The Sunday Leader

The Need For An Overall Reorganization In The System Of Governanance

By Victor Ivan

The political outlook of our country has not kept pace with the unprecedented changes that have swept across the modern world today.  It still stagnates at   an unprogressive level where the ideological backwardness of politicians reigns supreme. Although, Prabakaran had been removed from the political scene of the country, the various schools of political ideologies do not seem to have changed their perception on the issue commonly referred to as the Sinhala Tamil problem.  They still look at this problem the way they used to see it when Prabakaran was alive. Those who look at this issue from the point of view of the Tamil people believe that, at the least the provisions enshrined in the 13th amendment should be implemented while those representing the point of view of the Sinhala people are against the indiscriminate grant of all the provisions of the 13th amendment. However, those representing Marxist or liberal points of view are of the view that provisions in the 13th amendment should be granted in toto  if a lasting solution is to be found for the problem.

 

All four schools of thought mentioned above have identified the problem as a mere   inter racial issue. They have failed to perceive it as a more complicated one which is intricately connected with inter-caste relations and religious differences that have got entangled with the political system. Consequently, they have failed to envision a need for a complete transformation or reorganization in the social and political system of the country; their expectations are narrowly confined to effecting a change that impacts only on the inter- racial issues.

As I see it, those who look at this problem from traditional points of view can see only one aspect of a multi-faceted problem; in other words, they have missed the forest for a few trees that they see superficially. Undoubtedly, the trees they see are a part of the forest, but not the forest itself.

The Root of the Problem

The root of the problem lies in our failure to create a united nation and a democratic society which are essential prerequisites for successful sustenance of the national state and the democratic system of governance that we inherited from the British colonial rule.

It is true that everything that the British rule bequeathed us were not wholesome and beneficial. But, from a historical sense the nation state and the democratic system of governance that the British conferred to us are more beneficial and progressive concepts than the system we had before the colonial rule in which the country was divided into a number of kingdoms without clear borders and was governed by feudal rulers who owed their positions to a system of inheritance.

In order to reap the benefits and ensure progressive march of the nation state and the democratic system of governance that was bequeathed to us, two essential conditions must be fulfilled, namely the establishment of a united nation and creation of a democratic society

Yet, there was no indication to show that the successive governments that ruled the country after independence had heeded these conditions. Instead, all of them steered the country without attempting to create these two cardinal conditions. It is unfortunate that all the national leaders have equally failed to realize the need for ushering a united nation and a democratic society. It was only the political parties which commanded the majority support in terms of race, castes and religion had the capacity to secure the power to rule.

Sometimes, they adopted a policy of favoring the people of the race, caste and the religion they represented thereby completely ignoring the interests of the people belonging to the other communities, castes and religions. This situation created unrest and dissatisfaction among the minority groups. It eventually caused a distortion in the relationship among and between different racial, castes and religious groups as well as in the system of governance.

It is against this backdrop that the militant social groups that refused to accept the authority of the government emerged and attempted to capture political power by force to create a separate state. The armed struggles that they launched and the military suppression of them eventually resulted in a large scale blood bath in the country. One way or the other, the racial, castes and religious differences have influenced the emergence of these rebel   groups.

Distancing and exclusion

The independent movement in Ceylon lacked a clear vision for building a united nation.  The minority groups were not sure of their place in an independent Ceylon. They had a serious doubt about their fate. Non Sinhalese communities were afraid of the emergence of Sinhala domination. The Minority caste groups in the Sinhala community were worried about the emerging domination by the Govigama caste. Equally, the non Buddhist religious groups were skeptical about the emergence of Buddhist majority dominance. They even expressed their doubts and sentiments before the Donoughmore and Soulbury Commissions. The Burgher community deeply felt that in the post independent Ceylon, they would loose the recognition that they enjoyed previously under the colonial rule. It was an Anglo Ceylonese community. By physical appearance they resembled Europeans. By faith they were Christians and spoke English language.

