Some ideas for Good Governance

By Sithamparapzillai Kathieravelu

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something, And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do, What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the Grace of God I will do. -- Edward Everett Hale (1822 -1909)

(November 25, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Government has declared that the war is over. So we need not go in search of peace. What is needed is a search to move the country forward on good footings to eliminate the unrest or turmoil in the country and prepare a way forward to meet the aspirations of the people that would allow them to lead a happy and prosperous life.

Currently the need of the country/nation is good governance coupled with real democracy in its real sense for speedy development.

The "people" must be able to rule themselves. They must have the power to make decisions as regards their lifestyle that does not adversely affect the freedom of the other persons. There should not be "professional" politicians and "politics" must not be made a "profession" The mindset of the people of the old "Gan Sabah" or "Village Committees" must be brought back. Serving the people must not be a means to "make" money. Then and only then we will have good governance in the country. When there is good governance in the country, bribery, corruption, injustice and discrimination will just evaporate into thin air and the people will have a happy and prosperous living. Everyone must work towards this end..

Officially the war in Sri Lanka is now over: The Tamil Tigers' last remaining forces were destroyed by the Sri Lankan military in May, and the group's leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed.

Sri Lanka is no longer a country under siege, as it had been since the rise of the Tigers in the 1980s. Rather, it is now becoming a "normal" country -- albeit one whose peace is fragile, and whose Tamil minority is restive.

The talks about 13th amendment of Sri Lanka’s constitution, solving the ethnic conflict through home grown solutions and solve the conflict within the framework of existing unitary form are nothing but to hoodwink the global community and Tamils and thereby satisfy the Sinhala general public in order for the politicians to stay in power.

However, all these events will further distance the Tamils and to make the Tamils believe that they will have no choice but to support the LTTE’s agenda to achieve independent Tamil Eelam. And until such a meaningful political solution is found fulfilling the demands of not only the Tamils but also of the entire population, political and security unrest will remain active on the island, taking heavy toll on its economy and lives.

A durable solution to the ‘ethnic question’ is almost certain to involve greater regional autonomy, something which can benefit people of all communities. Many Sinhalese members of the political elite in Colombo would much rather grab resources for themselves and their cronies than use these to pay for better education and healthcare for the poor in the deep South of Sri Lanka.

First, the people must be made to understand that there is a way of solving the National problem with a "win-win" solution with everyone winning and thereafter it is the duty of everyone to explore ways and means of implementing the final suggestions that have been agreed upon.

"A durable solution to the ‘ethnic question’ is almost certain to involve greater regional autonomy, something which can benefit people of all communities. Many Sinhalese members of the political elite in Colombo would much rather grab resources for themselves and their cronies than use these to pay for better education and healthcare for the poor in the deep South of Sri Lanka."

"Such devolution need not be a threat to ‘unity’. Numerous countries have vigorous local democracy, unlike the over-centralised system in Sri Lanka, and this has helped rather than hindered a sense of common purpose. Suppressing local distinctiveness and imposing control from afar only fuels resentment and leads to poor decision-making: politicians and bureaucrats running things from a distance, with little understanding of local conditions or accountability to local people, can all too easily make costly blunders."

The above two paragraphs taken from the article “Beyond the time-warp in Sri Lanka” by Savitri Hensman, read together with the following paragraph in the article “The way forward in Sri Lanka: Demilitarisation, the rule of law and democratization” by Rohini Hensman

“Even the demand for devolution needs to be reframed as a demand for democratisation that brings government closer to all the people, not just minorities, apart from being made far stronger than the 13th Amendment, which has loopholes allowing the Centre to take back the devolved powers. Along with the demand for abolition of the Executive Presidency, and further devolution to smaller units, it would give all the people of Sri Lanka more control over their lives, instead of having their lives ruled by a remote power in Colombo that knows little and cares less about their needs”.

has to be kept in mind while reading the suggestions given below that addresses most of the points raised by the authors quoted above.:

“The lack of engagement and communication, in turn adds to the sense of estrangement. This is not in the interests of either side, particularly the Sri Lankan people who yearn for peace, a just solution to the ethnic conflict and the hope of prosperity at least for their children.” – Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.

With the above end in view please spare a part of your valuable time to ABSORB the meaning of the views submitted below.

