Vision & Mission
Vision: A peaceful and just country in which freedom, human and democratic rights of all people are assured.
Mission:To work in partnership with different target groups to educate, mobilize and advocate to build a society of rights conscious citizens and a political culture that enables a political solution to the ethnic conflict and equal opportunities to all.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Decentralization in Organization Theory
Decentralization is the policy of delegating decision-making authority down to the lower levels in an organization, relatively away from and lower in a central authority. A decentralized organization shows fewer tiers in the organizational structure, wider span of control, and a bottom-to-top flow of decision-making and flow of ideas.
In a centralized organization, the decisions are made by top executives or on the basis of pre-set policies. These decisions or policies are then enforced through several tiers of the organization after gradually broadening the span of control until it reaches the bottom tier.
How does this relate to the government administrative structure? The government even in a unitary state has to have field offices and regional offices. We have the Kachcheris and the divisional offices and village headmen.
During the colonial regime the public services at the village or field level were provided through the kachcheris. There were also the Divisional Revenue officers and the Village Headmen who had their offices to deal with the public. The registration of births, deaths marriages as well as land was done in the kachcheri. The Government Agent was the head of the civil administration in the district. He even had some police power and was expected to read out the Riot Act before the Police used could shoot to suppress a civil commotion. The British were primarily but not solely interested in maintaining law and order and collecting tax revenue to fund the government expenditure without being a burden to the home country. Only the technical departments like Irrigation and Survey had their own field offices under the control of their head offices. The system of governance based on administrative devolution or decentralization worked reasonably well to provide the limited services undertaken by the State.
Present state of Decentralization
But today we also have Provincial Councils and Pradesiya Sabhas. How do they relate to each other? What is the role of the Governor? We have not considered these issues. The removal of the concurrent list will perhaps avoid over-lapping but it is not possible to operate in water-tight compartments. The Central Government Ministries may want to have their regional offices and field staff for implementing their functions. But a clear cut separation of functions is not possible. So there has to be consultation between the regional offices of the central government and the Provincial Councils. Some departments might wish to work through the Provincial Councils and the Pradesiya Sabhas and dispense their budget through them- as their agents. Others might want to have their own offices and operate independently of the Provincial Council and Pradesiaya Sabha. This could be left to evolve. One advantage of this structure, if the correct controls are in place, will be the bottom-to-top flow of information, allowing decisions by officials of the organization to be well informed about lower tier operations. There could be a bottom up flow of information which reflects the mind of the people
The Advent of the MP
After Independence and particularly after 1956, governance has been completely transformed although the structures may remain under different names. After the mobilization of the masses in 1956 the elected Member of Parliament began to play a dominant role in the district administration. They began to exert pressure on the Government Agent and the district and divisional level officers. The MPs interfered even in the internal administration of the Kachcheri and other field offices. They were a law unto themselves and nobody in the State machinery, not even in the police could hold them to account. They now act with sole disregard to the law and are doing so with impunity. They failed to appreciate that public administration in a democratic state had to be carried out in a transparent manner and in conformity to the law and the Financial Regulations which bound all government officials. They became petty kings of the district and still do.
The British had introduced a totally bureaucratic system of governance with no place for accountability to politicians at the local level. But after 1956 this system could not function and the role of the Member of Parliament in district administration had no legal basis. In law he was a Member of Parliament and his duties were in relation to law making. But the new MPs preferred to exercise power at the district level where their political interest lay. But their interference undermined the efficiency of the services provided by the Kachcheris. Apart from any arguments for devolution to ensure the participation of the people, the district administration has to be made more efficient. This requires accountability of the bureaucracy to the people. But the Member of Parliament cannot be equated to the people. The MP is only a creature of Parliament although attempts were made by SLFP governments to confer legal authority on them through the appointment of a District Political Authority. But this was not a structure compatible with democracy. It was the giving power without responsibility -the privilege of the harlot. If we want active participation of the people then a considerable measure of devolution of power to the locally elected politicians is necessary as pointed out by De Tocqueville who also pointed out that the woes of local democracy requires more not less democracy. But the power must be accompanied by responsibility and the people must pay for their follies through local taxation. The gap in actual performance and the performance expected by the people cannot be bridged unless the people understand the processes of administration in a democratic framework where accountability is to be enforced not by tying up errant officials to trees but through due process of law and internal administrative procedures in organizations. But they certainly need to be held accountable and the present structure of centralized governance is wanting in this respect. The present administration in the districts seems t be in disarray with politicians ruling the roost.. The public have to learn how to control the bureaucracy and this requires them to be empowered not individually but as a Council. The local councils should as far as possible be free from party politics in their decision-making.
