Sri Lanka: Professionalism – Missing Links

If the professionals had functioned strongly and unreservedly to eradicate corruption and rectify other faults extant in the areas which were under their control, certainly Sri Lanka would not have fallen into such a big mess and a disaster it has faced today

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[Representational image credit: jeshoots.com/Unsplash]

The right to rectify the wrongdoings occurring in the country or the right to be elected as public representatives should be granted only to those who are committed to discharge or have already discharged the responsibility assigned to them in the respective scope of work or the little professional world they represent and had committed themselves in maintaining a good, clean and orderly state in their particular fields by correcting and remedying the wrongs that may occur in them.

Many positive changes would occur in the political system when the political parties and their leaders are composed of people, who could claim for such a record in addition to having their merits limited only to educational qualifications. However, it is obvious that many people who have become members of conventional political parties of our country as well as those who have entered the political stream newly, are not those who could claim such a record.

The professionals are at the helm of all important sectors in the country. If the professionals had functioned strongly and unreservedly to eradicate corruption and rectify other faults extant in the areas which were under their control, certainly Sri Lanka would not have fallen into such a big mess and disaster it has faced today. We know that politicians are rotten with corruption. Similarly, the role of professionals in Sri Lanka is also not in good shape or in ideal condition. There are many examples that can be cited to substantiate this observation. The programs that have been implemented for a long time to digitise the affairs of the state are one such example.

Digital solutions contribute immensely to improve the affairs of the state, facilitate better communication between citizens and government agencies; it will improve the efficiency of the functioning of government institutions and enable minimising of corruption and waste. For a long time now, despite a substantial investment been made for digitisation, it has not been possible to make a discernible progress commensurate with the cost incurred. However, the progress achieved in digitisation by companies like John Keells in the private sector, is huge.

For example, despite having a digital system, the allegations levelled against the Department of Registration of Persons and the Department of Immigration and Emigration are serious. A situation prevails in these two departments where, apart from obtaining genuine ID cards and passports, it is possible to obtain fake IDs and passports as well, by paying a large amount of money underhand. It has been identified that there exists a situation where computer data could be altered in some institutions that have adopted digitised systems.

It is alleged that a mafia of electrical engineers is operating in the Electricity Board. There are accusations that the electrical engineers are making undue wealth by abusing their authority, and also discouraging or not paving the way for moving to a policy that emphasises the use of renewable energy sources due to vested interests they seem to have in the use of thermal power plants in generating electricity. It can be said that the dishonest practices in the field of accountancy and the audit have also affected the decline in the financial sector. If the accountants and auditors had fulfilled their professional responsibilities properly, the incidents of fraud and corruption in the financial sector in Sri Lanka would not have escalated to a level which the society could not bear. Such degeneration could not have occurred in the financial sector.

The lawyers as well as the judicial officials are presumably responsible for the breakdown in the rule of law of the country. Similarly this accusation can be made against the other professionals as well. Although there is a national Organization of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka, which is a body of professionals presently belonging to 52 member associations catering to 32 disciplines with a total membership of over 50,000, apparently it has not been able to adopt a disciplinary control to govern its members and win the trust of the people about the organisation.

Correcting yourself before correcting the nation

Isn’t it important that the professionals should work strongly towards making the respective fields of their professions efficient and free of corruption, and earn the public trust, before they engage themselves in rectifying the entire system of the country? Shouldn’t they become leaders capable of solving national problems only through the launch of such programs? For example, the lawyers interested in entering politics, could initiate and run a campaign for necessary reforms to establish an independent judicial system with the power of judicial review, in addition to making a positive change in the legal profession itself. They can demand for the setting up of a regulatory authority with considerable powers to regulate the performance of lawyers.

Like in some Western countries, the legal career can be made into a profession that operates under a license system combined with a full professional indemnity insurance scheme that needs to be renewed every few years. In case of damage to the client and when compensation is due to be paid, it can be compensated by the indemnity insurance. Also, it would be possible to introduce a system for regulating the fees payable to the attorneys at law. Also a system could be set up so that the nature of the case, the law applicable, the client’s entitlement, the fee to be paid, the manner in which the payment should be made and the regulatory authority to be referred to in the events of misconduct or professional negligence could be indicated to the client in writing when a case is undertaken by the attorneys at law.

Also, action may be initiated to bring about positive and desirable changes in the Bar Association as well. Along with this, suggestions for an independent judicial system that would lead to earning respect of the public for the judiciary, as well as introducing a system that prevents delays in litigation can be made. Such a program will certainly create a strong platform to make far reaching changes in the field of legal profession and the judiciary as well, and offer an opportunity for the lawyers who appear for it, to earn a greater acceptance of the public while creating a strong background for them to enter politics.

Similar programs can be implemented in all other professional sectors. For instance, the professionals of the ICT Engineering (the Information and Communication Technology) could probe into the faults and drawbacks in the implementation of e-Sri Lanka projects in government institutions, which is an integrated approach to promote e-governance, and submit proposals to rectify the errors and implement them correctly at a low cost. It would be possible to make the professional association one belongs to, a catalyst against corruption that prevails in that particular sector, and also it can be made an exemplary institution where a proper code of discipline is maintained in regard to the conduct of the professionals of the association. If such a program can be implemented in almost every professional sector, it will undoubtedly lead to produce professionals who work with a deep sense of social responsibility in all professional fields, and through them to set up professional movements and create a vision that will contribute towards rectifying serious mistakes that had occurred in the fields of those professions.

The most important outcome of this process, in the sense of politics, will be that it will pave the way for laying a strong foundation for a distinguished group of professionals who have gained a certain amount of political maturity, practical experience and won public recognition in consequence of their involvement in fighting against and for rectifying the wrongs that happen in their own little worlds, to enter the national stream of politics. 

Victor Ivan

Victor Ivan is Sri Lankan journalist. He was the Editor of the controversial Sinhalese newspaper Ravaya. He served as the Editor of the Ravaya for 25 years consecutively since its inception. Victor is an investigative journalist, political critic, a theorist, social activist and also an author of several books.

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