ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 38
Financial Times  

Success depends on your backbone; not your wishbone

“Success depends on your backbone, not your wishbone” is a much expressed quotation attributed to an unknown source. In the current context in Sri Lanka, it needs to be reiterated to all leaders of the nation and the leaders in governance, business, professions and civil society.

We have in the recent weeks read of positive leadership commitments and leadership action by three leading personalities in governance.

If these commitments by the heads of the Police, Judiciary and Public Enterprises are converted to action in the same spirit, in their respective areas of governance, civil society will definitely applaud them and recognize the strength and the straightness of their backbone.

The leader of the law enforcement agency committed to revive certain landmark cases, investigated by the Criminal Investigations Department but, virtually swept under the carpet without a breakthrough. These include the assassination attempt on the Army Commander, assassination of the former Foreign Minister, and the arrival in Colombo of an LTTE spokesman in a luxury vehicle owned by a North Central Provincial politician.

The leader of the law enforcement agency can also take credit for having initiated the city traffic police to be extremely active these days, some times even going even to the extent of hiding behind bus halts and walls to charge errant drivers breaking traffic lights, drivers using mobile phones and even drivers using one hand on a wheel.

However, regrettably there does not appear to be a reduction in the dangerously driven vehicles, especially busses and fast cars including those cars engaged in drag racing disturbing the peace at night.

Civil society is keenly observing whether the commitment and action of the law enforcement agency head will extend to include focussed pursuit of action against:

•Well known narcotic dealers and distributors, including those who lead them from behind and provide them necessary protective cover and patronage.

•Those responsible for abductions, missing persons and ransom demands.

•Torture and violation of fundamental human rights of citizens by direct and indirect agents of the state.

•Those endowed with political power and their children who terrorise innocent people leveraging their security cover and goons and appear to be above the law.

•Many unsolved murders and crimes by organized segments, army deserters and even those connected to armed services and the police, where no action appears to be progressed beyond the gruesome scenes shown on television and newspapers.
The leader bearing the scales of justice, having been denied access to a road recently closed for normal traffic for security reasons, is reported to have called the lead officer in charge of policing the traffic and explained the law, rights of citizens and pointed out those empowered to impose on a permanent basis road closures, designation of one way roads and no parking zones.

Civil society is keenly observing whether the commitment and action of the leader bearing the scales of justice will also extend to include focussed pursuit of;

•Advice to fellow bench mates that for the foundations of the constitution to be sustained, as envisaged by its framers, the separate arms -Executive, Legislature and Judiciary- have to function with independence and act as a check and balance on each other and therefore to deny public litigants of the option to challenge a rule made solely by the legislature itself, voting for its members salary hikes and additional perks and benefits (in the private sector those interested in such benefits would not have participated in the decision to approve and support evidence in the form of a comparative survey and an independent remunerations review board would have been engaged) on the grounds of avoiding potential conflict with the legislature is a denial of a fundamental right of society.

•Publicly state that no person irrespective of whatever position of leadership one holds in the nation, governance, business or society (unless bound by an independent contract of employment and accompanying job requirements) can demand another to pay respect by standing up to shower greetings as a leader enters a room.
It appears that professionals of the municipality were recently verbally abused by a so-called son of respectable parents from the south, who went ballistic over the engineers not getting up to greet him with respect as he entered the room where they were seated.

•Advise the rights and privileges of common citizens and the manner in which motorists and pedestrians should be treated by the armed services and police personnel engaged in emptying roads of vehicles and pedestrians to allow VIP motorcades to whiz past, and to avoid them being herded at gun point in the process, a terrorizing experience for the innocent.
The leader of the Committee examining public enterprises has been in the news, pointing out corruption, waste and mismanagement in such enterprises.

It is the fervent hope of civil society that the process of review (review of audit reports, post implemetation project reviews, efficiency and effectiveness and value for money reviews and systems and internal control reviews) will continue to be independent, professional, unbiased and will cover all aspects of public property, state resources and state institution management (including those institutions that are outside the review process currently) and that these reviews will lead to errant officials being punished and losses recovered according to the law, irrespective of position of power of such persons in the power structure.

We in civil society are carefully watching the curvature of your spine!

(Comments on this column should be sent to

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.