In a weekly telecast comedy show one interesting question was asked about the measures taken to eradicate dengue fever. It asks why insecticides are not being used for this purpose. It appears that much that is going on in the name of controlling dengue is propaganda instructing people to turn coconut shells upside down and to throw away 'pol combe' and things like that accompanied with the threat that if these things are not done people will be fined.
As against that the comic show reminded that what was done for the eradication of dengue during the last century which achieved a record success was the use of DDT. The local government bodies had the duty to conduct spraying throughout the areas under their control and the people were also trained to use such insecticides.
The message is not comic at all. Of course, the use of insecticides will incur some cost and no epidemic could be eradicated without allocating the necessary funds for the purpose. Given the magnitude of the problem of dengue and the length of time it has lasted it is strange as to why such measures have not been undertaken already.
Behind of all that there is a greater problem: that is the disappearance of the role that the bureaucracy used to play in matters of such national importance, for that matter, in everything. If trained and experienced bureaucrats were running the show by now more effective measures would have been found for resolving this issue as well as many other issues.
What has happened in Sri Lanka is the disappearance of bureaucracy with the independence to carry out their responsibilities. This process is known in Sri Lanka as politicization and politicization has turned everything into a tragic comedy.
Bureaucrats work according to well-established roles and under the overall principle that what each bureaucrat actually does is what is authorized by law for him or her to do. How, this principle has ceased to be important can easily be illustrated by so many incidences, perhaps the one nearest is the incident related to the air-lifting of a puppy dog for the family of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence which has become the talking point at the moment.
In several interviews the Defence Secretary has repeated a few matters about this incident and as the matters are repeatedly printed we may take it as accurate. The Secretary assigned somebody other than the regular pilot to fly an aircraft which was to transport the puppy; that the particular pilot assigned did not have qualifications to fly the particular type of aircraft of this schedule; therefore sending of a separate aircraft which fell within the qualifications of the assigned pilot was discussed and that the scheduled flight was to go out of its way to pick up the all-important puppy.
What is important for us in terms of our theme is that if the Ministry of Defence Secretary was only a government bureaucrat and not the president's brother he would have taken and not be entitled to take any of these decisions. There is someone to run the airline and someone else to run the Ministry of Defence. It would not have been within the power of the bureaucrats who acts as the Secretary of Defence to make orders on who is to fly any one aircraft.
It is even more certain that no bureaucrat who would honour the rules he is bound by and has a love for his job would think of ordering an airline to do anything at all in order to serve a private person with a purpose of his own. That nobody who is serving the government as a civil servant would use his powers to get private matters attended to is such a fundamental principle that anyone who violates it could easily come under disciplinary action.
That is how bureaucracies are run and that is how, not only the discipline but also the morale of people engaged in various authorities are kept up. If a bureaucrat working for one authority is to make orders to working in a separate authority there will not only be a conflict of authority but there would also be a breakdown of morale and a lot of unpleasantness.
Besides there would also be tremendous confusion and unless any single incident of that kind if it happened at all is stopped immediately there would be confusion everywhere. And there is such confusion nothing will happen at the end and no one will be held responsible for failures.
That is more or less what is happening everywhere today. There are those from outside the police giving orders to the Inspector General of Police and the result is the utter confusion and loss of morale and discipline within the entire system of policing. There are literally thousands of examples illustrating this and will just refer to one which was reported in the Focus on Rights column where discussion between two businessmen over a business matter did not end of in a happy conclusion but rather with one of them being kidnapped by a group organized by the other and the businessman was severely beaten up and then taken to a police station where everything was done according to the whims of the other businessman. When later the businessman complained to the authorities and tried to pursue the matter he was inundated with fabricated cases by the police.
It is not only the police department that is run on the whims of outsiders but also other departments such as the Attorney General's Department and many others. Who does what and who orders and on what basis such orders are made are no long things that seem to matter. Mumbo Jumbo and confusion exists in every nook and corner.
What is really comic? Is it that the comedy show reminded us about DDT or malaria or is it the way Sri Lanka's are being governed or are governing themselves?
- Basil Fernando