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Towards good governance

Good governance means greater people’s participation

By Indrani Iriyagolle

This article is an opportunity to share and air views and observations on the current socio-political situation from a political science perspective, and as a NGO representative. I believe that Civil Society initiatives could contribute positively and effectively on national issues. Their appeal is a powerful one.

This paper deals with good Governance one of 5 areas dealt with by the Sub committees prior to signing the MoU, viz Conflict in the North and East: Electoral reforms, good governance: social development; proposed structure for collaboration.
Good Governance has emerged as one of the most significant and valuable concepts for widening citizen participation, upholding social responsibility and moral obligations within the institution of Government and its use of power. It must be repeated that the constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka provides in Article 3 that “Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable , Sovereignty includes powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise”

Article 4 states that the sovereignty of the people shall be exercised and enjoyed in a specific manner. The Legislative power of the people being exercised by Parliament consisting of elected representatives.

The executive power of the people shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by People.

The fundamental rights declared and recognized in Constitution shall be respected, secured and advanced by all organs of government (to the extent provided).

The judicial power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament through Courts, Tribunals and other institutions as provided for by Parliament according to law.

As set out in the chapter on Fundamental Rights the Constitution upholds Democratic values and provides even more avenues than the previous Constitution of 1972 for widening citizen’s participation.

The core features of government are spelt out in the constitution. If so why this further emphasis on good Governance? Do reviews and studies that examine Government activities point out that the political branches of Government have over – stepped their limits? Good governance is marketed today as if the traditional order is non est. India and Sri Lanka’s political concepts introduced over thousands of years ago contain principal of Good Governance. States fought each other. Kingdoms and empires where built and subsequently destroyed over the years, many authoritative works destroyed by invasions and warring struggles. (The article Pancha Seela the bedrock of Good Governance examines this)

Kautiya’s “The Arthashastra” written in India over 1500 years ago and the Raiaveliya in Sri Lanka enhanced by numerous commentaries and glossaries shed much light on the concept of good governance and the personal qualities, leadership qualities, and the role of benevolent Kings. Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) analyses statecraft and polities, in all its aspects. “Dharma” “artha” Kamma” and “moksha” are translated as moral behaviour, wealth, worldlu, pleasures and salvation respectively, “Dharma” and “moksha” being the highest ideal to which a human being could aspire. Both ruler and the ruled being governed by his Dharma.

For lack of space one excerpt of the stanza ( of the thousands viz. nearly 5349 sutra and sloka verses) is quoted

“ In the happiness of his subjects lies the king’s happiness ; in their welfare his welfare.He shall not con sider as good only that which pleases him but treat as beneficial to him that which pleases his subjects.” Methods of dealing with conflicts one dealt with extensively.

Good governance cannot be mere running of the political machinery or administration. It involves shaping of public policy in future ensured exercise viz conflict avoidance, conflict management (eliminating the danger factors), conflict resolution resulting in a build up towards peace and unity.

“The root of wealth is economic activity and lack of it brings material distress. In the absence of fruitful economic activity both current prosperity and future growth are in danger of destruction” (Arthashastra)

The United Nations

The United Nations by Resolution E/ CN 4 /RES 2006 / 64 in 2000 of the UN Commission on Human Rights clarified the concept. Former UN secretary General Kofi Annan presented the ingredients of good governance under TRAPR. Viz.

n Transparency
n Responsibility
n Accountability
n Participatory Forum
n Responsiveness to the needs of the people.

In 1999 the UN Conference on good Governance recognized the need for a system that was “transparent, accountable, just and fair, democratic and responsive to peoples needs. Further to this the World Summit members’ drew the attention of states to 10 attributory factors.

Peoples participation ; rule of law; transparency; responsiveness; consensus – seeking’ equity, effectiveness and efficiency; accountability; strategic visionary models; and sustainability. Structurally decentralization of power was introduced as an additional attribute. This led to the corollary that “Peoples participation” be recognized as a process whereby people take an active and influential role in shaping decisions and help understand issues and needs that affect the lives it people. It is here that civil society could a play an active role. The enormous human personnel and human political in our own country has upto the present not been tapped and utilized by the state. Men and women” worth their weight in silver or gold” live in this country an citizens. Unfortunately divisional and confrontational politics have built a fortress around the machinery of government. Focusing on the MOU signed last week, The Island newspaper page 3 hits the nail on the head with a unique caption “Out – Politics of confrontation. In – co – operation on national issues” This theme should be filtered right down to grassroots level.

For the first time a “door of opportunity” has been opened widely by both leaders for the tow major parties, with an apparent sense of commitment to put country before party. This perhaps would be the very last chance to grab peace for development with open arms.

The Millennium Report and Women

In the Report “We the People’s t he UN Secretary General emphasizes repeatedly that better governance means greater people’s participation teamed with accountability to the people. It is the people who elect the representatives. The report says that Socio-economic development go hand in hand with people’s sovereignty. The political right to elect them, the representatives, demands a conducive environment to exercise the franchise in a free and violence ridden environment, PAFFREL and the women voters of our country would vouch for this.

A sample survey by telephone, visits, personal contact, and views coming in from the women’s network corroborates the opinion that women are overwhelmingly in favour of this invaluable MOU Nation Building exercise. Women abhor violence, be it domestic violence or political violence or manipulatory tactics

The U.N. Reports exhort member states to abide by and implement the strategies spelt out in the large number of UN Covenants. Sri Lankan Government has ratified a large number of covenants but the writer feels unhappy to state that despite signing even the optional protocols for several of the important covenants, the implementation has been an ad hoc effort. The covenants on civil and political rights, elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), and a host of other covenants have not been given undivided attention to implement the measures contained in these. The right to enjoy human rights, and for everyone to enjoy an adequate standard of living require a sustained focus. The Millennium Report asserts that socio-economic favourble estimation until half the population of women that constitute the nation get their due rights and status. The foreign exchange earned by migrant women and the domestic and family chores and loving services rendered by families women are inestimable.

The writer is the President of the Sinhala Women’s organization for the Welfare and Advancement of Women; and several other bodies. Formerly Vice President of the International Alliance of Women; Chairperson Political and Civil Rights Commission, (IAW); Chairperson, National Commission on Women, Member and Co- Chair of the NGO Co-ordinating Committee for the North and East; Member, University Council, Colombo

-Daily Mirror-


November 1, 2006 - Posted by | News and politics, Press Release, South Asia

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