The self interest of politicians
Politicians who get into power want to use their power for their self interest although they may pretend to serve the public interest. They serve the public interest only when such interest coincides with their own interest in pursuit of perpetuation of power, privilege and influence. So while the bureaucrats have to be held accountable so should the politicians. This requires a politically neutral police and an independent judiciary. The colonial regime is often accused of practicing divide and rule. But after 1956 our politicians have done the same. They appealed to differences in caste, ethnicity and religion to win votes and come to power. In the process they alienated the minorities. Once in power they catered exclusively to those who had voted for them and sometimes took revenge on those who voted for other parties. All this is accepted as democracy when it flouts the very foundations of democracy.
Misunderstanding the State
The State is different from society and stands apart from it. Our politicians educated in Swabasha do not understand what constitutes the State. The State refers to the aggregate of relatively permanent institutions of governance. The police, the judiciary and the bureaucracy are structures of the state. Like Louis xiv of France our Presidents after 1978 think they are the State. They think what is in their interest is the same as the public interest. So the Attorney General withdraws criminal cases of murder and rape against Members of the ruling party. So there is no longer any Rule of Law. In this set up the minorities don’t count and can be dispensed with and that has happened since 1958 riots.
Our ruling politicians also see the state as an autonomous institution, autonomous from the society as well as from the UN. To them the State is autonomous and sovereign. Since they are the state it means they are autonomous and sovereign too. The ruling politicians believe in a centralized state which gives them unlimited power. But the centralized state has not filled the aspirations of the people- be they Tamils or Sinhalese. Ask any Sinhalese in the villages whether he is satisfied with the state offices he comes into contact with and you will invariably be told that the police, the grama sevaka or the District Secretary’s office are unsatisfactory. Just imagine how they would treat the Tamils or Muslims when the Sinhalese themselves get shoddy treatment.
Need for Devolution to ensure rights
It is in this set up that the minorities need an entry point into this politicized state which will ensure them some consideration. They need such an entry point below the level of the centralized national government. They have been asking for Provincial Councils as provided for in the 13th Amendment. They need to have such a Council to ensure that business can be carried out in the Tamil language and through Tamil speaking officers. They need to control the bureaucracy not in the way that the Sinhalese politicians do but in a democratic way through lawful methods of accountability. There is no place for Para- military autocrats in their midst. They need elected bodies and such bodies should function in the usual ways that democracies function. These elected politicians can then articulate their policies to reflect their needs and priorities. A dual control of the bureaucracy both by the central government and the provincial council will not work. No man can serve two masters. Dual control will lead also to divide and rule management. This doesn’t mean that the local politicians can ride rough shod over the local bureaucracy as is among the Sinhalese. The bureaucracy needs protection through independent Commissions for their appointment, discipline and promotions. While the colonial rulers manipulated the diverse ethnic groups into a functional state, the post Independence custodians of power have merely intensified the hatred and widened the divide between the communities. Outwardly there is no sign of ethnic disunity because the north and east are under tight control through the military. There is no freedom from fear since the buck stops at the military and the civil administration is playing second fiddle to the military.
Instead of putting proper controls in place the government seems to prefer to undermine the local councils by having Jana Sabhas consisting of unelected officials who will be appointed by the ruling party and who are expected to serve them. It is true that the existing local authorities don’t command respect of the people. But as De Tocqueville pointed out the remedy for the failings in democracy is more democracy not less. The people must suffer the consequences of their own lapses in electing wrong type of politicians.
The present State structures draw their strength from a highly polarized ethnically hegemonic society.. The government is so bent on monopolizing power that it has extended its tentacles to the private business sector too. The State is seeking to influence if not dominate this sector as well.
