Dec 29

During the pre-election period, those in state service were promised various improvements in their salaries, allowances and other perquisites. Some of these promises will undoubtedly be redeemed. However, what the beneficiaries were not told was that the 17th Amendment to the Constitution would be doctored in such a manner as to nullify the provisions presently contained in it, which serve to protect the rights and independence of public servants. This, CIMOGG fears, is what is going to happen in the near future, based on the information given in recent, unrefuted newspaper reports.

Originally, in 2001, the principal parties in Parliament deliberately weakened the version of the 17th Amendment that was proposed by the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA), and then passed it into law. That the proposals made would be diluted by Parliament was, perhaps, not altogether unexpected as almost all politicians want to maintain their power over state employees, who could then be forced to carry out unlawful or irregular orders that honest, independent officers would otherwise have the courage to refuse to do.

Having observed the workings of the various institutions set up under the current 17th Amendment over the past four years, the OPA has appointed a committee of persons with excellent credentials to make recommendations to correct at least the more serious shortcomings that have been identified in this crucial piece of legislation. Even as this work is nearing its conclusion, it is learnt that the government is hurriedly proposing to alter the 17th Amendment so as to include politically appointed persons to be members of their respective Commissions. A case in point is the ill-intentioned scheme to make the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) an ex-officio member of the Police Commission whereas any right thinking person would agree with the OPA, CIMOGG and other public interest organisations that either the Constitutional Council or an appropriately empowered independent Police Commission should select the most suitable person for the post of IGP, without leaving it to the President to choose some less than upright person, as has happened in the past. This stricture and the suggested procedure for selection and appointment are seen, yet again, to be justified when one considers the horrifying report in the newspapers not many hours ago that certain drug-dealing policemen have named a retired IGP of being a prime participant in their criminal operations.

Similar machinations are being hatched by interested politicians to emasculate all the independent bodies which come under the purview of the 17th Amendment, particularly the Public Service Commission, which, to quote just one instance, helped recently to save several senior school principals from being wrongfully punished on unsubstantiated allegations of financial and other improprieties.

Eternal vigilance and vigorous non-violent agitation are the price that the public has to pay to make sure that what little protection they have from state employees working honestly and independently under the benevolent umbrella of the 17th Amendment is not eroded away altogether.



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