Sri Lanka public administration is now set to work under the President’s verbal orders, political analysts claimed.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed the officials to treat all of his verbal orders issued for the common good of the people as circulars to be implemented. “Those who neglect this will face stern action,” the President added.
The President made these directives at the “Discussion with Villagers” forum which commenced today at Velanwita village in Haldummulla, Badulla recently.
"State institutions take a long time to address people’s issues. If a written inquiry from one institution does not receive a reply from the other institution within 14 days, consider it as approved,” President ordered.
Officials who neglect the President’s orders would be punished, the President's media division announced.
Political analysts noted that public officials should adhere to administrative and financial regulations and follow circulars issued by relevant authorities and they cannot act on verbal orders of the president or the political authority as they are not enjoying immunity when carrying out their duties.
A cabinet approval towards this end will not be sufficient as it needs the endorsement of the parliament by enacting a bill providing provisions for this purpose, they added.
They said the President appears to be under the assumption that as President, he can give verbal orders which have the force of law.
It was in the time of the kings that whatever emanated from his mouth was unchallengeable law. Law was what the king said. Is this the President’s notion of the rule of law?, they asked.
The political culture and establishment practices during the last few decades which made public servants vassals of the ruling politicians with regard to the misappropriation of public property, bribery and corruption contradicted the law of the land and that it was ethically also wrong.
However, public servants are responsible for their acts and political patronage or “orders from above” cannot absolve them.
It should also be remembered that politicians are crafty enough not to give illegal or unjust orders in writing. They give verbal orders, apparently knowing them to be as such.
The vast majority of decisions of public bodies and officials on a day to day basis are not challenged in the Courts.
Decision makers should always be aware that any decision that they may make could be challenged and, if the challenge is brought before the Courts, their decision making will be subject to intense scrutiny.
If the decision maker follows the basic steps and has in mind the key legal aspects, there will be a better prospect of successfully resisting any challenge brought against the public body or officials in relation to the decision, political analysts said.
Some of the legal requirements in relation to decision making can be complex and, whilst some public bodies have a requirement to have a legal advisor present during the course of deliberations, others have no such requirement.
Decision makers should always be aware that, if they are in any doubt as to their vires to make a decision or any other legal requirement, they should take legal advice before making their decisions (as it is too late once the decision has been made).