ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39
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The price of bad governance

The theatrics at the Bribery and Corruption Commission keep popping up like a bad penny.
This week, the Government -- at the highest levels -- sacked the Director General of the Commission, a move seen by some in legal circles as illegal.

The conduct of the Presidential Secretariat has not been helpful. Its obstinate stance of not indicating why the President transferred the Director General 'with immediate effect' has not only been an unfair indictment on a public servant, but also given rise to accusations against the Government that some hanky-panky is going on.

The legality of it notwithstanding, that a President can effect such transfers of public servants for good reason, bad reason or no reason, is unthinkable in a modern world where transparency is the key to good governance. Surely, not only the public servant concerned, but the country must be told why the President exercised his authority in the manner he has.

The President is accountable to the people -- not just once in six years -- but all the time. Such arbitrary decision-making will hurt the Government, if not the people of Sri Lanka in the not so-long term.

Right now, what is known as the GSP+ scheme whereby a preferential duty-free scheme for Sri Lankan imports to the European Union (EU) countries is under consideration based on the Government implementing 27 international covenants on human rights, labour rights and environmental standards.

"This means not just having the laws, but also implementing them," the EU ambassador in Colombo was recently quoted as telling this newspaper. This is exactly what has happened to the Constitutional Council as well, where a law has been passed (the 17th Amendment), but is not implemented.

The GSP+ scheme brings in some 900 million Euros to Sri Lanka and has helped its exporters resist stiff competition from other exporters around the world. Any withdrawal of this scheme is going to hit the country's garment industry very badly, and the thousands of garment workers, the hardest.

As much we say that Sri Lanka is sixty years an independent and sovereign state, and now a republic, the fact that the EU can apply such conditions to the Government of such a country is the stark reality of the modern world. The events unfolding in the Balkans right now are a telling message to countries like ours.

Kosovo, a little homeland in the former Yugoslavia -- backed fully by the West (the US and the EU) has just declared Independence from Serbia. Barely 10 years ago, the Kosovo Liberation Army was designated a terrorist organisation by none other than the US, and accused of killing at least 10,000 people.

And yet, international affairs and real-politik saw the holier-than-thou US work with these terrorists, and help them towards liberation. It was by first getting the United Nations into place, and then by supporting what they called a drive by the International Community (IC) to help shape a final plan for the people of Kosovo and Serbia that the West got its foot in the door to divide Serbia.

A former Finish President was used as the catalyst to pronounce the 'fact' that the people of Serbia and Kosovo could not live together, and therefore the parting of the ways had to come. On Monday this week, the US recognised Kosovo. Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Norway - followed. Russia, China and Sri Lanka have rejected the new questionable 'State'.

While it is unlikely that Kosovo would become a recognised member of the UN, because Russia and China will exercise their veto to reject it, for all intents and purposes, Kosovo is a de-facto State. The Sri Lankan government and the people cannot be blind to the pattern that evolved in Kosovo to make it a Western client state. The EU ambassador in Colombo may say that the mighty new empire of Europe that has virtually replaced the old Soviet Union as a global powerhouse does not intend using the GPS+ scheme as a "political tool" against Sri Lanka, but which super-power ever admitted to this?

Thus, though we may want to ask the world to go to hell, we can't. afford to. Therefore, it would be prudent for the Government to study the currents and under-currents of world politics, the designs of the new super-powers and their machinations.

It must also be aware of the very real threat of neo-colonialism exerted through Non-Governmental Organisations heavily backed by ostensibly well-meaning superpowers together with their local counterparts. The Government, unfortunately, by some of its own crass misdeeds, is only fuelling the justification for their existence and complaints.

That is why the Government's blatant disregard for the tenets of good governance is 'playing with fire'-- greatly jeopardising the future well-being of this country in a nasty intrigue-filled world outside.

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