This is an open letter submission to the leaders of National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) initiated by late Most Reverend Maduluwawe Sobitha, Purawesi Balaya and Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA), who were the shining stars that organised a collective, that became a people’s movement and gave rise to the power booster force behind the Yahapalanaya commitment-based political movement, which managed to achieve a regime change in 2015, previously thought impossible by most citizens.
This submission draws out the key accountability that now vests on the shoulders of the present leaderships of NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA to ensure the presently appearing derailed Yahapalanaya regime to get back on track and deliver on its social contract.
Social contract with the Yahapalanaya Government
Is it not timely that the top teams of NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA ask and seek an answer to the following strategic questions?
1.Did the political collective with whom NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA signed a contract in late 2014 embrace the latter with a binding commitment to the Yahapalanaya principles which formed the bedrock of the contract signed? Or did the political collective embrace only the organisations as a collective (i.e. not the Yahapalanaya principles) to achieve their narrow short-term political objectives?
2.Did NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA accept for well over an year, the intransigencies and significant violations of Yahapalanaya principles by the new regime and give the benefit of time and doubt to the new regime; allowing these as mistakes which crystallised during a learning curve; and in the early days did not pose a strong challenge to the regime as the pending August elections linked political stability could have been adversely affected?
3.Did the NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA adopt the governance environment under the previous regime as the bench mark for comparison of the new regime, as against the promised Yahapalanaya principles-led benchmarks?
4.Did the easy accessibility to the leadership of the new regime, their patient and sympathetic listening, and approach of agreement and promise of action persuade the NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA to be satisfied, even when challenging situations arose during the period of governance by the new regime?
5.Were the risks of a re-emergence of the earlier regime persuade NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA to lower expectations of principled governance by the new regime?
6.Do NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA realise that their political support contract with the new regime in fact created a social contract with all citizens of Sri Lanka represented by the collective of civil society that supported the new regime?
7.Is it not timely that NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA compile a scorecard on the two years of governance by the new regime, taking account of the social contract commitments as well, with the assessments looking not only at a snapshot of situation today/to date, but also projecting in a continuum the likely future up to 2020, in the event the new regime does not adopt strategic change management and leadership change actions?
Is ‘business as usual’ by the new regime acceptable?
In the light of the following strategic commitments made by the new regime, ‘business as usual’ based a continuation of bad governance practices of the past regimes is untenable and will be a total disregard of its social contract commitments;
1.The ground-breaking and unique focus of the 2015 elections, where the key campaign slogan was ‘Yahapalanaya,’ as against promise of hand-outs to voters
2.The social contract with all citizens created based on manifestoes of both 2015 elections and political platform and other commitments articulated by the leaders of the new regime
3.The contract with NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA and others in the Collective
4.Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, adopted by world leaders in September 2015 to be implemented at national level starting from 1 January 2016, incorporating three dimensions of development: economic development, social inclusion, towards ending poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
5.Global Environmental Protection and Climate Change Commitments (COP21) committed to in December 2015, adopting the first-ever universal, legally-binding global climate deal
6.Commitments arising from the International Anti-Corruption Summit in London, where Sri Lanka endorsed the agreed action agenda
7.Commitments arising from the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, including the establishment of Independent Commissions
8.Constitutional Council=led initiatives and other effective processes assuring high posts are filled by candidates with independence, capability, integrity, track records of high achievement , commitments to ethical conduct and upholding societal norms
9.Sri Lanka’s commitments to the UN Human Rights Council
10.Sri Lanka’s commitments in securing the IMF Standby Facility
11.Sri Lanka’s commitments under Open Government Partnership
12.Expectations and commitments requiring professionals to report noncompliance with laws and regulations
13.Introduction of a Code of Conduct for legislators
14.PAFFREL March 12 Declaration signed by all political parties
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must constantly remind the new regime and advocate that ‘business as usual’ cannot be an option open to leaders in governance.
Consequential impact of the
social contract and democratic space created
It is accepted with due recognition and with great relief, that effective January 2015 significant advancements have been made in creating a democratic space with opportunities for NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA as well as citizens at large, to enjoy greater security and safety, freedom of operation and expression, within an acceptable framework of upholding at most times the rule of law and justice.
What the new regime has failed to realise is that with this democratic space and freedoms in place, that those in governance can no longer be untruthful , issue wrong official statements to mislead the public or try to get away making misrepresentations; nor carryout executive actions cloak and dagger style; and act without transparency (communicate one aspect and target real issues non transparently targeted e.g. present Hambantota deal presented as a debt equity swap but packaged as a sell-out outright near freehold); nor engage in nepotism, cronyism and execute corrupt transactions.
