How to implement a No Politician Democracy

Thursday, 15 June 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}




By Tilak Dissanayake and Hilmy Sally

Once 151 decent, patriotic MPs decide that a NPD is beneficial for themselves, their supporters, the people and the nation, implementing the servant state (i.e. the new “government”) committed to the establishment of a decent society is not complicated.

Avishai Margalit’s decent society is one

  • Whose institutions do not humiliate the people under their authority, and 
  • Whose citizens do not humiliate one another.

The decent society definition provides the guiding principles for defining the servant state and a society for us to live in inclusively, prosperously, and respectfully where we don’t impose our personal beliefs on others. Consequently, the society will also be peaceful. 

The transition to a decent society can be done in three steps from the 151 MPs’ “yes” votes to the dawn of the new republic within 18 months. Thereafter, two more steps to refine the operations and conduct a referendum on the strategic direction within 12 months. 

Note that what is being proposed is a brand new greenfield approach rather than the ineffective re-engineering approach of Constitutional and other reforms.

The high-level details of the steps are shown below.


1. Develop an integrated services framework: 

A small group of civil society persons and concerned citizens, potentially in concert with a few competent adept MPs who voted for NPD, i.e. a Kick-Off Team (KOT), will select a Transition Team (TT) which is comprised of people who are good at systems thinking and modelling to create an Integrated Services Framework (ISF) as follows.

The purpose of government (and the avowed motivation of politicians) is to ‘serve the people’. The notion of ‘service’ essentially boils down to fulfilling three overarching functional responsibilities at the national level:

Providing services to the people, from birth to death

Securing and safeguarding the territory of the nation

Establishing and maintaining relations with other nations

Figure 1 shows a framework for delivering streamlined services via the servant state to these three customer clusters – the people, the territory and other nations.

Once the service goals that the servant state needs to provide to each of its customers is mapped out, a simple organisation structure can be defined to deliver those services such as shown below in Figure 2. The service goals will also drive the definition of the high level requirements for the ISF which has constitutional, legal, process and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) enablers, including the adept selection and performance monitoring process through which the services will be delivered to the people.

Note that the model puts the people on top, and sends a clear message to the new GoSL that their job is to serve us. We are the customers, and as such should be addressed as “sir” and “madam” by those in the servant state rather than the current reverse practice.  


2. Transparently select adepts

The adepts (people who can get the job done) who will serve in the servant state will be selected transparently by various Selection and Performance Monitoring (SPM) committees which will also be proposed by the KOT with opportunities for feedback from various parts of society. 

The process to select the adepts is the most critical (and potentially the weakest) part of the NPD, so declaration of relationship (familial, financial, etc.) between selectors and applicants will have to be revealed to minimise conflicts of interest. Given that those selected will have performance goals (and an annual asset audit), a bad choice will be revealed quickly by the SPMs and can be replaced forthwith rather than waiting for an election under the current system. This high-level description of the “transparent selection and performance monitoring” approach will be defined in detail during service goals development.

We may end up with five to 10 major ISF sectors, each of which will be the responsibility of a People’s Servant (PS). The PS member will be the rough equivalent of a cabinet member and collectively they will be the PSC (People’s Servant Committee).  PSs should have the experience and/or potential to manage a sector.

Under each PS will be five to 10 departments to deliver the required services for that ISF sector. Each department will be headed up by a Department Servant (DS) who is knowledgeable/experienced in the subject matter and/or has the potential to execute their duties.

Based on their department’s mission derived from the ISF, the DS will develop a staffing plan, define Job Descriptions (JD), advertise the positions, interview and hire their department’s cadre to execute their mission. 

All hiring will also be done transparently and with oversight by the SPMs to ensure that the usual “incompetent and/or crony” hiring is eliminated. Note that the new positions will carry compensation packages consistent with the commercial sector since the goal is to attract the “best and the brightest.”

The current 900,000 ‘Public Servants’ are eligible to apply for these positions along with any other qualified citizen. The Public Servants that are not hired—and there will be many since the current administration has become bloated with political supporter appointments—will be paid full salary and asked to stay at home since firing them is painful under Sri Lanka’s draconian labour laws. Some of them will decide to move into the private sector “voluntarily” for a variety of reasons.

Wherever practically possible, the required services of that department will be delivered electronically (tri-lingually from a variety of devices, kiosks, or even mobile services) based on the gazetted rules and regulations of that Department. This will minimise the “discretion related corruption” and delays that are the hallmarks of the current Government. The servant state will save billions in office space and dramatically reduce the volume of useless commuters that it has to subsidise through the transportation system. 

The ICT system requirement to deliver the ISF will be put out for bid and granted to several Sri Lankan IT companies to develop and deliver the components in parallel.  A single new digital infrastructure office will be solely responsible for the delivery of all ICT services of the servant state to ensure a consistent user experience. It is estimated that all ICT enablers can be up and running within 12 months from bid to deployment.

The ‘Legislative’ branch of the servant state will consist of department subject matter knowledgeable citizens, about 10 each, who will serve for a period of one to two years. Thus, there may be 500 to 1,000 competent ‘Legislators’ at any given time. They don’t ‘sit’ in session collectively like a Parliament does, but meet when their individual department proposes new legislation. The ‘Legislators’ will also have to reveal any potential conflicts of interest when applying for the position or voting for proposed legislation. When they are reviewing proposed legislation (which may be one to two weeks at a time), their employer will grant them no-pay leave with full benefits, other than for their salary which will be paid by the servant state. 

The Chief People’s Servant (CPS) will be the titular ‘president’ of the nation and will be transparently selected from any citizen nominee who is qualified. They will serve for a period of two years and be paid by the servant state.

3. Cut over

Various parts of the old structures will be dismantled gradually as the new staffing, work processes, legislative branch and systems enablers of the ISF are put in place and we will go from the current, non-functioning ‘Government of Sri Lanka’ to ‘The Servant State of Sri Lanka,’ which will be highly effective. 


4. Refinement:

Once the cut-over from the old to the new takes place, the new system will be run for 12 months and refined as necessary. 

5. Strategic direction options

While this operational refinement is going on, the PS, DS and senior department staff will develop two 10-year strategic direction options.  Each of these draft options will contain the pros, cons and high level estimates of the tax burden to the people. The strategic direction drafts will be available for civil society and public comment, and after refinement they will be presented to the public as a referendum.  These options will have to abide by the vision of a decent society so a police, theocratic, etc. State will not be presented as an option to the voters. 

The servant state will then implement the chosen strategic direction with policies, annual development initiatives and their associated budgets. There will be periodic or event-based assessments of the strategic direction to ensure that it does not become unresponsive to the people’s needs in an ever-changing world. 

The implementation schedule for the NPD is shown in table 1.

Like any design, the proposed design of the NPD is not perfect, but it is very much a ‘democracy’ since the people set the strategic direction which is then carried out by the adepts. The people are also the ‘Legislature’ that passes/rejects legislation proposed by the various departments in order to execute the strategic direction. The biggest potential weakness of a NPD is the selection process, but the transparent selection and performance monitoring done by the SPMs to rapidly replace those not meeting their KPIs is the way to mitigate that risk. 

Most importantly, a NPD fully addresses the long standing problems arising out of the root cause of political parties and elected representatives. Thus, the new republic will be many thousand fold better for all of us and will truly be ‘The Servant State of the People!’

[Tilak Dissanayake and Hilmy Sally are design engineers and concerned citizens, and have used a structured, logical approach to design the No Politician Democracy concept. Like all engineering designs, the focus must be kept on the primary goal and compromises made in other areas. They welcome feedback, and can be contacted at or]