A commendable move | Daily News

A commendable move

A Transparency International Sri Lanka initiative to recognize and reward public servants who display qualities of integrity and honesty in the performance of their duties should be acknowledged and appreciated. According to a front page story we carried in yesterday's edition, TISL will be launching a new islandwide “Integrity Idol” contest to identify and felicitate public officials. “This is a very unique public award to recognize integrity in public service”, TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeysekera said. He said; “the key concept here is to “name and fame” public officers". He went on to note that very frequently one only hears negative news about the public service but was also of the firm view that there are many positive examples of people working in the public service that is often unrecognized. He called on the public to nominate people they knew, at any level of government, from school teachers to custom officers, whom they believed performed their role with honesty and integrity.

True, public servants and the public service have come in for a lot of flak from the general public down the years. The public service has come to be synonymous with inefficiency and lethargy. The malaise could be traced to the time in the early sixties when the public service came to be politicized, emasculating a once proud institution, placing the public servant under the thumb of politicians. Merit was overlooked in appointments and political lackeys placed in responsible positions. Things deteriorated further when the public service was filled with the supporters of politicians of all hues. Needless to say, integrity and discipline which was the hallmark of the public service in the immediate post colonial era took a heavy beating. The country is today made to suffer the consequences of a heavily politicized public service in terms of efficiency, honesty and integrity due to the ill advised move by those at the helm of power.

Corruption was made to thrive and public officers with political backing making hay, throwing the public service into the dumps. Another facet of the public service that has been observed over the years is the use of public servants for political work during election time. The deployment of the workers of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in the election campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa is a case in point. The abuse of authority by senior public officials wielding political power was markedly evident during that era.

The corruption cases under the last government that are unraveling, no doubt, tell a tale. The Sil Redi case where public funds to the tune of Rs. 600 million were misused only go to demonstrate the lengths to which dishonest public officials went to please their political masters. Nay, it shows the impunity with which public officials at the helm acted in misusing public funds in such cavalier fashion.

Yet, amidst the negative outlook surrounding the public service and the wrongdoings of high ranking public officials, there are also men and women of integrity who should be made to stand up and be counted. In this connection examples abound in the past. There was the instance where the OIC of the Peliyagoda Police turned down a request by the head of the President's Security Division, no less, to release a notorious criminal who was arrested, some time ago. One also recalls how yet another police officer showed the door to a powerful government politician who came to the police station to bailout a supporter who was arrested after falling foul with the law. These upright men refused to be cowed by political authority but performed their duties as required.

Such men /women in the public service ought to be recognized and their deeds made public. This will go a long way in making others of similar bent in the public service emboldened to perform their duties honestly and with added zest. It is doubly important in the present context when inaction and lethargy have set in the public service due to the perceived political uncertainty.

The World Cup

It will be all systems go today when the greatest show on the planet unveils itself in Russia - the 21st edition of the football World Cup. It will be no exaggeration to say that, beginning today, for a pulsating 30 days, the world will come to a virtual standstill as the teeming millions across the five continents will all be glued to their TV sets, or, the ubiquitous giant screens, lapping up the skills of the Messis, the Neymars and the Ronaldos amidst the deafening uproars of the fans across stadia in the host nation.

Past World Cups have sprung many surprises, with bottom ranked teams surging ahead by beating even tournament favourites. Of course, this time too, five time Cup winners, and, last time finalists, Brazil will be the main attraction, chiefly due to the lyrical quality of their football, played in sync with the famous Samba of the largest Latin American nation. Germany, the Cup winners in 2014, will no doubt be under enormous pressure to retain the title and is bound to give it their all in this quest. 


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