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Post War responsibilities of politicians, bureaucrats and NGOs

The guns and grievance of war have fallen silent and here we stand at the threshold of an era of development a time for Rebuilding Sri Lanka. This it must not merely be interpreted as a physical state of growth and expansion; we need also to rebuild the human values and ties that form the basis of a progressive nation and people, involving all sectors of society.

Now that the country has closed the chapter on terrorism, our collective attention should be diverted to the next challenge of rehabilitation reconstruction and reconciliation of a shattered nation. The challenge no doubt is monumental considering the many facets and the diverse issues that have to be taken into the equation.

The responsibility and expectation from every Sri Lankan to recognise this need, and subscribe to a national movement of solidarity and social harmony keeping the broader objectives of peace and national integration cannot be over emphasised.

Holistic Approach

In short what is required is a holistic approach to address the past war needs. While the Government will map out the blue print for post war rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation all sectors of society have a scared duty to contribute to the efforts of the Government particularly, Politicians, Bureaucarts and Non Governmental Organizations.

Lessons of the past

The problems we faced as nation after the tsunami have been demoralizing and horrendous. Looking back at these problems we can with a degree of certainly assert that these can be attributed to the lack of adequate appreciation and understanding of the responsibilities and accountabilities of Politicians, Bureaucrats and Non Governmental Organizations. They regrettably failed to realize that they were accountable and responsible for their actions and official conduct to the people.

Politicians

It is accepted without dispute that the ultimate success or failure of politicians are interwoven and dependent on the degree of their commitment to their responsibilities and manifestation of their conduct and the transparency and accountability to the people. Sir Winston Churchill said, "the price of greatness is responsibility" while Albert Schwiertzer maintained, "Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn to exercise his will, his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals."

Very simply "accountability" implies responsibility and the requirement to account for one's action. In a democratic society control by Parliament becomes imperative as any Government in power becomes accountable automatically to the people. An essential feature of a democracy is that responsibility of rulers to the people, unlike in an autocratic state.

This responsibility is secured by the responsibility of the Ministers to Parliament. Democratic governments have continuously attempted to jealously maintain this responsibility or accountability of politicians and office holders to the people." This is the cornerstone of democracy, since those elected to govern are answerable to the people who elected them.

It is sad that in this hour of national reconciliation, certain politicians continue to harp on ethnic divisions and military defeats and victories. Unless all politicians act with a greater sense of responsibility, accountability and transparency the efforts of the Government to rebuild, rehabilitate and re-build will be invain.

The responsibility of the leadership of all political parties should be to create a strong sense of citizenship that would help to build loyalty. This will not happened unless the leadership place the country's interest before that of their narrow political loyalties and unite to build up the foundation to create among the citizens the essence of a national identity. Patriotism is intrinsically linked to that of developing a national identity.

At the present time we see most politicians covering wrapping themselves within the euphoria of victory and pronouncements of freedom, but one wonders how many of them will forego their own parochial interests in order to build up a consensus to build a national identity which will while accepting cultural differences also ensure equal opportunities for all and thereby creating a Sri Lankan identity.

Aid an assistance

With the spontaneous surge of sympathy among the local as well as the international community, expressive of their desire and generosity to help rehabilitate unfortunate, the displaced relief collection centers that are mushrooming in every nook and corner of the island and with the aid that is flowing from abroad, the need for absolute transparency and accountability in the disbursement of aid is an absolute necessity.

It is necessary to emphasise that all political parties should be committed to participate and contribute to the rehabilitation and re construction and rehabilitation drive of the Government. All political leaders should not lose this opportunity to unite the country, and the people and also zealously ensure the best utilization of the assistance from the international community.

Bureaucracy

The bureaucracy and the public servants are essential cogs in the state machinery. They have a very important role to play in bringing Sri Lanka out of the tragic predicament. 'Bureaucracy' means different things to different people. Following the tsunami devastation, people became increasingly aware of the growing significance of the bureaucracy in the reconstruction, rebuilding and rehabilitation process.

Very rarely do people think of the bureaucracy as an essential organization to carry out complex activities in a more complex modern society. However following the re-assessment of the government machinery and the infrastructure the need to effectively make use of the bureaucracy was adequately realized during the post tsunami period, it had a significant role, but how effectively it performed its role is debatable.

It must be appreciated that public officials today work in an acquisitive society where money is of paramount importance and people are hooked to consumerism. Therefore it is hardly fair to expect unquestionable integrity only from the public officers either at top or bottom of the scale.

Appreciating the present scenario in the public service and the problems encountered during the post tsunami period in the process for disbursement of relief, adequate safeguards should be adopted emphasizing the humanitarian aspects of their service, this is crucial to the proper functioning of the government and in the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The achievement of high standard of ethical conduct among public officials is central to the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the whole process.