The State is made to propagate the desires of those in power as the May Day celebrations were diverted to disparage the U N Panel. Successive governments have so far failed to build a nation embracing the different ethnic and religious groups. The State is looked upon as a Sinhala Buddhist state where minorities have to live on sufferance.
Devolution in China
Constitutionally, organizations in both the functional and territorial systems of governance are assigned to a system of ranks. Central ministries are at the same rank as provincial governments. Writes Lieberthal, "One key rule of the Chinese system is that units of the same rank cannot issue binding orders to each other. Operationally, this means that no ministry can issue a binding order to a province." This means a province may challenge, overrule, or ignore decisions made by a ministry.
Under the Deng Xiaoping reforms, provinces were given substantial economic and political authority. This posed a problem for the central government in that the central government had no independent means of enforcing its authority to prevent local protectionism or enforce standards. Hence in the 1990s, the PRC government began creating parallel central organizations. Most of these organizations deal with economic regulations.
An analogous situation can be seen in federal systems such as the United States where a federal and state agency operate in parallel, but neither has the authority to command the other. Although the power relationships are similar the actual powers exercised can be quite different. For example, there are parallel institutions for police and financial securities regulation in the United States, but not in the PRC. So the removal of the concurrent list is not enough. The Provincial Councils and the central government Ministries should be of the same rank and neither should be able to give orders to the other.
– A presentation made at the 2600th Sambuddhathva Jayanthi OPA Seminar under the Theme -Buddhism and Business Management –
The philosophy of Buddhism and the teachings of Lord Buddha can be an effective guide to the implementation of globally value adding core principles of good governance. These core principles are not only applicable in the Board Room, but equally also in the University Class Room, Sangha Sabahs, and Cabinet Room and even in the deliberations of the UN Security Council.
“Sabbadanam dhammadanam jinati” – “The gift of the truth excels all other truths” is an essential core value for business management and boardroom governance processes to emulate. This principle is applicable in the relationships of business with all its stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders. If this core principle is in place effectively, charges of misrepresentation, lack of transparency and lack of appropriate disclosure, fraud and manipulation will not be an issue for businesses.
“One is one’s own refuge, who else could be the refugee?’. The Buddha admonished his disciples ‘to be a refugee to themselves, and never to seek refuge in or help from anybody else’. He taught, encouraged and stimulated each person to develop himself and to work out his own emancipation, for man has the power to liberate himself from all bondage through his own personal effort and intelligence. Many in business fail due to lack of perseverance and over dependence on others, especially dependence on the extended hands of support and network. The lessons from Buddhism of self reliance, determination and courage in challenging situations must there for be the driving force behind businesses.
The freedom of thought allowed by the Buddha as brought out in the Kalama Suthra “ … it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful…. Do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities nor by the idea…when you know that certain things are unwholesome, and wrong, and bad, then give them up… and when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them. The Buddha went further and asked disciples to question and examine even what he taught and follow only if fully convinced of the true value. This is a core principle for all leaders in governance, business and civil society to promote.
Emperor Asoka’s edicts which follow what the Buddha taught declares ” One should not honour not only one’s own religion and condemn the religion of others, but one should honour others’ religions for this or that reason. So doing, one helps one’s own religion to grow and renders service to others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one’s own religion and also does harm to other religions. Whosoever honours his own religion and condemns other religions does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking “I will glorify my own religion” But on the contrary, in doing so he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good; Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrine professed by others”. If this edict is expanded from religion to include one’s own ethnicity, status, products, brands, competitive advantages, technology and business practices, you will get to an essential core value for long term sustainability and growth of business.
‘To the seeker after truth it is immaterial from where an idea comes’. The source and development of an idea is a matter for the academic. What is essential is seeing the thing, understanding it. This is a core principle that will lead businesses to creativity, innovation and essential change for good and also be supportive of leadership development and effective human resource management.
Humanism lies at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings whilst universality, equality, social justice, humanism, freedoms, peace and security lies at the heart of the United Nations and other international organizations. Unfortunately business has neglected most of these cornerstones in its management commitments and core values pursued.
