President helps Public
By Thameenah Razeek
Sri Lanka saw the dawn of a new era on 18 November 2019. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa becoming the President was a victory to many a Sri Lankan who exercised their franchise with the hope of a new future for Sri Lanka. He was a key figure in bringing an end to the three-decade separatist war waged by the LTTE.
President Rajapaksa gained the trust of the general public for the tremendous service he rendered as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, received the votes of Sri Lankans who understood the country was in need of a leader who was capable of rebuilding the shattered economy.
Revamping the public sector
Having served as an exemplary, result-oriented public official prior to becoming the President of Sri Lanka, he was entrusted with the task of systematically improving Sri Lanka’s public sector, in order to ensure the tax-payers’ hard-earned money is utilised in a meaningful manner to revive the country’s economy. As part of these efforts, the President paid visits to some of the foremost public institutions in Sri Lanka to inspect their operations personally, which ignited hopes among the general public that the public sector would be revamped to provide optimum services
The President’s visits to these institutions, and face-to-face discussions with public officials as well as the people obtaining services from these institutions, have borne fruit, as the President’s direct orders aimed at improving these institutions were followed. The President showed that he believes that, there is no better way to improve the public sector than to listening to the issues/ grievances faced by the people who are obtaining services from public institutions.
Two months ago nearly seven million voters gave a mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to put the country back on track. On 26 December 2019 he visited the Department of Motor Traffic in Werahera, Boralesgamuwa for a surprise inspection.
The President was given a detailed account of malpractices and issues at the Department by those who had come to the office for various official purposes. They complained they were kept waiting for hours by the RMV officials, without swiftly attending to their requirements. It was also disclosed during the President’s inspection that the Commissioner assigned to the Werahera office had been away from the office.
The President directed the officials to resolve all their issues within a month. He said it was an ultimatum as he has already received a number of complaints with regard to the department’s work.
The Driver’s licence applicants noted an improvement in services rendered by the Department of Motor Vehicles in Werahera since the President’s surprise inspection tour there, said Transport Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera. In a Media statement, Amaraweera said he was able to confirm this when he attended the RMV’s progress review meeting.
Comments were made by members of the public visiting the RMV, Amaraweera said, to the effect that department officials have accelerated their daily routine services following the President’s unannounced visit.
Colombo National Hospital
On 9 January the President made a sudden observational visit to the Colombo National Hospital. President visited the Out-Patient Department (OPD) building complex of the National Hospital and inquired about the activities at the OPD while engaging in cordial discussions with the patients. President Rajapaksa asked patients regarding their villages where they came from and inquired about the reasons for travelling such long distances. Those patients apprised the President regarding the prevailing issues at hospitals located out of Colombo. During this visit, the President discussed the issues at the National Hospital with the Doctors and the staff of the Hospital.
On 11 February 2020 the President visited the Welikada Prison on a sudden inspection tour. He spoke with inmates most of whom were in remand for the illegal possession of heroin and other prescription substances. They told the President the number of prisoners in the Welikada prison was three times higher than the number the prison can accommodate. They also informed President Gotabaya, that a lot of time was spent hearing cases that were filed without any credible evidence and they were incarcerated in prison for a longer period than required. They were told by President Rajapaksa that he will take steps to appoint a Committee to look into their problems and improve the conditions in the prison.
On 23 September following a client complaint the President inspected the Narahenpita Office of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA). According to the complainant, the officers failed to perform their respective duties on a number of occasions saying staff was inadequate. President Rajapaksa who observed the office witnessed that there were sufficient staff to fulfil their duties properly. The President noticed a differently abled person who had visited the office seeking services waiting in great distress and inquired about his background and his need.
The President who met with the staff emphasised that the primary responsibility of the public servants is to fulfil the public needs efficiently and without hesitation.
Meanwhile, in a scathing attack on the hierarchy of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), President Rajapaksa reprimanded them of miserably failing in carrying out their duties in reviving the economy and regulating finance institutions despite earning handsome salaries. “The Government had put forward its proposals for economic revival. The Central Bank has not extended its support towards it thus far,” the President noted while asking them to give reasons for their failure. Central Banks in leading countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia, as well as in small countries have put in place required mechanisms to revive economies in their respective countries, he pointed out.
“What is the tool we have used? We have used nothing. Our Central Bank has not done anything towards this. Monetary and Fiscal Policy has been formulated by the Central Bank. That should be done in accordance with the economic policy of the President of the country.
“You have several tools that can be used. Those tools have to be utilised. However, our Central Bank does not use a single tool. It just remains idle. We asked to release Rs 150 billion to Banks. This is not a fault of the business. The Government owes a huge sum of money to companies due to mismanagement in the past. Let this money be kept as a security for Banks to release loans to them. Then they can run the economy. This is a money circulation process. This is a very simple tactic and this is a basic economic principle. But what are you doing? Governments have to take the blame for your conduct. You do not monitor.
“Look at the status of Finance and Leasing companies who evade their responsibilities. It is your responsibility to regularise and monitor these companies. However, you have failed in your task. ETI is not in a position to repay the people. The Finance has closed down without informing. How are we going to pay for their mistakes? There is no management here at all. All at the Central Bank are economic specialists drawing very high salaries. You have a responsibility. I have presented you a mechanism. If you are unable to follow it, present me your version of the mechanism by morning next day.
One cannot expect miracles in just one year, but if the track record of the past year is any indication, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency will be defined by an all-new, refreshing attitude to work.