responsible for mismanaging the country.

3. Under this system the number of MPP in Parliament should be reduced to about 125 and the number of Ministers to 15 and reduce all their exorbitant privileges and re-install, duty by the country and the people as a service rather than a burden to the country. Also the constitution should specify this number of ministries so that no government can increase it.

4. I also propose that we lay down a minimum period of five years of free service compulsory for all politicians at all levels as the first step in nation building. I am sure you can find two three hundred men and women in this country to do this job that has been blessed by all the four religions. (Pl see table 1 for the proposed formula to reduce the number of politicians)

5. Abolition of the Proportional Representation system and going back to the first past the post system so that every electorate will have an MP to represent them in Parliament and the election procedure will be made less complicated and cumbersome. (At present Kandy district alone has 8 seats without representatives in Parliament due to this system) As such representative democracy in this country today under the PR system has become a big joke.

 6 Remove excessive powers of the President like his immunity and his powers pertaining to the appointment of Ministry Secretaries, Judges of the higher Courts  and Heads of foreign missions etc. ( It may be pointed out here that even in USA all such appointments has to be approved by the Senate).

7 They must issue a clear statement with regard to the state of the Sri Lanka State. It should be one nation and one country. No separate regions for any ethnic group. Any one can live any where and no community whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim should claim exclusive territorial rights to any part of the Island.

8. Lay down minimum qualifications for political positions. For eg. Education, Character, Wealth and Residence within the electorate etc. so that men and women who have an interest in the electorate and persons of some quality will get selected to public positions unlike in the resent.

 9 The present practice of appointment of defeated candidates to all public positions either within the country or outside as Ambassadors and High Commissioners Etc. should be done away with (At present almost all Chairmen of corporations and even most Ambassadors and High commissioners are political appointees). Some of these people are appointed to provide them with power and vehicles to organize their electorates at government expense and the rest are appointed in return to the support they have given at the elections). Almost all these men and women are utter misfits in these positions and they ruin the institutions.

10 Stop nominating outsiders by the party hierarchy as candidates for elections and evolve a system by which people of a given electorate select their own nominees from among persons of character, education, some means and who has permanent residence for at least ten years within the electorates. The voters of a given electorate must have the choice of both electing and rejecting their representative in order to make democracy meaningful.

11 Politicians should be debarred from interfering with the implementation of the law to benefit their vote base. That affects public life.

Eg. Allowing pavement hoarders to trade on the pavement

       Illicit encroachment on crown land

       Protecting illicit brewers, timber fellers and illicit gem miners etc

 12 Abolish all political parties based on ethnicity, religion, language or regional identities and allow only national political parties.

 13 No one living in this country as its citizens should be allowed to have divided allegiance. It should be made mandatory to display their allegiance to Sri Lanka as their motherland both in law and practice. For example the present practice of Tamils and Muslims who consider India and Arabia as their mother lands should cease forthwith. All those who fail to do so within a stipulated time framework should be asked to pack up to their country’s of true allegiance.

 14. The provisions of the 6th amendment to the present constitution should be implemented to the very letter. They should be debarred from conspiring against the Sri Lankan State here or on foreign lands as they did few days ago in Switzerland. The 6th Amendment 157A reads as follows

(1)No person shall directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.

(2) No political party or other association organization shall have as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka

 15 Ethnic segregations should be banned by law and a policy of mixed settlements should be implemented in all new settlements by the government as a first step towards communal integration.

 16 Make provisions within the constitution itself to prevent nepotism, corruption, robbing public property and abuse and misuse of political and administrative power

 17 Abolish the pension system and all extra privileges given to politicians

 18 Confine the activities of politicians to legislation, policy formulation and supervision of execution of such legislation and government policies by the public servants

 19 Set up a powerful Second Chamber of about 35 elected members (27 to represent the

27 districts and 8 to be elected by the Parliament)   from among persons of eminence who have done a distinguished service in the fields of law, administration, medicine, engineering, education, commerce and business etc. These Senators should be elected on a non-party basis so that they could maintain the highest degree of independence. This should function as a body of checks and balances for the laws passed in the Lower House and also as a supreme body to approve appointments to the higher posts in public service diplomatic service and Judiciary, like in the USA. (At present although there is a Committee sitting in Parliament for this matter the appointment are done long before the names are taken up for scrutiny by the Committee).

