The Sunday Leader

Reform, Rights And Good Governance

by Hafsa Sabry

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

It could be a wrong time of the season to launch a book, but a timely book launch for the experts, policymakers and politicians as well as the general public to educate themselves as the government look forward to bring a change in the country that would be purely democratized and that would protect the human values and the Constitution of the land in which the future generation are expected to be benefited from, was witnessed recently.

Since the government of good governance and its policy reforms being one of the top most discussed topics of the present discussions and debates, the International Alert, one of the leading peace building NGOs, organized a launch of book written by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha. This book brings together articles on good governance issues written in the last few years while the main theme is the need for structural change to ensure fulfilment of governmental and social responsibilities.

Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, one of the chief guests of the book launch, told the audience about the new reforms that were being discussed at parliament about the policies and principles of good governance as a long term vision of the newly elected President, Prime Minister and the parliament to bring a change that the country has not witnessed before.

“The country has seen and undergone many changes and reforms during the past three months and more will take place in the near future while the process is being speed up by the newly appointed committees and leaders for many independent commissions, keeping the promises made on January 8 this year,” said the Speaker.

He further noted that the Police Commission and the Human Rights Commission are very active these days. They strongly opposed the recent attack on students of the Higher National Diploma in Accountancy (HNDA), during a protest opposite the University Grants Commission which resulted in the suspension of the Inspector of Police in connection with the attack.

In addition to that, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and the Election Commission are also being active and independent while they carry out their duties according to the regulations. Discussions with the Election Commissioner are being carried out while measures have been placed for fair power sharing and independent activities during future elections in Sri Lanka. “We have even made an independent election committee to discuss the electoral reforms and acceptable changes in the system,” he said.

Also, to bring transparency in the financial committees, their leaders will be appointed from the opposition parties and as a beginning, the chairmanship of COPE was given to the JVP member.

There was an instance in 2001 where the account analyses and the details of the Palmyra Development Board Jaffna was submitted to parliament after 13 years which raised a question as to why the committees are being appointed and regulated if one of the companies under the COPE could submit their annual accounts report to the parliament after more than a decade. “Therefore, we decided to closely monitor COPE activities and the other financial committees in parliament and 70-80 per cent of the account reports were submitted within two years in June. We will make it mandatory to all the State institutions under COPE to submit their reports within 6 months to parliament,” said Karu Jayasuriya.

Nevertheless, there were allegations against the Auditor General’s Department that the actions against the culprits and law violating institutions are delayed because of the carelessness and inactivity of the Department. Even after the reports were submitted and the culprits were pointed out with COPE recommendations, AG Department takes years to conclude relevant cases. In some instances, the relevant culprits or governments are no more. To bring a change in similar incidents and to speed up the investigations and the actions, the government has decided to reform some of the policies of the COPE and other financial committees in parliament.

Karu Jayasuriya also stated that in addition to consulting the general public and the experts in the field, the government has decided to live broadcast the parliamentary discussions and activities for 2 hours, as the government lack funds for a full day live broadcasting but discussions on that are also underway as a lot of drama happening within the two hours of live broadcasting in parliament.

“We are also getting international experts’ advice on the electoral reforms and the separation of powers that exist in the current system of the country,” he further noted.


Dr. Sarath Amunugama

Minister of Special Assignments Dr. Sarath Amunugama, who also was a part of the discussion, said the government has made a lot of changes in the policies and the principles of the Constitution, but the country lacks individuals who are objective. We need more and more discussions and debates from the point of view of general public, civil societies, NGOs etc., on what the government had decided to do for them as we have no proper or serious discussions in parliament nowadays. It takes only less than 30 minutes to finish their argument on the issues they speak about; hence we need people also to engage in such discussions.

Fifty six per cent of the Sri Lankan population as surveyed in 2012 is women; hence the necessity of women representations in parliament should be addressed and increased as they have become the majority of our country. The government has decided to make changes in the current system of women and children protection, health service, educational system, social and welfare developments. Hence the general public need to be engaged in discussions and debates on these important aspects since the government is in need to consult the general public.

“Each and everyone in the country whether they like it or not needs to be changed towards the change as the newly elected government hope to reform the system towards the good governance as promised and in addition, the government has placed measures to reform the country and the changes are getting into shape with the Police Commission and the CIABOC, and the Human Rights Commission Sri Lanka (HRCSL) are very active these days,” he said.


The Book

The ‘Reform, Rights and Good Governance, a collection of essays, by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha was launched in the presence of Karu Jayasuriya, Speaker of Parliament and Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Special Assignments and followed by a panel discussion on how the country should reform towards the good governance.

The book in its three chapters respectively focuses on the need for structural reforms, the rights of the citizens and their social needs which need to be addressed and obviously the current topic which have the attention of almost everyone in the country about ‘the good governance and its policies’.

The writer also writes about the separation of powers and the need for a change in the policy monitoring which will lead to the actual democratic country with good governance while he speaks about the reforms in the electoral and educational systems.

Kamaya Jayatissa, Programme Officer, International Alert Sri Lanka, reviewed the book at the panel discussion and mentioned that it would be better if the writer has focused also on the land and the migrant workers’ issues in detail in his book.


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