Accountability: The forbidden word in Paradise Isle Oh, accountability! Why hast thou fled from this once “Paradise Isle”? The words, responsibility, accountability and answerability, have long lost meaning among those who control the affairs of this country; in spite of the fact that there are three languages in which the ‘words’ are found in this [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Accountability: The forbidden word in Paradise Isle

Oh, accountability! Why hast thou fled from this once “Paradise Isle”? The words, responsibility, accountability and answerability, have long lost meaning among those who control the affairs of this country; in spite of the fact that there are three languages in which the ‘words’ are found in this country.

What is most disturbing, from the average person’s point of view, is that the total absence of this essential component which forms the very foundation of good governance, begins at the core of the governing powers. The Cabinet of Ministers with the Head of State at the helm has ceased to be the responsible, accountable and answerable executive arm of the government, though they are elected to Parliament by the people, hopefully, to represent the people, in the interests of the country.

A large section of this people, even if they do not, unfortunately, express themselves publicly; no doubt, through fear of the consequences, ponder the inevitable and nagging question. What need is there for a Cabinet of Ministers, if no Minister considers that he is duty bound to be accountable and answerable to the people, in matters pertaining to his ministry? Particularly so, when this jumbo-sized Cabinet (probably, the largest Cabinet in the world, when considered in relation to population size) is maintained at the tax payers’ expense?

What is most difficult to understand is why the all powerful Head of State, who is called upon to settle any and every problem (the Z-score problem as one example), does not exercise effective control, by first disciplining his Cabinet. When the ministers act in an irresponsible manner that is not in keeping with the laws of the land and when in fact they, with impunity, interfere in the even-handed, honest and legal execution of the affairs of state by officers who attempt to act as true public servants; the break-down in law and order, lamented so often by public-spirited citizens, usually branded as anti-government traitors, is inevitable.
In such a climate, of lack of ministerial accountability, is it surprising that certain officials act freely, with impunity and a total lack of responsibility and answerability?

Just two recent examples of this now accepted practice are the complete lack of accountability of government officials responsible for huge fiscal losses to the state and the suspension, without providing valid reasons, of a Customs unit which tried to bring to book those culpable of violating customs regulations.

Allied to this unhealthy trend is the recent resignation of an important public official, who was attempting to do his duty by the country, because of interference from higher up. While some officials, with political clout, act with impunity, like petty czars, conscientious, non-sycophantic and apolitical officers are hounded till they throw in the towel and leave the ring.
Two important authorities, the PAC and the Auditor General’s Dept have been reduced, by the powers that be, to mere growling paper-tigers! The powerless office of the Elections Commissioner is not worth commenting on.

There is a growing suspicion in the minds of people that Sri Lanka, like Ancient Rome, at one time, is governed, not by Parliament, but by a powerful Triumvirate; answerable to no one. A Cabinet of Ministers is superfluous.
Finally, today there are no Public Servants whose duty it is to serve the public. On the other hand, the people have been reduced to being servants ruled over by masters who do not believe that rulers must exercise a sense of responsibility, commitment and accountability, if this land is to first survive and then thrive.

Dr. Mark Amerasinghe, Kandy

Z-score muddle: Ministers should get zero for performance

The controversial Z-score has taken centre-stage. Like a tornado, it has hit the GCE A/L student community that sat the 2011 examination under two syllabi, with great hopes and ambition. Now they are groping in the dark with the outcome of the revisited Z score. This is a very unfortunate state of affairs, with those in charge of education and examinations playing musical chairs and showing no sense of responsibility.

The Z-score muddle has become a festering sore following the revision.

Who has put the young hopefuls in this dire predicament?

Amidst controversy and strong opposition, the two Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Bandula Gunawardena continue to remain in the saddle, maintaining that they had no hand in the Z-score muddle. They are happily saying the Supreme Court has not passed any strictures on them. This is the type of official we have in the Cabinet, enjoying all the perks and holding responsible education portfolios.

Does their Cabinet portfolio not demand accountability, responsibility and transparency? Whoever is responsible for this fiasco should be taken to task and made to pay for the utter confusion in the country’s academic landscape.
Parents who struggle to give their children the best are in a dilemma. Who cares? With the new Z-score, students who gained admission to university now find they are shut out.

These young minds could have a mental breakdown. This could have a crippling impact on their academic life. There are also proposals to allow the students to sit the exam for the fourth time. It is those who failed to make the grade under the two Z scores who should take the exam a fourth time.

To be fair to the others, candidates who were successful in terms of either score should be given a university place to follow their selected course of study. This is the best solution to allay the fears of parents and placate their children who have undergone a severe ordeal through no fault of their own.

M. Azhar Dawood, Dehiwela

Disunity in the Veddah community 

The Veddah community, or “Adi Vasi”, have lived in peace and unity all these years, without serious in-fighting and divisions, despite the hard life they lead.

