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good governanceI have sent the letter below to the Minister of Good Governance, along with the schedule beneath it. I realized how appalling the situation was when I was Secretary to a Ministry, and the personal staff ran riot (including ensuring the election of Mr Thevarapperuma).

 

Dear Mr Jayasuriya,

I had written to you before about simple measures that could be taken to promote Good Governance and I hope we might be able to meet soon to take things forward, There seems to be too little interest in this at present, and that might lead to the people losing faith in us.

 I gather the JVP has already drafted a Code of Conduct, and I am sorry this has not been shared with party leaders and with parliamentarians in general. But pending that, I will send you some ideas which I hope will be incorporated. My first suggestions are with regard to Personal Staff and perks given to Ministers, which are often not used for Ministry work. I realized how bad the situation was when the Secretary of the Ministry I held commended my staff. None of them is related to me, and they have all been working full time at the Ministry since I took up responsibilities.

Let me add that, if the changes I suggest below in the Schedule are made, I will not take advantage of the additional support for Parliamentarians. Otherwise it will be claimed that I would like to get back some of the advantages I have given up in resigning from the Ministry – though obviously I do not need them since I do not have a constituency.

The cost to the country will be about the same, and more Parliamentarians will have less incentive to obtain executive office for the sake of the perks and privileges.

Yours sincerely

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

 

 Schedule

One of the reasons for everyone wanting to be a Minister is the perks Ministers enjoy. These are often used for personal gain, but in addition they are used for political advantage. This also badly affects productive work. The general principle followed it seems, in forming a Cabinet, is not to select those who understand the subjects allocated to them, but rather to give portfolios for the purpose of ensuring electoral success – both to keep people happy so they will not change sides, and to give them resources to fight elections.

The Minister for Good Governance thought we have an unfortunate political culture and that it would be difficult to change, but we must start now. I would suggest therefore that we adopt a principle of distinguishing between the executive and the Parliamentary roles of politicians and limit them using Ministry resources for electoral or personal purposes. I believe there will be less need of excessive resources when we change the electoral system. But even then, what we should do is give ordinary Parliamentarians a bit more, while cutting down on the waste now.

These measures will also reduce the assumption that the main purpose of a Ministry is to be able to give jobs to people, with little regard for qualifications or ability.

I therefore suggest the following – Read the rest of this entry »

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Cutting down on election costs and refunding these through public funds

The reforms I have suggested may seem esoteric, of interest only to the few people who are concerned about constitutional principles. They could be dismissed as the obsessions of a theoretician, with little practical experience of politics.

But they do have a very practical application, which will be extremely beneficial not only to the people, but also to politicians. For instance, it is obvious to everyone that the present electoral system requires massive resources on the part of individuals. A few individuals do have such resources in terms of personal fortunes, and a very few of these have acquired such fortunes in ways that the public at large would find acceptable. But the vast majority have either to engage in businesses that provide massive quick returns – which entails obligations that are not always desirable – or else have to find resources in other ways.

This has contributed to what I still find bizarre, the general acceptance of the principle that Parliamentarians sell off the permits they obtain to buy duty free vehicles. One former opposition Parliamentarian has indeed confessed to this openly, in claiming that he was able to bestow largesse through the sale of his permit. This is not generally considered abhorrent, and certainly I can understand what has occurred, because the expenses now of elections are astronomical. I can claim no credit for not having as yet made use of my permit, because I was fortunate enough to have been appointed on the National List.

It would be absurd then for me to sit in judgment on much better politicians than I am, who have had to work through a wasteful system. And I should add that I sympathize with my colleagues who used to serve as Provincial Councillors, and who are now unable to obtain permits because five years have not elapsed since they got such permits in their previous incarnation. Five years did not lapse between them having to find resources for Provincial Council elections and finding resources for the General Election, and naturally they feel cheated that they should suffer a loss that old hands in Parliament need not endure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2019
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