IS IT A LOAD OF CODSWALLOP?
By Dr. Tilak S Fernando
Is it because of the 'poisonous' and junk food people consume on a daily basis today that their attitudes keep on changing values go down in the drain and become nasty to each other at the drop of a hat?
Why do some medical professionals have to go against their own conscience ignoring the oaths they take prior to undertakings & their moral responsibilities? Why do various political ideologists, who are really the wolves in sheep's clothing, hell bent on disrupting the public by staging worker strikes and always influence their innocent victims? Today, we live in a society supposed to be exceedingly civilized. So, what hinders employees, in the case of a dispute, to sit together and resolve such matters in a refined manner rather than organizing walkouts or work-to-rules giving ultimatums to the authorities? On the part of employers, why do they have to resort to police force and water cannons rather than attempting to come to a settlement instead of making matters more chaotic? In the case of a disagreement, a dividing line between professional grounds and protests on political motives need to be isolated.
In an inter-dependent society one expects one to do one's fair share of work for the remuneration one gets, and most importantly to be productive. It is a sad affair though that in Sri Lanka this situation has reached such a calamitous state and increasingly becoming an arduous task to get even the simplest query resolved in a speedy manner from an office! Today everyone's experience with a public office or a corporation will only reveal how one ends up in anguish and exasperation.
Public will always honour and admire those officials who go out of their way to help the public, whilst some senior managers / officials could be termed as villains and desperados, who do not care a damn about others. Such pompous attitudes could either be due to their inflamed egos and suffering from superiority (inferiority) complexes. Their own subordinates, who might be willing and flexible to help the public, can become reluctant consequently, to reach these belligerent elements being petrified, which ultimately makes customers' life miserable.
Customer orientation becomes the main artery of any healthy business institution or government department / corporation or Town / Provincial Council. The voter appoints politicians at elections to high-powered jobs expecting policymakers to serve them in return. In a vicious circle, such legislators elect officials in turn as heads of various departments and corporations. In other words, every worker from a peon up to the very top in a government institution / corporation becomes a servant of the people technically, thus giving rise to the phrase "Government Servant." Throughout history, all government official letters closed with the sentence, "Your Obedient Servant" in a traditional fashion. President Maithripala Sirisena expounding humility, as a sense of reverence, has always maintained in public that he is the President of the country "only to serve his people."
A classic example of what is wrapped up in the text mentioned above is illustrated with the activities of a prominent insurance company in Colombo, in connection with a mortgage bond that had been officially cancelled some 35 years ago by 3-4 directors signing on an official document, highlighting the cancellation in red bold lettering. Fortunately, the customer had all the reimbursement receipts in his file from 1982. A vigilant eye of an Attorney-at-Law, after so many years, picked up this problem recently and advised the customer that the mortgage bond had "not been cleared properly" as such, it needed to be rectified officially.
In this regard, the customer visited the insurance company in Colombo several times to be notified that they could not trace any records relating to the bond cancellation since it was done decades ago! As an alternative, it was suggested to generate a new document prior to cancelling it.
Subsequently a helpful member of staff, while going through the customer's file, spotted a document relating to the cancellation of the mortgage bond (in red bold letters and signed by several directors of the insurance company). Thereafter, on the instructions of the insurance company, the customer submitted an application to his local registry office to get it cleared legally. The local registry office, after taking their own cool time, rejected the customer application on the basis they could not proceed with it as it was a copy and not the original. What had happened to the original became a mystery! Had the local Registry office staff taken the initiative to scrutinize the application prior to accepting it initially, a lot of time and money on stamps and customer having to visit the office several times could have been saved.
The rejected application was again presented to the insurance company seeking further advice from them. At that stage the customer was advised to obtain a "true copy of the mortgage deed" from the Colombo Registry office, which was also done in double quick time, due to the efficiency of the Colombo Registry office staff.
Once the "true copy" was presented to the insurance company, they requested a dossier of documents from the customer in order to prepare a new mortgage bond for cancellation, which entailed the true copy of the mortgage bond, (obtained from the Land Registry, Colombo); certified copy of the deed of the land; two local council receipts pertaining to street lighting and rate payments, Grama Niladhari Division number and area; name of the Divisional Secretariat, Paththiru (from the local council pertaining to the land) and a letter from the customer requesting to cancel the bond. What a palaver?
Finally, the customer handed over all the requested information to an official in the insurance company who keenly forwarded the dossier to the Legal Department on the same day. Once the papers were in the Legal Department, it became another waiting to watch the game affair. After all, this was a matter that had been dealt with 35 years ago, and the insurance company had issued receipts for reimbursement in full and the cancellation of the bond had been done then (only on the copy of the document). Many friends of the customer were of the opinion that all such information should have been in the insurance company's computer database, and it should have been a matter of minutes to get a printout and cancelling it, if they really wanted to help.
Yet, every cooperative and friendly staff's hands were proverbially bound as the onus of getting the matter expedited completely rested with the Legal Department Manager – to get the new bond typed out or by extracting information from the company database and ensuring that the document was signed afresh by two directors, before she could attest it and place her own signature for the cancellation.
To expedite such a simple task the Insurance Company virtually took more than two weeks, despite the customer's constant visits and probing the matter by being industrious when the insurance company initially said it was going to be a long drawn affair which would take months.
At one point, the Legal Department Manager, who assumed the customer was exerting pressure on her, had the audacity to question the customer: "Do you want me to do the directors' job?" What haughtiness? The irony behind the whole saga was that despite many officials with a human touch and willingness to help,(even some of her own colleagues and executives) were reluctant to approach the Chief Legal Officer, who in their eyes appeared as an unapproachable ferocious 'lioness.'
Once all documents went up to the Manager at the Legal Department, the customer's several visits all the way to Colombo became abortive attempts as on several occasions the Legal Department Manager was either on holiday or not available in her cubicle. Finally, as a last resort, the customer approached the Company Secretary to explain matters. She immediately phoned the subject clerk, whose name was prompted to her by the customer.
To everyone's amazement she found out that the two Directors (including herself) had signed the document nine days before! Immediately she instructed the subject clerk to personally take the file along with the customer to the Manager of the Legal Department. Finally, when the customer saw the Chief Legal Officer, with the subject clerk holding the file, the bemused Manager's facial countenance changed evidently. This goes to show how some of the senior officials, especially at various institutions, who suffer from delusions of grandiose tend to pester not only customers but also their own clerical staff and ignoring their own level colleagues, who are willing to give a helping hand to the public, by emulating typical Hitler attitudes.
The customer managed to get this problem sorted out within weeks, which he was advised at the beginning that it might take 2-3 months! The million-dollar question one could raise out of this story is, how would an ordinary citizen, who has not got the influence, determination and the tactfulness, manage to get any simple task done in the current set up in Sri Lanka?