Good governance, panacea for all ills
The next wise man who expressed his views on this vibrant topic was a
legal guru who claims to be a jurist, certainly not in the class of
Johannes Voet or Jermy Bentham. He appeared wise and just. I was amazed
by the breadth of his knowledge and fluency in the basic principles of
He seemed to be very cautious and choosy. He said, 'The last
Presidential Election showed in no uncertain terms that the people's
vote is mightier than the axe's edge which befell on Charles 1, the King
of England who claimed to be above the law. He smilingly showed me an
excerpt from the Chief Justice's ceremonial court speech made on the
It is to the following effect 'It is now well settled law that rule
of law demands that powers vested in the State are not to be used in a
capricious, unreasonable and arbitrary manner'.
The learned jurist said that the Chief Justice did not mince his
words when he declared, 'The strength of the Judiciary entirely consists
in the moral allegiance which it can evoke by the hold it has over the
hearts of the people'.
Rule of law
The wise man went on 'Mind you the Rule of Law go hand in hand with
the good governance [Yaha Palanaya]. It is a necessary prerequisite of
good governance. Of late, abuse of power, bribery and corruption which
should be an anathema to the concept of good governance have been the
order of the day. Just a lip service that the new regime would put an
end to it won't do.
The wrongdoers should be exposed and adequately punished. That was an
election pledge. That has to be given effect to. The new regime should
be mindful to restrain and check any form of abuse of power, bribery and
corruption under their regime. The people who are the King Makers will
To buttress his view as to what is Good Governance he quoted an
excerpt from an explanation made by Lord Bingham, Lord Chief Justice of
England and Wales when he was asked 'What makes the difference between
Good and Bad Government'? His answer was to the following effect,
[quote] 'The Rule of Law, specially in a world divided by nationality,
race, colour, religion and wealth is one of the unifying factors'.
The grand old man learned in the law was emphatic on the requirement
that the streams of justice should be clear and pure and that powers to
be should recognise the supremacy of the law. Otherwise the Law of the
Jungle will prevail. I thought he was becoming little uneasy. So I left
him at that saying that I would meet him again to discuss on the dark
shadow that befell on the Judiciary.
I thought that there would be a lacuna if I fail to capture the views
of a Constitutional expert. I thought his doctorate was from an English
University. He has written many books on Constitutional Law. He believed
in the hallowed principles of the separation of powers first
expostulated by the famous Frenchman Montesquieu.
He said, 'In the just concluded Presidential election the people made
up their minds to sink their differences and work towards a common aim
of rejecting a type of monarchical rule which totally ignored the vast
majority of the people and made a mockery of the constitutionally
enshrined concept of the sovereignty of the people'.
He underscored the fact that a high concentration of power in one of
the principle organs of Government, namely the Executive, it would lead
to vitiation of freedoms and guarantees enshrined in the Constitution.
It will lead to disequilibria in the fundamental tenets of good
governance. It is beyond my purview to spelt out how it should be done
because it is the prerogative of the Parliament'. He said the present
regime should not betray the trust 6.2 million people have reposed in
But the Constitutional expert gave a warning. He said' Vital
Constitutional amendments must not be introduced in a hurry. They must
be properly planned with the concurrence of the stakeholders'.
When studying the views of the aforesaid wise men I felt that each
one of them had his own perception and was absolutely careful not to
step out of their fields of study. I was puzzled myself. Any way I
consider it is wiser to leave it to the readers to go through the
totality of their views and arrive at your own conclusion what Yaha
Palanaya is all about.
Anyway you need not bother much. The President in his well formulated
Independence Day address to the nation reiterated and spelt out his
pledges to the people and explained what Yaha Palanaya is all about.
He lamented that even though the brave armed forces defeated the
brutality of the terrorists and freed the motherland the government has
yet to 'bring together the minds of the people of the North and South'.
He quite rightly identified the bringing together the minds of the
people living in the North and South through of reconciliation as the
biggest challenge the new regime faces. He posed the question [ quote]
'Can we be satisfied at what has been achieved after the restoration of
peace?' Secondly, the President referred to the income gap prevailing
between the 'haves' and 'havenots'. Ways and means of closing this gap
need to be looked into and attended to.
The President underscored his pledge given to eliminate poverty. He
pointed out that the level of poverty in the country stands at 6.7
percent. He said he will pay special attention to this with a commitment
to bring it to a minimum. He very well knew the importance of
agriculture in our economy and promised to infuse scientific knowledge
to raise national agricultural standards.
The President emphasised the need to strengthen the public service
and to make it non partisan and productive. He also reminded people of
the pledge to follow a middle path regarding foreign relations. I am
reminded of the famous non alignment policy of Sirimavo Bandaranaike,
the First woman Prime Minister.
To achieve the target of bringing in the much expected Yaha Palanaya
the rulers should be selfless and committed to work for the community at
large. This calls for a change of heart and attitudinal transformation.
Going back memory lane I recall a gesture and utterance by the first
Prime Minister Maha Manya D.S. Senanayake while addressing a gathering
of colonists at Gal Oya. He said, 'I do understand and feel the
hardships you face by the drought and mosquito bite when ploughing your
fields to feed our stomachs. I owe a salutation to you for all that'. So
saying, he brought his palms together and humbly saluted them.
Next generation of politicians took a different turn. While demanding
their vote proudly said 'Open your eyes and see. We have given you
everything you want, food cities all over, high ways where you can 'walk
about free', apples and grapes. It is your duty to cast your vote and
make us to retain our Crown'.
Nevertheless, the peers namely, the voters needed a change. They
thought enough is enough and brought one from their fold to be their
President. They hailed it as a victory for the people.
In one of his addresses the President categorically said, 'My vision
is not to be the King. I want to remain a good human being'. After
Maithripala Sirisena was elected President, he repeatedly maintained
that he is Sri Lanka's number one public servant. These welcome words
from their new President will no doubt appease the minds of the
The writer is a former Director of the Sri Lanka Judges Institute.