Four sublime states of mind taught by the Buddha: Loving-kindness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Sympathetic Joy (mudita), Equanimity (upekkha) are great principles for embodiment as core values in business management. These four attitudes are excellent and sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings. They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact with stakeholders of business. They are the great removers of tension and ideal for practice in the board room and in dealing with competition and business rivalry. In national and global governance they are great peacemakers in situations of social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.
Thanong Khanthong quotes Thai monk Phra Payutto and writes,”In conventional economics, the value of goods and services is determined by the consumers' perception as to whether it serves the satisfaction or the desire. In Buddhist economics, there are two kinds of desires or two kinds of value: true value and artificial value. "True value is created by chanda (good desire). In other words, a commodity's true value is determined by its ability to meet the need for well-being of society at large. Conversely, artificial value is created by tanha (bad desire) -- it is a commodity's capacity to satisfy the desire for pleasure, especially of a chosen few,". This is an effective principle for evaluating marketing, distribution, communications and promotional strategies of business and an effective guard against reputational risks.
Buddha had many life lessons to teach his disciples, here are some of his teachings which relate to a business leader:
1. Balance is key -Buddha believed in a balanced, middle way, not self-indulgent, nor self-mortifying.
A leader has to be balanced and flexible in his approach as well. For example, sometimes the leadership has to be soft and democratic, sometimes assertive and autocratic, depending on the situation. A strong leader is able to employ a balance of these two in situations to bring out the best in his followers.
2. Look for answers within -Buddha believed that all answers we are seeking in our lives can be found within us, not without.
A leader has to depend on his heart, intuition and senses a lot more than external influences. Sometimes there are no correct answers; then, he has to rely on his gut feeling or intuition to do the right thing.
Leaders need to recognize that sometimes followers might agree, but sometimes they might not.
“One should always cherish some ambition to do something in the world. They alone rise who strive.” There are two fundamental types of human nature -creative and possessive. Creative humans use human intellect for creative endeavors which enriches human thought; knowledge and wealth thereby contribute to the development of human heritage for the posterity. Possessive people, on the other hand do not believe in the use of human intellect for creative purpose. Gautam Buddha belongs to the great class of Creative humans called as Humanists in Indian context.
Buddhism gives such importance to the ways of seeking and using wealth, apart from competing with oneself to attain more wealth, fair competition with others for better efficiency and for increased benefit to oneself and others should not be against Buddhist principles.
Buddhism has mentioned many different types of wealth seekers:
1. People who seek wealth improperly and selfishly, then do not spend that wealth on their comfort, do not give alms, and do not make merit.
2. People who seek wealth improperly and selfishly, then spend that wealth on their comfort, but do not give alms and do not make merit.
3. People who seek wealth improperly and selfishly, then spend that wealth on their comfort, give alms, and make merit. These can be adapted in to core values that relate to business management/growth and fair treatment of stakeholders.
The concept of an economy according to Buddhist ethics involves 5 basic principles—ownership, liberty, a market system of operations, competition, and the role of the state—just as in the liberal economic system. This shows that Buddhist principles do not contradict those of liberal economic system. Even so, Buddhism suggests solutions to existing ethical problems in business operations under liberalism which may be summarized as follows: 1. a Middle Way (majjhimā pa
ipadā) economics that focuses on sufficiency; 2. an economics without exploitation of oneself, of others, or the environment; 3. economic activities as the ground for further human development.
ipadā) economics that focuses on sufficiency; 2. an economics without exploitation of oneself, of others, or the environment; 3. economic activities as the ground for further human development.
The initial efforts made by Reverend Buddhagosha to get the attention of the Mahaviharaya and an opportunity to develop a correct text of the Thripitaka having failed, he had started to recite the Tripitaka loud and this loud voice had led to an enquiry and a right of audience with the Chief Prelate. Later he had to give three copies of the Visudhimagga to the Mahanayake and then only have it accepted. This is a lesson in perseverance for change leaders in business management to recognize the challenges ahead and adopt appropriate strategies to get to the desired objective.