Too much of time has been wasted in discussing the origins of the problems and the paths taken by various real patriotic and peace-loving persons to solve the problems in the ways they sincerely believed as the best. The problems have grown and evolved and had been twisted by many to suit their way of thinking.

So, it is high-time we start to RETHINK in terms of a solution that would address the ASPIRATIONS ALL THE PEOPLE in the country, not just the aspirations of the Tamils, in a just and meaningful way rather than continue to criticize other people for their “faults”.

Failures are the pillars of success. We have learned a lot of things through experience. With the experiences gained we will have to work for a change of heart not just a change of mind of all the people in the country.

“People who value democracy, equality and equity, needs to pressure the Sri Lankan state to take immediate action towards a meaningful and just power sharing arrangement. That is the only way to ensure security and the dignity of the peoples of Sri Lanka.

If peaceful coexistence through power sharing is not achievable, the only other solution that would be available will be secession” – Mr. Lionel Bopage, former Secretary of the JVP.

A new concept that moves towards a meaningful and just power-sharing arrangement (not devolution) based on true democracy – a large number of people participating in the governance of the country based on equality, equity – is a great deviation from the usual thinking of the meaning of the word “sharing of power” is given below for the perusal and comments of concerned people.

Many, who call themselves as ‘moderates’ and advocating a “Unitary State” are not willing to consider this NEW concept of the phrase “sharing of power” that gives a certain degree of ‘power’ with ‘responsibility’ to as many as possible including the poor and voiceless silent majority in the country and not excluding the so-called “minorities” and still maintain the “character” of a “Unitary State”

Now, one word, for those who are actually and sincerely interested in fostering a unitary-state by supporting “devolution” as a means to achieve sustainable peace, please avoid thinking in terms of “devolution” and instead please try to think in terms of “sharing of powers”, rights, duties and responsibilities that cannot be taken back at any time by any government or individual by any method.

The best political solution to address the problems faced by various sections of the Sri Lankan society - particularly the poor, the politically weak and the “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.

It has to be devolution HORIZONTALLY where each and every set of representatives would be in the SAME LEVEL as equals and in par and NOT VERTICALLY, where one set of representatives would be above (more powerful than) the other, which is the normal adopted practice when talking of devolution, in this power-hungry world. It is because “devolution of power” has been evolved “vertically”, we have all the trouble in this power-hungry world. So, for sustainable peace it should not be the present form of “devolution of power” but “dilution of powers” or “meaningful sharing of powers” in such a way that no single person or single set of people’s representatives be “superior” to another.

This system would help to eradicate injustice, discrimination, bribery and corruption - the four pillars of an evil society – and help to establish the “Rule of Law” and “Rule by ALL” for sustainable peace, tranquility and prosperity and a pleasant harmonious living with dignity and respect for all the inhabitants in the country. Everyone must have “equal” powers, rights, duties and responsibilities and most importantly everyone should be deemed “equal” and treated “equally” before the law not only on paper but also practically – be it the Head of State, The Chief Justice or the voiceless poor of the poorest in the country.

Since all political and other powers flow from the sovereignty of the people, it is proposed herein that these powers be not given to any ONE set of representatives but distributed among different sets of people’s representatives (groups) elected on different area basis (village and villages grouped) to perform the different, defined and distinct functions of one and the same institution - the Parliament – like the organs of our body – heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose, ear etc. – performing different and distinct functions to enable us to sustain normal life.

A detailed version of the concept, which is quite long is available for discussion by interested individuals with an aim to change the hearts not just a change of mind of the citizens of this country who aim to preserve a UNITARY form of Government with every section of people from every part of the country PRACTICALLY PARTICIPATING in the GOVERNANCE OF THE COUNTRY in a meaningful way. In a way it may be termed “participatory democracy”. In this system the COUNTRY IS NOT DIVIDED but the “powers of governance’ of the Parliament is separated and administered COLLECTIVELY by different sets of peoples representatives.

The system suggested is neither a federal state for which “Thanthai Chelva” worked hard through non-violent means for nearly thirty years nor the “Two State Solution” for which the LTTE fought through violent means for more than thirty years. It is a combination of both and is between both but still a “unitary” state.

