Sound advice | Daily News

Sound advice

President Maithripala Sirisena did the right thing by advising all state officials to carry out their duties in the normal fashion without giving thought to the political developments in the country. Earlier the President also met with Trade Unions leaders affiliated to the SLFP/UPFA to prevail on them to maintain order in their institutions. This followed the disturbing incidents at certain state sector bodies following the change of Government. The President, apparently, is determined to ensure order at public institutions, without permitting unruly elements to cause trouble. He obviously wants to reverse the trend that had been existing in this country after every election.

Speaking to a group of public sector officers in Polonnaruwa over the weekend President Sirisena asked them to attend to their duties as usual and not to entertain any doubts as to the stability of the Government.

The President’s call to State sector officials is a timely one indeed. The political tsunami that hit the country last week had left many a citizen stunned. It certainly was no different with Government officials. The atmosphere brought about by the sudden change has had a paralytic effect on some of these officials. Needless to say, this would in turn lead to the malfunctioning of the State apparatus affecting the public. There is also bound to be a sense of uncertainty gripping the public sector as a result of the change. Political loyalties may also place these officials in separate camps leading to the neglect of their duties with some waiting for further developments. Hence, the assurance given by the President of the stability of the new regime is bound to have a salutary effect on these state officials to remove all doubts.

It is but an accepted fact that our public sector is highly politicized. As a result there may be foot dragging on the part of certain officials in the implementation of Government policy based on their political loyalties. This need not be the case since a public officer is duty bound to serve the Government in power whatever his political leanings and by extension the public.

Sadly in this country there are public officials who willingly engage in sabotage motivated by their political affiliations and it has become customary for ruling party politicians to accuse public officials of working towards undermining the Government. This we saw from a Finance Minister of the last regime who blamed certain officials of the Central Bank for conspiring to harm the economy due to their political connections.

True, there may be changes in the top positions in Government institutions following a change of Government. But second tier officers by and large will continue in their positions, their political sympathies notwithstanding. It is such officers who should strive to be neutral and render their services to the new Government in the normal manner.

President Sirisena is the first leader to meet state officials in this manner after a change of Government, to give them an assurance. Prior to this all Government institutions went into chaos after a regime change with no work getting done until the dust settled. Decision making is also deferred, the state of suspension impacting on the functions of vital sectors. The President who too began life as a public servant is only all too aware of this state of affairs. Hence, his advice to the officials to keep the wheels rolling without being distracted by the happenings on the political front.

In any event, political changes should not hamper the smooth operation of the administration. True, political cross currents in a country where the State sector is highly politicized is inevitable. However this in no way should be allowed to interfere in the functions of Government institutions. After all they are there to render a service to the general public. Hopefully the President had sent a clear message to the public officials in this regard.

Meanwhile, the reduction of the prices of certain essential items by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, also the Finance Minister, no doubt would be welcomed by the public across the political divide. No sooner he was installed as the Prime Minister he ordered a slash in the price of dhal (by Rs.5), sugar (by Rs.10) and reduced the price of petrol by Rs. 10 and diesel by Rs.7. The Premier also reduced the telephone tax by 10 percent and more importantly completely did away with the withholding tax charged by commercial banks on the interests of deposits which was even levied on Death Donation Societies.

The question on everyone’s mind is why the previous regime could not do this. The message it received on February 10 ought to have opened its eyes to hardships that the ordinary people are undergoing due to the unbearable cost of living. Instead, it arrogantly chose to carry on in the same vein and put all eggs in the ‘debt repayment’ basket. The Premier, no doubt, would receive hearty cheers from the pensioners for keeping their bank interests intact. This should be a harbinger of more good things to come. 


 

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