Coalition of partners must align their hymn sheets
The contradictions and confusions in governance created by the lack of an aligned framework hymn sheet of principles, and lack of agreed core values, policies and practices must be immediately corrected and NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must take leadership action to ensure this fundamental framework is in place, at the earliest.
In an amalgamation of two or more large businesses entities, each with different key shareholders, directors, and executive management, though operating in the same lines of business but with different management cultures, styles, principles and values, as a first step agrees their long term vision and mission, core values, principles and practices to be honoured; and those actions never to be even considered; and then agree and put in place an effective single style leadership, management information, controls and compliance processes, risk management processes and most importantly an effective communications process. It is also usual, in addition for the new chairman and board to have in place an advisory board, who will for an agreed period play an oversight, advisory, mediation/arbitration role.
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must persuade the new regime, even at this late stage to put in place a structure and organisation benchmarked to above framework.
Agree a growth
model going forward
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must hold to account the present and future leaders, to recognise where citizens are now, where they are likely to be by 2020 and what expectations citizens have of what they desire by 2030, measured on the following benchmarks;
Equality and inclusiveness of opportunity to develop and enjoy the benefits of national resources, growth and prosperity
Socio-political and economic rights of citizens
Peace, harmony and ethno religious co-existence/transformation
Good governance, rule of law, justice, right to information, anti-corruption
Having in place visionary leadership committed to creating and governing the nation
towards sustainable development, with competiveness and optimisation of quality and productivity, driven with focus on creativity and innovativeness
recognising shared values developed on an accountable social contract with the citizens
It is regrettable, that since independence, none of the governments in power have with single minded focus commitment pursued a growth model structured on the above principles. It is more regrettable that professionals, academia and civil society leaders nor international development partners have been successful in persuading and pushing the governments in power to follow such a growth model.
At this stage without analysing the different growth models adopted by successive governments since independence, it is best that we agree an acceptable growth model to be pursued going forward, fashioned incorporating the undernoted principles;
seeking inclusive growth, encompassing equity, equality, opportunity, and protection in market and employment transition
adaptable and flexible in order to execute affirmative action where essential
focusing both on the pace and pattern of growth
takes a longer-term perspective
consistent with expected international economic order and international relations
ensures all people contribute to and benefit from economic growth
leads to rapid and sustained poverty reduction
be broadbased across sectors i.e. not highly dependent one or two sectors
focusses on productive employment as against income redistribution, and
Encourage building next generation leaderships for Yahapalanaya
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must ensure that there is an effective succession plan and also encourage younger persons with integrity, capability (knowledge/skills/attitudes and values), independence and a track record of high achievement, who are committed to public service and endowed with effective communications and leadership skills are selected and nurtured as second and third tier political leaders.
High post candidates and Ministerial Code of Conduct
The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must persuade the President to take early steps to have in place an effective, transparent and independent process for making high post appoint; following a well-designed nominations process that will ensure that political and other influence peddling nominations built around political expediency, cronyism and nepotism are avoided. The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must appoint an independent panel that will make regular public submissions regards nominations under consideration.
The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must also persuade the President to take early steps to have an approved a Ministerial Code of Conduct effectively in place, administered jointly by the Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet reporting to the President.
Ovesight over independent public institutions and regulators
The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must from the perspective of the citizens, monitor performance effectiveness, independence, integrity and validity of decision making by independent commissions and regulators. They must be vocal and effectively advocate and apply pressure where the performance or independence of these institutions fail to meet set standards.
Strategic new resource allocations and divestitures
The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must persuade the President to get Cabinet agreement that all new strategic significant value national resource allocations, approval of strategic development initiatives, the grant of extraordinary licenses, concessions, resource allocations or tax benefits, divestiture of significant State property/State land, abandonment of national entitlements, execution of international trade and investment agreements, engagement of key long term international partnership/consultancy agreements, etc. are handled with transparency, following international best practices and standards (including best practices in tender processes, evaluation and selection processes, financial/project and benefit analysis, risk assessments, environmental analysis, etc.) and allows specified time windows for public objections and submissions. All such projects and spends must compulsorily be subject to post audit reports by the Auditor General and reviewed by an appropriate Parliamentary Oversight Committee.
The NSJM, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must persuade the President to publicly announce and get a Cabinet approved Code of Conduct with the Code of Conduct applying to legislators also including a restrictive covenant with penal sanctions, preventing those covered in any way interfering, publicly criticising, influencing or inquiring from law enforcement and judicial officers the progress, outcomes or any details on any ongoing investigations or judicial action.
