National Coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Manjula Gajanayaka says that if the country was to benefit from its civil service, promotions should be based on merit and not on seniority.
Gajanayake said that the country had a set of elite civil servants before the 1960s but with the expectation of establishing a homegrown Civil Service, the Government abolished the old structure and introduced the Ceylon Civil Service in 1963. But unfortunately, even to this day the nation has not been able to create an innovative and result-oriented civil service as expected.
The main lacuna of the current service is the dearth of capable young talent being recruited into the service and the whole service being based on seniority only.
At present in Sri Lanka, the common phenomenon is that most of the key appointments are made based on seniority and political affiliation. The best example is the method in which secretaries to ministries and district secretaries are appointed. Though they are the key officials responsible for managing the ministry or district, the main criteria in making the appointment is political affinity.
In order to change the present inefficient civil service of the country, it is imperative that a promotion system based on the merit known as ‘meritocracy’ is introduced.
“That’s how the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher revived Britain in the midst of a huge economic crisis as she was able to introduce a new promotion system based on each officer’s capabilities and performance,” Gajanayaka said.
Gajanayaka explained that in an ideal bureaucracy, hierarchy is a must and that’s why German sociologist Max Weber said that an organization must have a defined hierarchical structure and clear rules, regulations, and lines of authority which govern it.
It is clear that Sri Lanka’s bureaucrats are not serving the interests of the nation and the bureaucratic structure is at odds with the nation’s democratic principles.
As a result even though the country’s bureaucrats have great potential to upgrade the country through their ability and statesmanship, the nation is sinking day by day into a bottomless pit for which the majority of the so-called bureaucrats and their political masters should be held responsible, Gajanayake said.