It is a welcome move on the part of the Public Administration and
Home Affairs Minister to propose to introduce the Citizens' Charter to
uplift the deteriorated public service and prevent bureaucrats indolence
so that the people will get a better service.
I also wish to draw the attention to the Establishment Code;
Chapter XLVII, Volume II, 1;8 under the heading "Courtesy to the
Public" An officer must be courteous towards the public and readily
assist all persons visiting public offices on business. An officer
should always be polite in his official acts and correspondence.
Chapter XXVIII, Section 3;8 under "Official Correspondence in
Government Offices". Any communication received from a member of the
public or another Government Department should be replied promptly, in
cases where it is not possible to send a formal and accurate reply
immediately, an interim reply should be sent within one week of the
receipt of the communication.
However, the final reply should be sent within 4 weeks. It is
well-known that there is no courtesy or politeness in government offices
from the grassroots level to the apex but deliberate violation of the
Establishment Code reigns supreme.
May I wish to draw the attention speech to the Ombudsman at a seminar
on August 8,2003 on the "Blight of Official Apathy", the bitter truth
through his experience. "The Supreme Court has on numerous occasions
stated that the principle of equality enshrined in Article 12 of the
Constitution is a necessary corollary to the concept of the rule of the
The powers vested in public officials are held in trust for the
public to be used for the benefit of the public. Public officials are
required to maintain minimum standards of fairness and accountability.
There is no such thing as unfettered discretion in public Law.
Fairness requires public officials to be open and give reasons for their
decision.There are instances to illustrate that public officers do not
act that way causing hardship to members of the public.
There is reluctance to admit mistakes; a particular department which
was well aware of the mistake made, had not taken steps to rectify it,
despite successive appeals over a period of five years; this has caused
years of un-necessary delay and loss of income over that period could
have been avoided had the authorities adopted a more sympathetic
Therefore, similar to the task of Hercules cleansing the Augean
Stables, a task has fallen on the shoulders of the Minister of Public
Administration and Home Affairs to cleanse the Augean Stables of the
public service which is un-doubtedly deteriorated, where the bureaucrats
are ruling servants, a wart on the nose of the society.
It is during examinations that our astrologers come into their own.
Magazines, newspapers, radio, TV give them prominence and room for their
predictions, with advice on how to entice fortune's favour in your
Students are asked to perform all manner of rites and rituals to pass
with flying colours! Advice on how to retain what is learnt to come out
bubbling in the examination hall is mostly ignored.
The emphasis is on dependence (this being Sri Lanka) on the Hindu
gods, Ganesh and Parvati, to make things right. These two divinities are
drawn, willingly or unwillingly, under the benevolent shade of the Bodhi
tree to stand in line of worship of the devotee, after recital of the
Buddha's supramundane qualities, for which the Bodhi pooja was invented,
with relevant meditation on him, now hardly attempted.
Astrologers impose their Hindu influence on all, eagerly lapped up by
our "Buddhists", especially parliamentarians, who dare not open or close
a door without the nod of their soothsayer.
Every parliament opens to "nekath" time and recently one even closed
abruptly to the same tune; coconuts are dashed defiantly in all kovils
islandwide; worship and placating of gods of every faith happens around
the clock in bizarre fashion, although prohibited by the Buddhist faith,
which they profess to follow; not to mention the periodic dashes across
the Palk Straits for lucky talismans and tips on more blind faith
This combination of Buddhism which is "to see things as they truly
are" and blind beliefs can turn deadly, as pointed out by psychiatrists,
dealing with mental patients struggling to blend the two in their heads.
Is it then fair to inflict this predicament on our growing children?
The moves to substitute a picture of Sariputta Thera, the Buddha's chief
disciple, on the students' desks did not quite succeed, with their
parents superimposing pictures of the favourite Hindu deities up front.
It is of his chief disciple that the Buddha once remarked, "Wise art
thou, Sariputta, comprehensive and manifold thy wisdom, sharp and
fastidious, joyous and swift"!
Coupled with his unique moral stature of Arahant, the final sanctity,
could there be another, more worthy example for Buddhist children to
follow, at examination or any other time?