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Text of a presentation at the Seminar on Changing Social Dynamics in South Asia:  Prospects and Challenges for India and Sri Lanka, conducted by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and the observatory research Foundation.

August 17th 2012


I am grateful to the Bandaranaike Centre and the Observatory Foundation for this opportunity to speak on governance. I was not sure initially what the topic entailed, nor how it fitted into the theme of this Seminar, but in the last few months I have understood how desperately we need better principles of governance if we are to benefit from the victory over terrorism that we managed to achieve three years ago.

I realize too that I am perhaps uniquely qualified to talk on this subject, given the wide range of experience I have enjoyed. I say this because sometimes seminars such as this are criticized on the grounds that they present only theoretical frameworks. In my case however, in addition to having studied political philosophy, and also political and social history, I have been Secretary to a Ministry with particular responsibility for coordinating the work of other Ministries, as well as now being a Parliamentarian. I have written from a theoretical perspective on principles of governance, in ‘Political Principles and their Practice in Sri Lanka’ (CUP, India), while more recently I have been advising District and Divisional Secretaries, and the Grama Niladharis under them who provide the first interface with governance to the people, on systems that better fulfil basic principles of governance.

What are these principles? I was thinking that they could be summed up, in an acronym I just invented, as a CART to take us in the right direction, but I then decided that TRACKS would be better, and more thorough. What we need is Transparency, Responsibility, Accountability, Coherence and Knowledge, and of course also Skills to fulfil these principles. These last however do not require explication, though we need to understand that continuous training is required to develop these to sufficient levels, together with practical experience that is both supervised and on occasion analysed to improve performance.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2012
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