An extract from the Debate of King Milinda which reads as “Then the king said, “Venerable sir, will you discuss with me again?”“If your majesty will discuss as a scholar, yes; but if you will discuss as a king, no.”“How is it then that scholars discuss?” When scholars discuss there is a summing up and an unraveling; one or other is shown to be in error. He admits his mistake, yet he does not become angry.” “Then how is it that kings discuss?” “When a king discusses a matter and advances a point of view, if anyone differs from him on that point he is apt to punish him.”“Very well then, it is as a scholar that I will discuss. Let your reverence talk without fear.” This provides the best practice framework for board room governance.
A further extract from the Debate of King Milinda reads as “What, Nàgasena, is the characteristic mark of mindfulness?”“Noting and keeping in mind. As mindfulness springs up in the mind of the recluse, he repeatedly notes the wholesome and unwholesome, blameless and blameworthy, insignificant and important, dark and light qualities and those that resemble them thinking, ‘These are the four foundations of mindfulness, these the four right efforts, these the four bases of success. Business leaders and strategic planning and business management processes can profitably built around these principles.
An internet blog site adapts the noble eightfold path to connect with organizations, as follows;
1. Right View -The vision, mission and strategy of the organization determine the path which it takes. The organization culture and tone at the top indicates the sincerity with which the organization will follow business ethics.
2. Right Intention- Organizations with right intention focus on profits while fulfilling corporate social responsibility.
3. Right Speech- The present day mantra for organizations is to build brands by positive communication. Internal communication is also critical to build the organization culture.
4. Right Action- Organizations focused on right actions, formulate and implement business ethics, codes of conduct and adhere to good corporate governance practices. The present day environment protection laws, financial rules and regulations and employee protection laws (e.g. anti-in discrimination, sexual harassment), clearly indicate the importance of right actions.
5. Right Livelihood
Rightness regarding actions – Workers should fulfill their duties diligently and conscientiously,
Rightness regarding persons- Due respect and consideration should be shown to employers, employees, colleagues, and customers and dealings with customers.
Rightness regarding objects- In business transactions and sales the articles to be sold should be presented truthfully.
6. Right Effort- Organizations are required to gear their efforts towards legal activities and refrain from indulging in illegal activities. They are required to focus on social responsibility. Organizations are required to build constructive work cultures built around productivity, quality and service excellence.
7. Right Mindfulness- The economic environment is such that organizations have to operate in an extremely dynamic scenario. They have to ride the changes while mitigating the risks with alertness.
8. Right Concentration: Organizations which concentrate on building a uniform culture and are focused on goals are more successful.
As we can see, comparisons can be drawn between the present day needs of business and the spiritual guidance defined in Buddhism
The OPA leadership team should be recognized for organizing this event, giving pride of place to “Prathipatthi Poojah” – following the philosophy and teachings of fashioning one’s life and values instead of “Ahmisa Poojah” –engaging in rituals and physical acts of veneration- whilst majority of the resource allocations by the nation’s leaders and business leaders concentrated on the latter this Wesak.
Russian esotericist Helena Petrova Blavatsky (1831-1891), best known as the founder of the modern Theosophical Movement, who in partnership with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott set the foundations for Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka through the promotion of education and Buddhist values, initiated a movement based upon “teachings” and “techniques” claimed to have received from real acquaintances whom she called “Masters” or Mahatmas. The “Masters” comprised of other esotericists who acted as humanists committed to global good governance, were willing to be guides, gurus and advocates and even whistle blowers where and whenever required.
In conclusion, may I be permitted to remind the President and Executive Committee of the OPA that what Sri Lanka today needs most in assuring good governance commitments by the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, Business, Professionals, Media and Civil Society are a set of independent esotericists of integrality to promote, advocate and whistle blow on good governance and ensure rule of law, justice, equality and equity and sustainable growth.
Will therefore the President and Executive Committee be willing to work with likeminded leaders to set up a structure and organization for a panel of Good Governance Esotericists selected locally and from the Diaspora?
 Mahaparinibbana Suthra
 What the Buddha Taught by Dr. Walpola Rahula
 What the Buddha Taught by Dr. Walpola Rahula
 Rock Edict XII
 Majjima- Nikaya Sutta
 The Four Sublime States 820 views
 DR. AMBEDKAR’S VIEWS ON HUMANISM AND BUDDHISM Dr. Desh Raj Sirswal
 Dr. Roland Silva