 20 Ban all post “”…”election crossovers illegal and make it mandatory have by-elections in all such cases.

 21 Go back to Village Council system and devolve power to the Village Councils so that decision making at village level could be done by the people resident within their area of authority.

22 Make Sinhala the official Language with provision for Tamil also to be used as a   regional language in Tamil majority areas in the north and the East and  English the link  language with facilities to teach Sinhala, Tamil and English in all schools from grade two  upwards. (Even India has only one language as the official language that is Hindi, even though there are over 70 million Tamils in Tamilnadu).

23 The President in future should be elected either by the Members of Parliament or by an electoral college of MPP and Senators as it is done in USA.

 24 The rights of the Kandyan Peasants neglected and ignored by all governments since Independence should be immediately restored by integrating the estates with the neighbouring villages. Steps should be taken to integrate the estate Tamils with the natives and all attempts to create separate Tamil administrative divisions either as Divisional Councils or Provincial Councils for estate Tamils should be stopped forthwith. Those Estate Tamils who are not prepared to integrate with the native Sinhala people should be asked to go back to India.

A New Constitution

In this backdrop my view is that the 1987 Constitution itself should be replaced with a new one that would facilitate the implementation of the above policies within the framework of the concept of one country and one nation. The new Constitution should have fixed time limits for holding elections, making it mandatory to hold elections as stipulated at fixed times. That will prevent the practice of political gambling by the President or the Prime Minister to serve their personal agendas at the expense of the people.

The solution of the hour to liberate this country out of its sixty years old tragic political mess is not an India model, a British model or any other imported one, but a Sri Lankan model of government based on the indigenous experiences and traditions that have kept it together, as one country for the past 17 centuries. It should be a model that keeps the nation together as one family where some of its constituents like Tamils and Muslims will not think thereafter India and Arabia as their mother lands any longer.

Administrative

1 Reactivate the PSC, JSC and Vest the appointment, placement, transfers and  disciplinary action etc in all top posts in Public Service, Judiciary and the Foreign Service including Ambassadors and High commissioners etc in them and free State Services from political meddling so that this country will have an independent effective and efficient State Service answerable to the people. The 17th amendment to the constitution should be implemented immediately until anew Constitution is promulgated.

2 Install meritocracy in the seats of government both in Public and corporate Services. Recruitments should be made purely on merit tested at competitive examinations.

3. Reduce the public service to the bare minimum as required to carry out the functions of the state without perpetuating superfluous institutions and cadres just to accommodate supporters of politicians after every election. Political office or Public service should not continue to be the store house for non productive employment generation. Instead the government should create the environment for productive self-employment generation in areas like agriculture, industry, service sector and other productive fields.

4 Remove all waste, extravagance and corruption from public service.

5 Appoint a commission to investigate the assets of all politicians and senior public servants in the post 1977 period and confiscate all illegitimately acquired assets in addition to other punishments deemed fit by the Commission. Make declaration of assets compulsory before taking over any new appointment either in politics or Public Service so that that could be used as a base line in future in respect of politicians and Public Servants. In respect of politicians declaration of assets should be made mandatory at the time of handing over nominations and the applications of those who fail to do so should be should be rejected.

6 All public servants should be given targets in their jobs and like in the private sector and their placements and promotions etc should be based on purely on the criteria of job performance

7 Install strict discipline and order in all departments of public life. The principle of structured bureaucracy where the line of command is strictly followed should be brought back to public service.