The President must also be encouraged to appoint a Presidential Commission (similar to that appointed to inquire in to the purported bond scam) to inquire into any acts of corruption over the 10 years to the date of appointment of the Commission, arising from approval of strategic development projects, grant of extraordinary Customs Duty/Income Tax and VAT concessions, extraordinary protection from competition, grant of extraordinary licenses and concessions, divestiture of significant State property/State land, and abandonment of national entitlements, abandonment of revenue/investment options of State-Owned Enterprises as it is evident that billions of State revenue has been lost as a consequence of such special grants. In addition the President must be persuaded to ensure that earliest action is taken to have in place essential law reforms covering formalisation of the present FCID to be established as a Serious Frauds Office, including special units for Anti Money Laundering and Asset Recovery offices; and in addition take steps to have early enactment of a Proceeds of Crime Act 9benchmarked to Australian and Canadian Laws). The Serious Frauds office must also establish a Serious Crimes Co-ordination Panel, comprising of all heads of law enforcement agencies, investigation and prosecution agencies and this panel must be able to access sufficient resources for training and development, expert assistance, acquisition of physical and human resource and development of databases and international assistance links. This coordination panel should in addition follow up the progress of investigations and place before Parliamentary Oversight Committee quarterly reports of progress.
Essential reversal of systemic culture of corruption
The most disturbing featutre in society seen over the last decade is how a systemic cultutre of corruption has engulfed our society. This systemic virus has spread from the top to the lowest levels in heirachy of governance and administration. More regretably, those engaging in such acts of corruption nor those who facilitate and are associated with such actions appear to be ashamed or scared of the potential consequences.
Another segment of society continues to look the other side, either due to ignorance, apathy or fear. Most officals and professionals ignore the accountability to whistle blow nor do they take steps to make formal complaints by way of declarations of non compliance with laws and regulations (unfortunately including those in professional and executive ranks in public servce, private sector and independent professions).
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA led collective must engage in leadership change management action to reverse this unfortunate development, if this nation is to enjoy equitable and inclusive development bringing prosperity to the nation and its people. The President must be persuaded to ensure that Whistle Blower Protection Laws are further strengthened and administered by an independent public institution backed by resources and capability.
Oversight over enforcement of Codes of Conduct
Recognising that Yahapalanaya will not be a reality unless those governed also commit to principles of good governance, NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must collectively appeal, advocate and demand that professional associations, business chambers, media collectives and other civil society organisations adopt effective, transparent and rigidly upheld codes of conduct and ethics. These groups must be persuaded to adopt a core value of placing the interests of the nation and all its people first; and also be encouraged to publicly communicate, both the commitment to such codes and their due enforcement.
All persons in public service whether in executive, political, legislative or civil society activities, need to be bound by the Seven Principles of Public Life – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life--2.
Narcotics and dangerous
Reconising the emerging signals of social degredation influcening the break down in societal values and norms, with socio- economic negative outcomes and leading to a collapse of family health and lives of young and old, consequent to the spread of the use of narcotics, habit forming susbtances, drugs and dangerous chemicals, NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must catalyse collective societal action to reverse the harmful practices now getting embedded in society. Awareness, enforcement and penal judicial enforcements must go hand in hand with preventive actions minimising imports and placing effective barriers against organised distribution.
‘naming and shaming’
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA facilitated by the independent media institutions must fearlessly practice ‘naming and shaming’ of leaders in politics, legislature, executive, business, professions, media, and civil society without exception when they disregard Yahapalanaya principles and accepted societal values and norms.
Rule of Law and justice
All deviations, law-bending, unfair practices, crony preferences and unacceptable twists in the upholding of the rule of law must be highlighted by NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA and escalated for accountability action. A special focus of the collective should be to be a watchdog and an action hound wherever and whenever seeds of hate mongering, hate speech, incitement or organised plans of such wrongdoings, which may lead to ethno-religious linked law and order breakdown, conflict, civil commotion are likely.
Constitutional reforms and transitional justice
NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA must continue to advocate, publicly debate and pressurise all legislators and the Executive to discharge their accountability to bring out a new constitution and transitional justice mechanisms that will ensure transfer of power to the periphery, resolve the longstanding grievances of the minorities and conflict affected persons as well as marginalised persons across the island, improve the delivery of public services and ensure public finances are managed with economy, efficiently and effectiveness, transparency and without corruption and waste.
Time to garner civil society and build a movement for Yahapalanaya
The NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA will need to retrace the path and build again a strong civil society collective led (facilitated by a network alliance with the traditional media and social media and establishing effective communication platform), people’s movement to enforce the social contract.
(The writer is a good governance activist.)