The burgher community had made a significant contribution to enrich different   spheres such as law, journalism, politics, arts & literature and athletics. Richard Francis Morgan, Charles Lorenz, Alfred Bultjens, Peter Keuneman, Lionel Wendet, George Keat, and Duncan White were among the prominent people of the burgher community that made an outstanding contribution in their respective fields of journalism, politics, photography, painting and athletics respectively. The other communities were jealous and spiteful of the burgher community because of the excellent display of their talents. They often mocked at them contemptuously nicknaming them as Tuppahies”and Kerapothu Lansis. Burghers were the first to leave the country in large numbers immediately after independence. Our national leaders were not the least bothered   about them leaving the country. They did not make any attempt to stop them. The spiteful attitude prevailed towards the burgher community was not confined to the majority Sinhala community only. The minority communities too, equally shared it. Next, the pressure came upon the Indian estate labor force which remained the lifeblood of the plantations sector. Even the Tamil leaders in the North of the caliber of   Ponnambalam and Sundaralingam supported the program launched by D.S.Senanayaka, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon to deprive the estate workers of their civic rights. There were only two Tamil   parliamentarians viz. Chelvanayagam and Wanniasingam who opposed the move. Then came the phase in which the Tamils were deprived of their language rights. The displeasure and unrest generated by the language issue was not confined only to Tamil community. It caused   an implicit unrest among the other minority castes and religious groups as well.

Impasse of the System of governance 

Although the new constitution introduced by president J.R.Jayawardena in 1977 marked the climax of the process of degeneration and distortion of the System of governance, this process, however, had already commenced and has been developing since independence. The laws enacted depriving the civic rights of the estate workers of Indian origin and the language laws introduced in 1956 depriving the language rights of the Tamil people were contrary to the fundamental principles and safeguards enshrined in the Soulbury constitution. Both these instances could be reckoned as incidences of violation of the constitutional safeguards. Thereafter, in 1972, the coalition government led by the SLFP carried this process forward and to further heights. They abolished the Public Service Commission thereby shattering the backbone of the public service, depriving it of capacity and power for independent functioning. The SLFP led coalition government, in the name of safeguarding the national sovereignty also abolished the right to appeal to the Privy Council against judgments passed by the Supreme Court without introducing an alternate mechanism to review such  judgments. This had resulted in the loss of an important element in the judicial system that ensured the sanctity of the rule of law, justice and impartiality in meting out justice. Since then, the process of degeneration and distortion of the system of governance was accelerated. It reached the climax with the introduction of the new constitution by J.R.Jayawardena in 1977. Consequently, we are now left with a political system that kills the creative impulse and the effectiveness of the nation due to extreme politicization, bribery and corruption, rampant wastage, lack of discipline, inertia and lawlessness that reign supreme under the current system.

Further, the violent struggles that sprang up in the interim and their protracted nature invariably deprived the country of the opportunity to review the situation and make necessary amendments and fundamental changes to transform and reorganize the political system. These violent struggles caused to eclipse the vision of the political society and the society in general in correctly perceiving the major problems that the country had encountered.

Despite the continued degeneration in the political system of the country, right from the beginning, the attention of the people was primarily focused more on the violent struggles of the disgruntled groups than on the other issues.

Under the circumstances, it was only after defeating terrorism that the opportunity has dawned for effecting fundamental changes to the political system and making a fundamental reorganization of the system. In other words, it was only after defeating terrorism that the people were able to see clearly and realize the level of degeneration into which the country had been plunged into. This situation in turn, has led the society in general to yearn for a fundamental change and reorganization in the political system and the system of governance. Accordingly, the historical moment for changing the system of politics and that of the governance and rebuilding the nation in a manner that promotes creative impulses of the nation has now dawned.  It is time now for all political leaders, intellectuals; all those who are having grievances and those dreaming for a congenial Sri Lanka to focus their attention on this need.

The Problem as a whole

In my opinion, at this historical juncture , we should not confine ourselves to providing a solution only for the Tamil problem which caused  an enormous  blood bath  over past thirty years; instead, we must take cognizance of  all  other issues as well i.e. the distortion caused in the inter racial, caste and religious relations among the people and the great distortions extant  in the system of governance  and the administrative system and  address them  concurrently and in  concert in  effecting  a creative reorganization of the nation and the state.

In my opinion, under the modern context, none of the communities living in Sri Lanka, namely, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim can be considered as fully fledged nations. None of them is in a position to claim full nation status separately and of their own capacity. Under the circumstance, the full nation status could be established only through the unity of all communities and building a common Sri Lankan identity based on equality principle whilst at the same time safeguarding the identity of each other. In the New Nation thus created, there should not be room for any caste, communal and religious differences. It should inculcate proper understanding and tolerance among the different communities, religions, languages, and cultures.

The attempt to rebuild the state and transform the system of governance & the administrative system should be pursued in a manner that would be consistent with the demands of the new state thus created. In this endeavor, it is important that special consideration be given for provision of facilities and adequate safeguards to ensure the effective functioning and existence of the emerging new Sri Lankan nation. Also, it should introduce adequate measures to promote national goals conducive to maximizing creative capacities of the nation. The consensus for these changes should be reached not by force but through the basis of equality and democratic means.

