The Public Service
By I. P. C. MENDIS
In the melee, the people of this country find themselves today, it is quite evident that there is an instant need for the country’s Public Service to return to its pristine glory. It could be said without contradiction, that the Public Service has lost its honour and independence and the rot set in with the introduction of the Republican Constitution of 1972., the provisions of which were re-affirmed in the Constitution of 1978, tightening the screws further and paving the way for politicisation. . The appointment, transfer, dismissal and disciplinary control of public officers are vested with the Cabinet of Ministers and all public officers hold office at pleasure. ( Article.55). The Cabinet of Ministers is empowered to delegate such powers to the Public Service Commission, other than in respect of Heads of Departments. Provided that the Cabinet of Ministers is enabled to delegate powers of transfer to any Minister in respect of any category specified. The PSC or Committee thereof, is powerless to intervene. An aggrieved party has no recourse to any court, or tribunal, except to the Supreme Court, under para 1 of Article 126 (Fundamental Rights). Indeed, servility and politicisation of the Public Service has been consciously enshrined constitutionally ! Independence can only be ensured at personal cost and only where conscience, principle, integrity and public estimation can play an integral part for such considerations to provide a turbo boost to moral,. Other pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, have necessarily to fit in. One has to provide for some leeway for special circumstances and unenviable situations considered personal . but certainly not when national interests are at stake or any issue cuts across principle, integrity or the very grain of minimum standards expected of a “homo sapiens” .in the service of the nation. ! Indeed, the country witnessed recently how a lady officer stood her ground single-handedly, against various odds. However, it often happens that news reports are distorted, mis-reported or based on hearsay/mis-representation, in which case, it behoves on the powers-that-be to come to the officer’s defence or assume responsibility. – (perhaps too much to ask).
One is the case of the Secretary to the Treasury who was reported to have signed the Kerawalapitya Agreement. Both the Minister of Finance and the Secretary are silent and it is still anybody’s guess as to who signed it. Why, Oh Why ? If there is nothing intrinsically wrong, why the secrecy ? To brush off queries saying that there are two more Agreements to complete the transaction is to dodge and imply there is no finality. That is not what is expected of quarters that have the purse strings with them and are endowed with sacred trust to safeguard national assets as Trustees.
Cheek by jowl write it is the serious allegation made by Minister Wimal Weerawansa that
the Kerawalapitya proposal was not in the Agenda of the particular Cabinet meeting, even quoting the Secretary to the Cabinet as having told the Minister concerned that he had not even read it , having received it a while earlier, Minister Weerawansa maintained, that there was no discussion on the Cabinet Paper , corroborated by certain others in the ” group of eleven”. However, the relevant. Cabinet minutes allegedly reflect a position which showed that the Cabinet proposals had been approved by the Cabinet. The situation is as far as media reports go confusing as some Cabinet Ministers (outside the group) claim that the ” group of eleven” had every opportunity of expressing their views at the meeting which implies that the proposal was presented for discussion. Nevertheless , if there has been any opposing view on the part of the Minister or Cabinet Secretary,in regard to the allegations made by Minister Weerawansa, the country has
had no information so far. Such serious allegations without the slightest doubt qualify to be furiously challenged and suitably dealt with, yet their apparent continued silence is deafening and does no good either for the govenrnent or those concerned. .The Secretary to the President in a separate incident has set the precedent in initiating steps for seeking legal remedy for what he considers as an affront to his integrity, I believe. Similarly, the allegation against the Cabinet Secretary is serious enough for him to pursue action not only to vindicate himself but also to uphold the honour and dignity of the Public Service.
Moreover, in the context of the fast depreciating and deteriorating confidence and mis-trust in the Public Service, it is very essential for top public officers to lead by example, particularly where the Secretary to the Treasury was once considered as “primus inter pares” ( the first among equals) in the category of Secretaries which honour as far as could be remembered was later passed on to the Secretary/ Defence, and the Cabinet Secretary too enjoying a close relationship in the hierarchy. Mother Lanka mourns the present predicament and weeps for a speedy restoration of the pristine glory of the Public Service for which a return to the pre- 1972 era is undoubtedly a “sine qua non”.
Send them back to school!
We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.
We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.
Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.
S. H. MOULANA
Compensate victims of gas explosions
There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.
The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.
All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.
M. B. Navarathne
Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense
The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?
Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.
All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.
The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.
In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.
In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners
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