8 Scrap all superfluous departments and corporations

9 Severe punishments to all politicians and public servants who misuse their authority and abuse power and rob public property

 10 Do away with all extra privileges given to politicians and public servants like tax free vehicle presently given in every five years

 11. Have fixed cadres for all governments Ministries, departments and Corporations. They should never be allowed to be exceeded without the explicit approval of a national supply and cadre commission. In our days there was a thing called the Supply and Cadre Division in the Treasury without whose approval any cadre increase was allowed.

 12 Issue all letters of appointment to public servants by post instead of handing over at state functions as it is done today. This will not only save the cost to government but it will also save billions of man hours that could be gainfully utilized for development.

 One Legal system

Have one legal system for the whole country. Do away with regional and communal laws like Kandyan, Thesavalamei and Muslim law.

Economic

The country should also have a broad national economic development plan that will not change with change of government

The need to formulate a broad based national plan that cover all our natural resources like land, water, forests and the sea extending for thousands of miles around the Island with its marine resources and to develop a first class infrastructure network that would cover the entire Island, so that it will effectively link up all the parts of the Island and its geographical position in relation to world sea and air routes. This is a must to develop a vibrant and prosperous economy in the present context of global trade and travel. The construction of super highways, like the Southern, Colombo-Kandy and Katunayaka- Colombo and development of ports like Hambantota, Oluwil and Colombo South and Hambantota air port are welcome in this regard. However I would like to add the following items as well to ensure fuller mobilization of our development potentials

New Super highways:

1. Colombo-Putlam-Mannar-Poonerin-Jaffna-Kankasanture.

2. Colombo-Kurunegala-Trincommallee and K’gala-Batticaloa with a Mahiyangana-Polonnaruwa link up.

3 Kataragama- Batticalloa- Trincommallee-Mulative-Elephant Pass

New Railway lines;

1. Matale-Trinco-Batticalloa

2. Matara-Kataragama Batticalloa

No country in the whole of South East Asia has the advantages we have both in relation to its geographical characteristics and world ocean and air routes. This locational advantage should be exploited to the maximum by making Sri Lanka the hub of international trade and travel in South East Asia.

16 Inaugurate a vigorous programme of development through out the country such as infrastructure, Agriculture, Industry, Commerce and Trade so that the living STD of the           people will go up rapidly within the next two years.

17 An aggressive development plan should be implemented to develop the Kandyan peasantry areas as early as possible and do justice to the Kandyan peasants who had been criminally neglected up to date. The present Kenyan Peasantry Department and the Duarte Development Authority should be amalgamated and should be brought under a separate Ministry and the recommendations of the 1949 Kenyan Peasantry Commission should be implemented immediately.

 18 A comprehensive Village “”…”Estate integration programme under the above Authority should commence immediately partly as an ethnic integration programme and partly as a development plan.

 19. Stop robbing the public by scraping things like the five year tax free vehicles scheme to politicians and all public and corporate employees

Foreign Policy

Sri Lanka should adopt a non-aligned Foreign Policy, maintaining friendly relations, with all nations.

General

1 Have a strict code of ethics for politicians as well as all public servants and make every one equal before the law.

2 Stop all extravagant state tamasas and cut down unnecessary expenditure.

 3 Activities of trade unions should be confined to professional and trade activities. They should be debarred from politically motivated trade union action. No political party based trade unions must be allowed any public institution or educational establishment like a University

4 Declare all lands above 5000 feet as reserved forests.   In addition top priority should also be given to rehabilitate and protect the forests on the central highland watersheds that forms the Geographical Heartland of the nation, particularly to arrest land degradation and protect perennial river flow that is so crucial, not only for sustaining irrigation and hydro electricity generation but also for the survival of the entire life system in this Island nation.

5 In agricultural development pride of place should be given to Indigenous technology          

6 Abolish all international schools and convert them to national schools and the National educational system should be revamped to suit the challenges of the new world while preserving our national identity and maximum level of human resource development. 