Politicians took an interest in the lives of the Veddahs, and in so doing, unintentionally forced our political culture on them and disrupted the peaceful religious and educational environment created by religious leaders of the calibre of Ven. Kitulegama Seelalankara Thera (Dimbulagala Haamuduruwo), who was killed by the LTTE.

True to our political culture, the Veddah community is now engaged in a leadership struggle, exhibiting disunity, as publicised in the media. There may perhaps be cross-overs too! I never thought disunity was contagious.

Upali S. Jayasekera Rajagiriya

When the devas answered prayers and brought us rain

The media published a photograph of a Buddhist monk conducting a Seth Pirith ceremony to appeal to the gods to bring an end to the prevailing drought. The ceremony was organised by the Presidential Secretariat. We have conducted similar religious ceremonies in the past.

This brought to mind a conversation I had with an elderly Buddhist monk who had built a small avasaya. He had moved out of several temples he had been attached to out of disgust at the way those temples conducted religious activities.
This Buddhist monk is no more, but I remember what he told me. This same ritual was conducted in the times of our ancient kings. The elderly monk recited a poem from the Buduguna Alankaraya. A famine had struck the city of Visala and the king ordered the monks to chant Pirith and the Devas answered the prayer.

The monk said the chanting should be done by pious monks. The stanzas should be stressed properly and pronounced clearly and recited with an understanding of the meaning of the words. For the Pirith to be effective, the rulers too should be pious, love the country and its people. They should be genuine in their prayers.

The elderly Buddhist monk questioned whether we have such rulers and monks today. I leave it to the readers to answer that question.

It should be clearly understood that this letter is not to discredit an age-old and effective religious practice but to expose the weakness of those who perform this ritual today.

G. A. D. Sirimal, Boralesgamuwa

Give the Police a sporting chance to do their job

The Police have a far more difficult job to do than other wings of the law-enforcement or defence services. They have to put up with vilification from the public and the media who like to say the most corrupt institution in the country is the Police Force.
If miscreants and criminals are not apprehended and punished, who is to be blamed? Our legal system has it that both sides are punishable.

This needs to be changed – not to give immunity to the law enforcer but to ensure punishment for the law-breaker.
More relevant is that crime is rampant in this country. There is a serious wave of crime and offenders are going unpunished.
My humble suggestion is that we give the Police a sporting chance to do their job and conduct their duties without undue criticism. Leave them to do their job. They will deliver the goods. They have done it in the past and will continue to do so.
If there is corruption in the Police, the corrupt will be weeded out eventually. Whistle-blowing is a powerful internal remedy in any organisation.

R. Suntharalingam Via email

A time like this demands men like Thilak Karunaratne 

At a time when our country is seething with corruption, nepotism and political thuggery at the highest levels, it is refreshing to see a man like Thilak Karunaratne standing up for his high principles and resigning from the chairmanship of the Securities Exchange Commission.

I salute you for your courage and determination to listen to the voice of your conscience. Well done, Sir! The country needs more people like you. Your action reminds me of the poem by Josiah Gilbert Holland:

God give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands
Men whom the lust of office does not kill
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy
Men who possess opinions and a will
Men who have honour men wild cannot lie
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking
For while the rabble with their thumb-worn creeds
Their professions and their wicked deeds
Mingle in selfish strife; Lo Freedom weeps
Wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps.

Your glorious action is the brightest star over a dark horizon. May you be blessed abundantly with good health and happiness and the supreme satisfaction of knowing that you did not let down the people of this country.

Anton Perera Via email

Will CB Governor step down honourably as NUJ did?

With reference to the news item headlined ‘CB made arbitrary decision by investing in Greek–bonds: Petitioner’ (Sunday Times, August 12, 2012), may I recall that in 1953 the then Governor of the Central Bank, N. U. Jayawardena, was asked to step down over a similar issue.

The government at the time appointed a committee to look into certain dubious financial transactions entered into by N. U. Jayawardena. The committee found these transactions to be inappropriate, coming from a public official of his calibre. Without much fanfare, Mr. Jayawardena chose to go home, although the transactions referred to were trivial by today’s standards.
It is clear that the present Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal has committed an unpardonable crime as the person responsible for the country investing in Greek bonds and losing Rs. 2.14 billion. He should be punished for this.

P. Jayasinghe Via email

Thugs manipulate Dehiwela Police and local authorities

I commend the Sunday Times’ coverage of the threat to the Mannar Magistrate. This is a clear example of common thugs being allowed to intimidate even the Judiciary.

The Mannar Magistrate should be publicly praised for his courageous stand.I have been a Dehiwela resident for a long time and many long-term residents know how thugs influence law enforcement and local government authorities, such as the Dehiwela Police, the Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council, Public Health Inspectors and others.

The President and the Inspector General of Police should look into the current scenario of law enforcers being under pressure not to take action in Dehiwela. Otherwise, Dehiwela too will hit the headlines, like Mannar.

Sudarshani Gunawardena, Dehiwela

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