|Wednesday, 6 October 2004|
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Essential peace ingredients
A close reading of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's address to the inaugural session of the National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation on Monday would reveal the inherently just nature of the solution the Government visualizes for Sri Lanka. The solution was only prefigured in broad outline but had all the basic essentials for a just and honourable resolution of the ethnic conflict.
To begin with, there is a measure of continuity with the peace effort which was launched by the previous administration. As indicated by the President, a commitment is sought from the LTTE that the interim administration proposal and the final solution would be based on the Oslo Declaration which was signed by the Government and the LTTE during the Oslo deliberations nearly two years ago.
Essentially, the Oslo Declaration outlined a federal system of government for Sri Lanka, with a degree of autonomy for the North-East, within a united, territorially intact country.
Accordingly, the fresh peace initiative by the Government is not undoing all that has been achieved but intends building on the plusses of the past. This is ample reason why the UNF and the TNA should reconsider their boycott of this new peace bid and join hands with the Government to take the peace process to its logical conclusion. The Government, in other words, intends building on the foundations which have been already laid. As has been the case in the past, the peace foundations are not being rejected out of hand just because a previous administration laid them.
The President was also emphatic that the negotiators of peace will be the Government and the LTTE. The National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation (NACPR) would be an important deliberative forum which would keep the Government alert to public opinion. In other words, the NACPR would be a vital conduit of communication between the Government and the people.
It is perhaps short term gain which is preventing the UNP from seeing the correctness of this arrangement.
Besides, the President reiterated the position that the solution to the conflict would meet the legitimate aspirations of all communities and their members. It wouldn't be partial to the interests of only one community and would, therefore, aim at meeting the highest standards of justice, the Rule of Law included. As we pointed out yesterday, the fundamental weaknesses of past peace efforts need to be overcome this time round. A principal stumbling block to resolving the conflict has been the lack of a national consensus on a solution. We need to get all "stakeholders" on board the peace effort. This is the rationale underscoring the NACPR exercise.
The country needs to succeed this time round or face prolonged uncertainty and tension.
Monument to Bureaucracy
The wheels of bureaucracy move ever so slowly in this country. Those who have been to any Government institution know only too well the travails experienced by the public. You may go there for a simple matter such as getting a permit or a letter, but efficient public servants are hard to find. You are driven from pillar to post, precious time is wasted and sometimes you have to come home empty-handed. A frustrating experience indeed.
If you think this scenario applies only to our island, think again. Bureaucrats everywhere are the same. The red tape is not that easy to conquer all over the world. The question 'how many bureaucrats are needed to change a light bulb ?' amply describes the ways in which they work.
Our thoughts turned to the inexplicable ways of officialdom after reading a news item from the Czech Republic: Czech businessman Radim Hruby, after a decade of waiting for the cogs of bureaucracy to turn, has converted his built-up frustration into a monument to bureaucrats worldwide.
And the monument cannot be any more symbolic of the shackles of bureaucracy - twin limestone pillars, a barred entrance and a bronze bell. Perhaps the barred entrance signifies the well-known fact that bureaucrats remain oblivious to the feelings of the common people who come to them with problems to solve.
Most government offices remain 'closed' to the people though they are ostensibly open. The monument highlights the global nature of bureaucracy - it contains the inscription "bureaucracy" in 30 different languages.
Bureaucrats everywhere must look at the private sector, whose keyword is efficiency. Private sector organisations such as banks that deal directly with people (customers, in their parlance) do not waste their time. The customers are greeted with a smile, directed to the relevant person/counter and his or her matter is attended to swiftly. Private sector personnel who deal directly with people are required to have excellent public relations and communications skills.
There are public servants who take their job seriously and attend to public needs expeditiously. But they are a minority. It is time that most of the bureaucrats in the public service changed their attitudes. They must adhere to the adage 'service with a smile'.
The Government has set in motion a series of administrative reforms with this aim in mind. The ultimate aim is to have an efficient, service-oriented bureaucracy that truly fulfils the requirements of the people within the shortest possible time span - in other words, a bureaucracy that is open and accessible.
Produced by Lake House