7 Early steps should be taken to stop the export of unskilled women labour in the form of domestic labour and we must work out a scheme to export educated men and women like doctors, engineers and technocrats and skilled persons to arrest the socio-cultural tragedy taking place at present. We should aim at making Sri Lanka a centre of exporting educated and skilled persons to countries the world over and try to build up a strong expatriate community that could act as a driving force for nation building8 Reduce cost of living and go for fiscal and monetary policies that will stabilize price of domestic agricultural products so that it will give the twin benefit of domestic economic growth and better income for the local farmers and industrialists.

8 Prohibit installations of sign boards of Politicians at every nook and junction which cost billions of rupees for the country.

9 Remove all “ƒ”¹…”circuit political offices’ from Kachcheries which have displaced government departments that have to pay exorbitant rents to private parties as a result. It is said these office are closed for months and these politicians don’t come to these offices at least once a month. In the Kandy Kachcheri I have seen a large number of offices displaced. No one seems to be concerned about the negative effects of this move such as the loss of valuable office space in government buildings, additional expenses for the displaced offices, wastage of facilities provides for these political offices, inconvenience caused to the general public, degrading of government institutions by adding a political atmosphere to government offices which are expected to provide an apolitical service to the public and disruption of smooth and easy coordination between government departments and increase in operational cost due to their inability to operate under one roof. When you think of the same blunder being repeated in all twenty five Kachcheries one can imagine the colossal wastage of public funds and the inconvenience caused to the general public just to bolster the vanity of politicians in this country.

Conclusion

All governments since independence have been groping in the dark. In my opinion what ever said and done the best Constitution we had since Independence was the Soul bury Constitution. It is true that it had certain defects that were not suitable for a fully independent country. But neither the 1972 nor the 1978 Constitutions could be compared with it as instruments of serious governance. Both the latter were designed more for the benefit of the politicians and their parties rather than good governance. The worst is the 1978 Constitution. I see it as a backhoe that dug the grave of representative democracy in this country. The executive Presidency, PR system, the amendment that allowed MPP of one party to cross over to the other, the thirteenth amendment a classical sell over tot India, the 3rd Amendment that empowered the president to go for a Presidential election at the end of four years, the increase of the number of MPP to 225 and elimination of by-elections are few highlights that killed democracy in this country. Unprecedented increase in the privileges of politicians, exponentially multiplying the number of Ministers and politicization of the entire State service system, all these point to which direction the political system has been maneuvered and directed.

If the objective is good governance and if it is for the good of the country and the largest number then I think at least now we must bring about a complete change in our entire political system. We must at least do it now as we have already wasted 60 long years.

I am sure the readers can further improve on this and be valuable contributors to rescue this nation.

One Response to “An Open letter to all Political Parties and Politicians who wish to govern this Country in the Years to come. (Some Random Thoughts on Good Governance and Democracy in Sri Lanka)”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    Al lot of thought, time and effort spent on this article, grateful thanks to the author. As it is very extensive, even a few comments would not go amiss.
    While anything on ethnic based is dismissed – proposing Deputy Prime Minister of Tamil and Muslim ethnic origin like “independent entities” as if they are not even SL-Tamil or SL-Muslim is wholly contraditory.
    Official recognition or constitutionalising 4 religions with 4 types of public holidays among other deviations is another way down the road to divisiveness of the Sovereign Island Country.
    With all due respect, the fundamental error for most ills of the country stems from the status quo of artificial Sri Lankan Nation, which is violating and nullifying the authentic nation of Hela/Sinhela in our “indigenous national motherland” by reference to us as “another ethnic community” and not the NATION. We are the only nation in the world who are servile enough to rid of our Nationhood and settle for national hara kiria and invite invasion by migration.
    Vital idea to ban political parties based on ethnicity, language, religion which can culminate into foreign national self determination demands breaking up invasively the sovereign national Hela Island of Heladiva (SL).
    Add to the bargain, while Hela/Sinhela is the official language, offering Tamil the same status will go to the making of a second nation. English should be the link language to link with the world and not within the country. Until we have a major rethink to free ourself from this tragic bondage, no amount of proposals will hold water!

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