The elements of equality, justice, mutual understanding, respect and trust should form the basis of the bond that binds them together. A constitution alone cannot build a nation. It can only validate and grant sovereignty for the new nation. In my view, the current institutional system is no longer valid for the present. Tamil problem is an important issue to be resolved. But any solution found confined only to that problem would not prove to be strong and sustainable. Therefore, we must adopt a stance that takes the system as a whole and critically review it in an attempt to build a new Sri Lankan nation. In this process, the state and the entire social system should be reconstructed in consistence with the ambitions and the needs of the new nation. This is not a condition to be achieved in a few days. It might take a longer period, perhaps extending over four to five years.

I wish to highlight below some important points that should go into the agenda of proposed reorganization program.

  1. Principles and organizational methodologies  to be adopted
    • To  eliminate  the present distortion in the inter racial, caste and religious relations that prevail  among the people and  forge  one common  nation with a strong Sri Lankan identity which fosters  mutual respect and care between  the different groups of people.
    • To eliminate social acceptance of the caste differences that prevail in Sinhala and Tamil social groups both explicitly and implicitly.
  2. Adoption of  a series of national policies for education, public health, transport, science & technology, art & literature,   energy & power , agriculture & industry, environment and foreign policy that don’t change with the change of the  governments
  3. Formulation of an accepted national policy for government jobs.
  4. Identification of social groups that needs special care and protection and adopt a clear-cut policy on relief granted to them.
  5. Formulation of
    • Appropriate policies and organizational methodologies to overcome the menace of politicization, bribery, corruption and wastage.
    • A methodology and a policy that helps eradicate the importance accorded to money in politics than the knowledge, experience and competence of the people.
  6. Adoption of appropriate policies and methodologies
    • To eradicate the lumpanisation process permeated into the political scenario.
    • To ensure the transparency in all institutional systems.
    • To reduce the anomalies in income distribution.
    • To promote the share of women’s participation in political organizations.
    • To ensure fundamental human rights including the freedom of expression and right of access to information.
    • To restructure the salaries of the government servants in keeping with the modern needs.
  7.  Re-define the duties and responsibilities of all institutions and professions.
  8. Reorganization of
    • The institutional system that ensures justice and implements the law and order of the country.
    • The election system and election laws.
  9. Identification of people affected by violence and methodologies to be adopted to uplift their lives.
  10. In consistence with  the modern needs of the country, adoption of a  democratic  system of government that  respects the rule of law and be efficient, effective and conducive to promoting respect and the faith of the people.

This is not a complete list. There may be many other issues that should go into it. The range and the size of this agenda clearly speak of the largeness of scope and the complexity of the issues to be addressed in reshaping and reconstructing the nation and the state.

In my view, what the country needs today is not a parochial movement aimed at changing the government but a strong national movement for recreation of the nation and the state of that nation. Such a movement should involve a wide and varied range of forces such as the government including the head of the state, the opposition including the leader of the opposition, professionals and professional organizations, trade unions and people’s organizations. It should be an inclusive movement that does not exclude anyone. It must be made a national renaissance movement which embraces every citizen of the country making them respectful partners and shareholders of the movement. It should be a movement that should discard all suspicions, hatred, ill will that prevail between and within the political parties and various social groups. It should also be capable of conferring peace upon everyone.

I am of the view that if the entire system is not reorganized in some way or the other, it is unavoidable that the system itself might make the change. The present system has reached near its climax and languishes in the verge of collapse, being unable to move forward.  Taking cognizance of this situation, if the present system is not reorganized before it becomes dormant and inactive of its own, the eventual breakdown of the system will push the country into a greater crisis. The repercussions and the impact of such an eventuality are difficult to be predicted in advance.

9 Comments for “The Need For An Overall Reorganization In The System Of Governanance”

  1. R.M. B Senanayake

    This seems to be an attempt at obfuscation by introducing caste etc. What the Tamils want is to safeguard their personal security and the security of their property in the North and east which even the vandals who attacked them in 1983 recognized as their homelands and asked them to go back to.
    Hence the demand for control over ther lands and for police pwoers is to ensure the security of their lives. These pwoers will be subject to over-all policy by a National Land Commission and Polcie pwoers subject to the last resort power of the Center where the integrity of the State is an issue.

  2. Dandenong Rangers

    This is why I live in a first world wealthy country with all the trappings of life due to good governance and SL is still regarded as a third world enclave governed by corrupt thugs.