The distribution of relief is not just another routine office job. It needs the commitment of a dedication and empathy on the part of the social worker. In an era where self aggrandizement is taken as a virtue with politicians giving the lead, committed social workers are rare among public servant.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has, with single-minded determination destroying the capacity of the LTTE to wage war in any serious form. Also by speaking to the Tamil speaking population in their langauge on more than one occasion, he has demonstrated his wish to establish a genuine rapport with them.

Considering the President's efforts to communicate with the Tamil people in their language, we everyone would like to see the bureaucracy to do likewise in their day to day work. All of us are well aware that the provisions relating to the use of Tamil in state activities have been mostly ignored in the past.

Hence the first priority would be to ensure in a very proactive manner, that the bureaucracy does not continue with the lapses and contravention of the past three or more decades.

Non Government Organizations

Non-Governmental Organization should recognize that they stand to lose a unique opportunity to play a significant role in supporting the Government effort to foster and maintain peace and effectively caring for the nearly 300,000 displaced persons. They should show genuine passion for these innocents in war and that the generous foreign assistance coming in from abroad direct to various voluntary organizations, are used strictly for rehabilitation.

These funds requires strict monitoring. Some of these voluntary organizations in the past have been linked to political and even terrorist organizations given the appalling track record of some NGO and dubious activities while that have been operating in Sri Lanka, there is little to trust as for their motives and modus operandi.

Some of them are headed by extremely dubious characters that have gained international notoriety. They may have created extremely fertile political for the seeds of political destabilization to be sown.

Also some expatriate workers based in the island cannot be completely trusted to ensure that the aid is such massive quantities will be distributed equally in a transparent manner. We are all aware that head of a leading in go Forut were ordered out on grounds of national security. This ugly aspect has revealed itself in the past with monotonous regularity.

The need to emphasis and impress on all NGOs of their responsibilities cannot be over emphasized. Further the activities and operations of NGOs who apparently are trying to fish in trouble waters should carefully be monitored.

Magnitude of the task

Sri Lanka delivered a spectacular victory against all, national and internationally aspected terrorism which is unique in the world today. All this now stands before the Sri Lankan people in their triumph as a mighty example to the whole world of how to deal with terrorists that are intransigent to compromise, realism and reason. The task before us is monumental.

Finding the finance required for rehabilitations from within the country, in a particularly several financial bind the country finds itself in, is difficult, if not impossible. Catering to the daily needs of about 300,000 refugees in the camps by providing them with accommodation, water, food, medicines and shelter are staggering tasks. Although the UN Secretary General's and some foreign accounts of the conditions of these people are dismal, there are reliable reports that indicate the Government is making a good effort in the overwhelming situation of the huge refugee problem.

The international accounts appear to not recognize the enormity of the task, the limitation in resources both physical and personnel and the security concerns that have to be looked into in the admission of personnel and suppliers. It is in this context that the work of the Government is unenviable.

While the Government will make valiant attempt to bring about development. But tangible will not come as fest as we would like. Infrastructure takes time to be laid out, economies and markets take time to respond, and deep rooted structural deficiencies in public sector finance and governance cannot be changed overnight. We must be patient.

Change

If Sri Lanka is to come out the percent predicament, values and attitudes have to change and the sense of right and wrong has to be restored and "accountability" and "responsibility" be zealously ensured at all levels. Can the Government bring about this change? If so how? Yes, it is possible by effective strategies formulated and directed to build "values" and zealously promote ethical behaviour and conduct at all levels of those who hold public office.

In 1945 Tokyo was completely devastated robbery, stench, begging, prostitution, demoralization, lack of public service, confronted the Japanese. They began to live under macarthur's occupation. Yet today Tokyo is among the most affluent, progressive, safe and orderly cities in the world.

How did they graft new values to the traditional culture? The humiliating and ignominious defeat in the war and economic consequences placed Japan in an unenviable predicament.

In its effort to rebuild, the concept of the four D's - Diligence, Dexterity, Discipline and Dedication which attributes were deep rooted in Japanese society were significantly and painstakingly instilled in the Japanese mind. The significance and relevance of such concepts in the present cannot be overstated. All politicians, bureaucrats and NGOs have a sacred duty to effectively support the Government in rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.

The Government and the valiant armed forces have done their duty to the country by freeing it from terror and giving us an opportunity to start with a clean state. Now it is our turn of all citizens of this country, especially the Sinhalese, to help make the dream of peace a reality and reflect "peace" in our thoughts and actions and act with compassion considering thousands of innocents in war, now in refuge camps.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has emphatically stated says responsibility dose not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us.

When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. Reconciliation will take time. It will need all our prayers and most importantly, all our efforts. Prejudices still abound. In this regard, while our Politicians any Bureaucrats have a big role to play, the responsibility lies with every single one of us. We have a long way to go before we can rest. It is a journey that can only be taken together.

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