Rajiva Wijesinha’s Essays on “Good Governance” reaches the Bookshelves

Rajiva Wijesinha: Reform, Rights and Good Governance, Colombo: S. Godage and brothers, 2015, ISBN 978-955-30-6555-1 … selling at Rs 1750 and $22.50 (without postage)


ABSTRACT: This book brings together articles on governance issues written in the last few years. The main theme is the need for structural change, to ensure fulfilment of governmental and social responsibilities. Though there is stress now on corrective action, the greater need is for understanding of the root causes of abuse so these can be addressed, and abuse at least limited. The long second section of the book is based on the series entitled Sri Lanka Rights Watch which began in the Daily News in 2012. It arose from the author’s appointment to convene the Task Force to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan, which he had been instrumental in drafting when there was a dedicated Ministry for Human Rights under Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The articles describe the commitment of most government agencies to change, but also record the difficulties of progress in the absence of proper coordinating mechanisms. The author in the end resigned from the position in despair, urging the President to establish a Ministry with specific responsibilities, as had contributed previously to more effective action and better liaison with relevant national and international mechanisms.

Amongst themes taken up regularly in the articles are entrenching protection mechanisms for women and children, promoting equitable education, establishing clearcut policies with regard to land rights, expediting judicial reform to reduce wasteful and corruptive remanding, ensuring work norms for judicial officers, and introducing greater accountability to the communities on behalf of whom administrators are intended to function.

The systemic changes to promote effective government were taken up in two sets of columns in 2015, in ‘Ceylon Today’ and ‘The Island’. As the only member on the government side to urge reforms publicly in the preceding couple of years, the author was enthusiastic about the changes brought about by the January Presidential election. He believed passionately in the manifesto that he had helped to draft but, as it turned out, political expediency trumped principle after the election, and hardly any of the promises extended were fulfilled.

The articles indicate the very simple steps that could have been taken to entrench accountability and ensure transparency. Measures to divorce executive action from electoral advantage, to entrench local consultation systems, to ensure responses to public concerns through mandatory response mechanisms, to increase professional input into government, are amongst the various themes taken up in these essays. In particular the writer stresses the need to strengthen Parliament, and indicates the simple steps that might have been taken to amend Standing Orders. But there was little interest amongst politicians who had benefited from existing deficiencies to introduce change.

RAJIVA 11-www.ft.lk



 A Reform Agenda

  • Financial Abuse and Methods of Controlling it
  • Reducing the Power of the Executive
  • A Foreign Policy based on formal structures and concepts
  • Administrative Reforms to make government more responsive to local needs
  • School Education
  • School Administration and Resources
  • Business Development
  • Environmental Protection
  • The Electoral System the Government Promised
  • An independent public sector
  • A Cabinet determined on a scientific basis
  • Strengthening Parliament and avoiding unnecessary bodies
  • Ensuring Continuity
  • Consensus with regard to Foreign Relations
  • Education for Employment and Reconciliation
  • The reasons the Reform Agenda has failed
  • Ignoring Parliament
  • Subterfuge to strengthen an Executive Prime Minister
  • Undermining Reforms
  • The failure to consult
  • Fiscal Reform by stealth
  • Service Delivery in Divisions
  • The Presidential Manifesto and Education
  • Freedom of Information
  • Local Consultation and Empowerment
  • Holistic Student Centred Education