  3. Kusuma

    One school of thought the intellectuals from the south and many progressive Muslims and Tamils share is that each linguistic community must develop its culture and language independently without the fear and interference of the other by making room for religious Cantons. When there is no fear or insecurity communities will come together as in the Europe. The minorities in Sri Lanka fear that the majority community is to swallow their identity and historical lands by government sponsored settlements in the north and east by citing their representations that have been systematically reduced in parliament. Mind you the population of Sinhalese in 1911 census stood at 66%.

  4. Psharmindra Samuel

    This is a very wise and appropriate analysis of post independent Sri Lankas Political landscape. I very much appreciate and thank Victor Ivan for not blame gaming and personality bashing of all those people who have failed us, be it, Colonial Masters, Political leaders ,Religious figures and the gatekeepers of society and its various cultures.

    As said in this essay, Sri Lanka needs to be united as a Nation state [Country] irrespective of Racial, caste and religious differences.

    It needs to forge an unity with justice (Rightness with Truth), equality (Fairness to all) and above it a spirit of reconciliation forgiving the past for all mistakes done and forging ahead with understanding one others positive contributions well, trusting each other with the right hand of fellowship, clarity of things, patients with weak, encouraging the timid well as the courageous.

    With this we must march in steadfastness forward and then that we can create the elements of equality, justice, mutual understanding, respect and trust that should form the basis of the bond that binds them (Us and all) together as you well aspire.

  5. PROF. KOPAN MAHADEVA

    Yes, Victor Ivan is correct about the need for an overall reorganization of how we govern the country. But he describes just 3 schools of thought vis-a-vis the 13th Amendment and somehow sums them up as 4. Anyway, I think a democratic society is a prerequisite for a united nation. Victor seems to have got it back to front. And, of course, Sri Lanka’s is a multi-cultural society, whichever way we might divide it for analysis — racially, linguistically, religiously, caste-wise, regionally, and so on. I sum up the essential ingredients for Unity, as follows:

    Unity is a unique and sensible human quality
    Born when liberty loves and weds equality.
    Unity is an oiled machine with varied components
    Needing each one of them to function even for moments.
    Unity is a delicate bloom destroyed by the heat
    Of selfishness, power hunger, discrimination, deceit.
    Unity is Give-and-Take, Love-Thy-Neighbour, Magnanimity.
    Unity is Compassion, Consideration, Kindness,
    The Will to sink or swim together, Oneness.
    Unity is not merely for other people to be preached
    But firstly for ourselves, in our lives, to be reached.

    Let us do the reorganization suggested by Victor now itself, once-for-all, via a new
    Constitution through our Parliament, without dilly-dallying any longer. Over to MR!

    • Sie.Kathieravealu

      First and foremost need for reorganization s a “change of the mind-set” of each and everyone in the country to respect the other person, to respect the law as common to everyone.

      There is a talk of ‘power-sharing’ by the ‘leaders’ of political parties. Everyone wants a ‘share’ of the whole.
      In my opinion ‘power-sharing’ is different. “Power” is toooo big for any single person to carry the ‘whole Power’. So better to divide the ‘power’ into small pieces and give one piece to each group. So no single group would have the ‘full power’ to do anything. All the ‘groups’ must join and cooperate to govern the country.

      Any comment?

  6. ramalingam.m

    Reorganization of the voting public made up of rural fools need a mind set change and a thorough test of their brains before looking at governance. If not you are on a futile mission that will fail as the MEDIA of the country is constituted of the dummest of the voting fools- So you are on a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

  7. Sie.Kathieravealu

    In a civilized society, the people must be empowered to directly participate in the governance of the country and the best way for the people to empower themselves is, a system of governance that would address the problems faced by various sections of the society – particularly the poor, the politically weak and the various categories of “minorities” who do not carry any “political weight” – would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives of the people by separating the various powers of the Parliament and by horizontally empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers at different locations and thus throughout the country (a small fraction of the Parliament with defined powers and duties functions in each and every village, division, district and region)”.

  8. Mahes

    It is now too late to talk about unity and united country. Pundits and so called eminent arm-chair writers who live in fictitious world write about united country do not know about the real world and suffering war victims numbering thousands still suffering without a normal life in the military dominated North and East . Massacre and war crime is not forgotten. 1958 riots, latter killing and dispersing World Tamil Conference held in Jaffna, then burning of famous Jaffna Public Library ,1983 pogrom, ultimately the massacre at Mullivaikal are all considered simple matter by the Singalese of all shades whether hard liners or soft liners including The Sunday Leader. Tamils are disposable items for the Singala community. Now all these talk of united Sri Lanka is all nonsence. Indian Government too have tamil blood in their hand.

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