The Sunday Leader

Will ‘Good Governance’ Deliver In 2017?

by Ifham Nizam

The public are of the opinion that the government must strongly focus on the ‘good governance policy’ in 2017.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, civil society members noted that road safety, and escalating food prices are also some of the areas the government should strongly look at.

They also pointed out that there is a low level of trust between certain elements of civil society and government sectors.

 

Nalaka Gunawardene – Science Writer

Sections of Sri Lanka’s civil society were closely associated with the political changes that happened at the presidential and general elections in 2015. That was only natural as the notion of good governance had been articulated and promoted by civil society for years before Maithri and Ranil embraced it.

Now, as we enter 2017, civil society faces the twin challenges of holding the current government to account, and preventing yaha-palanaya ideals from being discredited by expedient politicians. At the same time, civil society must also become more professional and accountable.

Civil society’ is a basket term: it covers a variety of entities outside the government and corporate sectors. These include not only non-governmental organisations (NGOs) but also trade unions, student unions, professional associations (and federations), and community based or grassroots groups. Their specific mandates differ, but on the whole civil society strives for a better, safer and healthier society for everyone. The path to such a society lies inevitably through a political process, which civil society cannot and should not avoid. Some argue that civil society’s role is limited to service delivery. For lasting real change to happen, civil society must engage with the core issues of governance, rights and social justice.

Ideally, however, civil society groups should not allow themselves to be used or subsumed by political parties. I would argue that responsible civil society groups now set the standards for our bickering and hesitant politicians to aspire to.

Take, for example, two progressive legal measures adopted during 2016: setting aside a 25 per cent mandatory quota for women in local government elections, and legalising the Right to Information. Both these had long been advocated by enlightened civil society groups. They must now stay vigilant to ensure the laws are properly implemented.

Other ideals, like the March 12 Movement for ensuring clean candidates at all elections, need greater advocacy. So Lankan civil society has plenty of unfinished business in 2017.

 

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Dr. Anslem de Silva – Member Of Several Specialist Groups Of The IUCN

First and foremost the government should take strict action to prevent forest fire and gene piracy.

The grass root level, starting from Grama Niladhari and Palath Sabha) up to the minster should be made aware of the importance of flora and fauna.

 

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Dr. Chandra Embuldeniya  - Consultant

I have learned to live without expectations. Recently I gave a guest lecture on expectations.

I taught people to live without expectations. You might think it is strange but honestly that is the truth.

 

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Lacille de Silva – Former Secretary,
Presidential Commission On Serious Fraud And Corruption

The civil society organisations, the link between the citizen and the government, saw to it that the former regime was defeated at both presidential and parliamentary elections. Having elected a new President and a coalition government, they campaigned heavily in support of establishing good governance and rule of law. The present government was accordingly mandated to stop the deterioration in key areas, including public service, judiciary, and police etc. Civil Society personnel including the late Venerable Madoluwawe Sobitha, therefore tirelessly worked towards the implementation of numerous political programmes to achieve socio-economic development for the benefit of the people. It is sad the government appears to have disregarded the mandate.

We now need to campaign vigorously once again to ensure building up of an effective state, where we should push the politicians presently in power to address issues of corruption, mismanagement etc., without allowing them to pay lip service alone.  The members of the civil society therefore should not be hesitant to meet the challenges head-on in the interest of the country and the citizens. We need a very strong civil society to guard against all the excesses of political power. For this purpose, professional organisations, trade unions etc. should unite for the assertion of ‘people’s power’ in the year 2017, without leaving everything in the hands of politicians alone.

 

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Vositha Wijenayake – Attorney-at-Law, Climate Action Network South Asia

In 2017 I would like to see policies and laws on that protect the environment being implemented efficiently and effectively. There is also the need to implement action against adverse impacts of climate change. Sri Lanka has already prepared the Nationally Determined Contributions and the National Adaptation Plan for Sri Lanka, it will be important to ensure that these be implemented with multiple stakeholder engagement, focusing on vulnerable groups in the society.

In addition it is also important to address the need for enacting and amending laws that focus on cruelty towards animals. Sri Lankan Cabinet has provided its approval for the Animal Welfare Bill of Sri Lanka. However this Bill is yet to be presented to Parliament. In 2017, I hope that the Bill will be enacted so that decades of wait on this issue will be finally addressed.

Last but not least, I would like to see discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion and other differences being addressed, and that rights of diverse groups are protected.

Women, youth and children need to be prioritised, their education and capacity building will be pivotal for sustainable development of the country. Good quality education for those with special needs and learning difficulties need to be one of the country’s education systems.

 

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Dr Madhu Fernando – Director-Institute Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship

2017 will be the Year of Hope for the civil society who survived the radical changes and reforms in the political, economic, social and technological environment.

Citizens will continue to enjoy unity in diversity and work together to build the country affected by many decades of Civil War and destruction. Everyone is expected to play their role in the society encouraging diversity and inclusiveness. With the freedom people captured through the democracy, they will continue to share one vision regardless of the decisions taken by the political parties. The country will move forward as one without political, religion, or ethnic divide.

Heavy tax on Communication has discouraged internet usage; however the digitalisation and digitisation trends will continue to increase with the civil society welcoming technological advancements. More and more businesses will go digital as competition becomes stronger with new and innovative firms entering the market. Many IT start-ups will expand their businesses with the demand for IT solutions and services will increase with more companies moving towards digital business. With the technological advancement and easy access, a new culture of entrepreneurship will emerge. High living cost will also encourage people to start their own businesses, even though the business start-up cost is high. Tax on Tobacco and Alcohol will contribute to the establishment of a better society.

Education will take a promising leap in the New Year. 2017 will bring hope to students who were unable to enter the university as many private institutes will start providing their services to fill the gaps in university education. Students who could not afford high fees of overseas universities will have the opportunity to study locally and earn their qualifications.

Infrastructure projects that are nearing completion will be completed by the end of 2017, with the increased space for tourism development. New businesses and employment opportunities will start in the tourism and hospitality industries.  The working crowd will start moving to the city with a large number of apartments being built around the city and the surroundings. City living will becomes easily affordable and convenient.

 

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Hemanatha Withanage – Executive Director, Centre For Environmental Justice

We have to prepare for the worst with regard to environmental protection. The new national physical plan is trying to establish 100 industrial parks in the country. They will only consider climate change and environmental conservation by 2030.

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Anne Maduranga Withanage – Chairperson,
National Netball Selection Committee

Must implement law and order with immediate effect on the road.

Also all TV channels should take responsibility to create quality citizens.

I don’t like anybody telling me whom to choose. We must give our next generation the trust hope and a future for them to hold onto this beautiful country. If not they will get frustrated with the country and take off. Our political aspects need to change. We have no culture now. I am a simple citizen who loves this county so much.

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