Caritas SEDEC hosted on Monday a panel consisting of Eran Wickremaratne, Tissa Vitharana, Ven Rathana Thera, M.A. Sumanthiran, Vijitha Herath and Hirunika Premachandra on Good governance and Social Justice. All are nominees of parties contesting the forthcoming General elections.
Contributions by them touched on Government which moderates market forces to determine the price of goods and services, the bane of absolute authority conferred to Presidents in the country, the need to ensure the poor have protection in a free market, good governance which logically provides social justice, the corrosion and erosion of social justice due to endemic systematic failure , the need for vigilance to keep liberty secure ,need for introspection by Tamils on what they did to each other as much as they did to others, the vote on the 8th of January which was for change and removal of the autocratic rule, the reappearance of the residual elements and the need to comprehensively defeat such forces at the Elections, the role of Truth in ascertaining what occurred to those reported dead or missing after the end of the war, absence of Yahapalanaya within political parties, code of conduct for legislators, need for an anti cross over provision .
Good governance a crusade by Ven Sobitha with equal contributions of Rathana Thero became the slogan of Yahapalanya with the election of President Sirisena.
In the grand scheme of things the 19th Amendment was to see the entrance of a rainbow Constitutional Council , reconstitution of scores of Commissions. Whilst legislators number 225 persons the population is close upon 22 million there was great fear about the population being represented in the Constitutional Council outside of nominees from the 225.
There was even suggestions the LTTE would creep in through civil society nominees. Yahapalanya in the way 6.2 millon voters envisaged was largely confined to actions of the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet and much less of Parliament at the time elections to Parliament was called.
The tussle at present is between the rainbow coalition which stood for the aspirations of the 6.2million coined as Yahaplanaya and to be announced manifesto of the UPFA. Mahatma Gandhi said,” “There is no human institution which is without dangers. The greater the institution, the greater the chances of abuse.
Democracy is a great institution and, therefore, it is liable to be greatly abused. The remedy, therefore, is not avoidance of democracy, but reduction of possibility of abuse to a minimum.” The struggle in Sri Lanka is to prevent abuse of democracy .
The comments of the panelists if expanded reflect the fuller hopes of the voters who elected the President. This article focuses on more global assumptions of good governance and social justice..
A good king rules well so there is good governance. Yet there is no democracy because the King alone decides and the people have no say. But the good times depends on the continued goodness of the king. The people are at the mercy of the King. If the king ever turns bad, the people have no choice but to put up with the King’s bad behaviour. Herein lies the importance of democracy. It allows for bad governance to be bloodlessly removed and gives renewed hope that the replacement governance can be better. It may not guarantee good governance but it guarantees our right to reject poor governance.
Principles of good governance
The first principle of good governance is the principle of meritocracy. It has no meaning if the people are not educated. If only a small number of people are educated and the rest are not, then meritocracy is an empty concept.
Those who are educated and belong to the privileged class would do well while the rest would not. When the number one priority of the Government is education every child in is entitled to a good education. There are no barriers to upward mobility. You are judged by your ability and by your performance. Race, religion, class, family are irrelevant.
The second principle of good governance is the principle of racial and religious harmony. Many multi-ethnic countries in the world have floundered because they are not able to maintain racial and religious harmony. I hope we are a secular state. There are many religions in the country.
However, monotheist religions are less tolerant because they believe passionately in their own religions. They believe that theirs is the only true religion.
Freedom of speech must be expressed in a responsible way. Maintaining racial and religious harmony could be viewed as more important than the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The third principle of good governance is a clean government. First, there cannot be clean government and corruption cannot be erased if the top leadership is not clean. Second, the leader’s commitment to cleaning up corruption must be absolute.
He must not make any exception. He has to be ruthless and he must never bend the rules. Sri Lanka should have a zero-tolerance policy against corruption. Ministers and Senior civil servants who transgress must be sent to jail for corruption. The President has already referred to the parlous state in awarding tenders in current practices.
The fourth principle of good governance is the rule of law. Why is the rule of law so important? It is important for both domestic and external reasons. If political leaders wish to earn the trust of the people, one of the ways in which they can do it is to have a fair justice system in place. This would give ordinary people confidence that, if they should ever go to court, they would be treated no differently than the powerful and rich people. There is only one law and it should not distinguish between the rich and the poor or between the powerful and the powerless. The rule of law is therefore very important domestically.
Externally, if a country wants to be a financial centre or a favourite destination of foreign direct investment, it needs to provide investors and depositors with the confidence that their money is safe, that someone cannot cheat on them and get away with it, and that justice will not be denied. The rule of law is therefore very important both in terms of the country’s economic competitiveness and in terms of building a bond of trust between the government and the people.
The fifth principle of good governance is inclusiveness. We compete in the world’s market economy which rewards people differently in accordance with their ability, talent and education. Social equity is important. If an economy prospers but the disparity of wealth is large, the society will not be cohesive and social harmony will be threatened. The philosophy of inclusive growth is therefore important. We need to build social equity into our growth strategy. Harmony would not be possible in our country given the growing disparity of wealth and income if the element of social equity is not built into the system.
The sixth and final principle of good governance is care for the environment. Our towns must be garden cities whilst continuously planting trees. We must turned down investments which would pollute the environment. A clean environment is important as it provides a wholesome environment in which people can live.
Current debates have focused little on social justice and more on personalities in the fray at Elections. It is a mistake since the voters have shown in January they could identify themselves with virtues of Yahapalanaya which leads to social justice. Across the country scores of people struggle in their day to day lives making ends meet.
A case in point being a family of seven including three adults living a shack on Main Street, Jaffna made mostly out of tin sheets. Until very recently the shack possessed not one bed, chair , table, neither well nor pipe borne water, toilet, roof, door nor floor and had no electricity.
The children in the family ranged from five to fifteen with the mother having a monthly salary as a cook in a hotel. The Father brought home daily wages when he found work. It is shocking that no employee of any central nor Provincial social security programme ever saw this family and its struggles. It does not require the settlement of the national question to give relief to such persons. Building resilient communities is therefore essential. Governance it seems is vastly blind at present.
In that context voters would do well to remember the great French thinker, Montesquieu, said in the eighteenth century: ‘The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.’
A bad Government is the inevitable consequence of an indifferent electorate. Politics will never be cleaner, and our economic future will never be brighter, unless and until our citizens are willing to give of themselves to the land which gave them birth.” Our voters must support Good governance and social justice.
Courtesy: Daily News