Sri Lanka Rights Watch

1.     The Welfare of Prisoners

2.     Ensuring sensible judicial activism: the problem about suspended sentences for rape

3.     Developing Community Structures

4.     Promoting the Rights and the Welfare of Children

5.     Strengthening the Human Rights Commission

6.     Cooperation of the Human Rights Commission with other state agencies

7.     Developing psychosocial support systems

8.     Police Training

9.     The Laws’ and Other Delays

10.  Local Directives and Reporting

11.  The Girl Guide initiative about Violence against Women and Children

12.  Labour and Migrant Workers

13.  The Displaced and Land Issues

14.  Acting on Recommendations accepted at the Universal Periodic Review

15.  The question of torture

16.  Preparing for the Universal Periodic Review

17.  Better Prisons, Fewer Prisoners

18.  The Rights of Labour

19.  Educational Reform

20.  The role of the Police in Coordination

21.  Protecting Suspects

22.  Involving Civil Society

23.  The Right to Information

24.  Dealing with Disappearances

25.  Former Combatants

26.  Land Issues

27.  The Laws’ Delays

28.  Awareness as to the Rights of Women

29.  Problems of Women in the North

30.  Preventing languishing in jail

31.  The police as a positive social force

32.  Trafficking

33.  Preventing Domestic Violence

34.  The care of children

35.  The Right to Higher Education

36.  Promoting women in politics

37.  Affirming the Right to Education

38.  Why officials face too much undue influence

39.  Saving Women from Houses of Detention

40.  Prison visiting

41.  Saving Children from Neglect

42.  The LLRC and Human Rights Action Plans

43.  The Bill of Rights

44.  International issues in the LLRC Action Plan

45.  Consultations to finalize legislation to protect children

46.  The LLRC and the Detained

47.  The Rights of Elders

48.  The Right to a fair trial

49.  Registering and Remembering the Disappeared

50.  Clarifying statistics as to Rehabilitation

51.  Detainees, Prisons and the ICRC

52.  Overcrowding in Prisons: Causes, Remedies

53.  Detainees under the PTA and Emergency Regulations

54.  Systematizing Units for Women and Children at Divisional Secretariats

55.  The Right to Development

56.  Inclusivity and Participatory Budgeting

57.  Guidelines and Independence for the Judiciary

58.  Moving from patronage to equity in social services

59.  Reducing overcrowding in prisons

60.  Bringing government closer to the people

61.  The need for precision

62.  The principles behind Electoral Reform

63.  Transparency with regard to Law

64.  Deploying Resources more effectively

65.  Settling land problems swiftly

66.  Streamlining administrative procedures

67.  Restoring and Acquiring Land

68.  Reforming the Judiciary in a civilized manner

69.  The Universal Periodic Review and its aftermath

70.  Strengthening the rights of people, not politicians

71.  How the discourse on Human Rights is perverted

72.  Functioning with precision in English

73.  Legal clarity with regard to empowerment

74.  Eastern Muslim problems

75.  Guarding against Gender Based Violence

76.  Promoting Action on Human Rights

77.  Youth perspectives on bringing government closer to the people

78.  Other areas for Action to promote Human Rights

79.  The messiness of Multiple Ministries

80.  The diffidence of the Legislature regarding the Judiciary

81.  Principles for Educational Progress

82.  Why hypocrisy about war crimes weakens the argument for Human Rights

83.  Improving effectiveness through coordination

84.  Structures to deal with disappearances

85.  Carrying out Plans in the Nation Building process

86.  Dealing with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

87.  Facilitating Coordination in the Courts

88. Action and Information

89. Overcoming inadequacies without inflicting them on others

90. Police structures and professionalism

91. Coordination of LLRC Actions

92. Banging heads on brick walls

93. The Resonance of Richard de Zoysa’s death

94. Promoting Language Rights as well as the Right to Development

95. Legislation and multiple perspectives

96. Answering allegations intelligently

97. Ensuring conformity to National Language Policies

98. Dealing with general allegations of war crimes

99. Promoting successful initiatives

100. The Institute of Human Rights and its concern for the neglected

101. Registering the contributions of courageous Tamils

102. Civil Rights and sincerity

Good Governance

1. Stopping Jobs for the Boys

2. Reducing corruption

3. Accountability and the central role of the public

4. Dealing with Violence

5. Continuity

6. A Responsive Judiciary

7. Guarding the Guardians

8. A Responsible Media

9. Ministerial Perks

10. Appointments to public positions

11. Collegiality

12.    A Code of Conduct

13.   The suitability of Members of Parliament for their roles

14.   Responsiveness and Mechanisms for Follow Up

15.   Covering up aberrations

16.   Implications of the Bond Disaster for Good Governance, as explained by a former Deputy Governor

17.   Abdicating Governance

18.   The need for professional Civil Servants

19.   The problem of pervasive corruption

20.   Confusion between Executive and Legislature

21.    Making laws and regulations accessible

22.    Rent Seeking through multiplying government bodies

23.   Governance and Development

24.   Governance and Internal Security

25.   Dispute Resolution without Confrontation


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