The solution advocated can be compared to the policy of the EPDP - a partner in the present government - “self-governance at Regional Level and collective governance at the National Level”. Basically there are some differences between the suggestions above and that of the EPDP. First, the above suggestions are for sharing of power horizontally while EPDP’s suggestions are for sharing power vertically. Second, EPDP's suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the Tamils while the above suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the PEOPLE, not just that of the Tamils alone. A careful perusal of the above suggestions in FULL will enlighten the need for such an approach.

As a person with a great passion for peace and good governance, a new concept of a truly democratic system of governance with transparency has been devised that would not only contribute towards a lasting and positive peace in this country but also towards the much needed real progressive development of the entire country through good governance. This new concept is people-friendly and development oriented – the need of the day to this country as well as to all developing countries – the so-called Third World countries that intent to tap the doors of the First World

This alternative democratic system provides for the continuous participation of the people and that too in very large numbers, by expanding the present one segment parliament into a seven segment parliament functioning through a set of ‘councils’ at six different levels – as different links of a chain – sharing the different and distinct functions of the present parliament.

People must be made to realize that the installation of a truly democratic system of good governance with transparency would strengthen the economy, preserve nature and discourage fraud and mismanagement and thus benefit everybody and the whole country in the long run.

It is accepted that an ideal state of good governance cannot be achieved because there is no perfect world but to achieve an adequate level of good governance we must aim for the ideal situation.

This new concept of democracy is a great deviation from the prevailing and accepted form of democracy that is in practice. Though it is difficult to change old habits, people could be persuaded to see the benefits of the new system through proper awareness programs conducted effectively and efficiently since a wide consensus of opinion is necessary to give the final touches to the envisaged new concept of a truly democratic parliament. This new concept does not encourage dictatorial attitudes of any single or group of persons, but is people-friendly and development oriented, which is the need of the day to this country as well as to all developing countries – the so-called Third world countries that intent to tap the doors of the First world.

Current wars have to be ended and new wars have to be prevented. To achieve this goal the present system of Democratic Governance has to be changed to one that is really democratic in its true sense.

The present so-called ‘democratic system’ is a fertile ground for corruption in various forms wherein only the powerful persons with – a flair for inflammatory speech, money and muscle power – can aspire to join the “ruling class” to suppress or convert all others as their “subjects”.

In my opinion "Corruption" includes any kind of waste, neglect and every form of malpractice, dishonesty, abuse, misuse, unreasonable exercise of power, failure or refusal to exercise power, anything and everything left undone which results in the right of the people being denied or impaired.

Without a "just society" in existence much talked about "terrorism" cannot be eradicated. For the creation of a "just society" there should be "good governance" in the country. For the creation of "good governance" in the country "corruption" in ALL its forms must be eradicated. And to eradicate "corruption" of any form the present democratic system of governance, where full power to make the final decisions ultimately rests in the hands of one person, must be changed.

So the only way to salvage the country is to change the present system of governance to one that is truly democratic where the final decision-making power will NOT be in the hands of ONE person BUT shared by as many people as possible and thus restricting any hasty decisions of an individual or of one group, that might lead to trouble everywhere.

In my humble opinion to achieve peace and good governance with transparency and accountability in any country, the system of governance must be made truly democratic. The powers of the Parliament (the decision making supreme body of a country) should be split and separated and each of the separated powers must be handled by different groups of persons specifically elected and empowered by the people for the purpose of handling each set of the separated powers or duties as the case may be, so that no single group has the full power. All the groups together will make the whole. The country is not divided but the powers of parliament are divided or separated.

Through this system of representation and empowerment - different sets of representatives in different areas elected and empowered by different groups of people to implement different ‘distinct and defined’ functions of one and the same parliament - "corruption" in any form and at any level cannot easily arise. If there is no "corruption" then the Rule of Law will prevail making way for peace and good governance in the country, which is the need of the inhabitants of a country.

In my humble opinion this new concept of democracy while delivering good governance would preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country and guarantee the due respect and dignity of the people – both collectively and individually, who are, under the present system, treated as their “subjects” by the “ruling class”.

Give and Take is the best policy. Rule or control your “self” and allow everyone to rule themselves.
-Sri Lanka Guardian