Pot calling the kettle black

Daily News Editorial

The public these days are treated to the spectacle where the MPs of the Joint Opposition are seen trouping to the Bribery Commission to lodge complaints against some Government Ministers. One has only to a look at these worthies to come to a conclusion what their game plan is. Many of them have already seeing the inside of the state lodge for large scale corruption and misuse of public funds, including the leader of the pack whose rags to riches story is now in the public domain.

There is another, currently under probe, for possessing two passports, not just for himself, but his better half as well, and whose rags to riches tale too is now being unraveled with all its sordid details. Then there is another, always donned in white, giving press conferences and in the media spotlight on a daily basis who is currently being probed for fraud in a share transaction. It is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. (Cartoons added by TW from Internet)

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These personages parading themselves as paragons of virtue should be thankful for Yahapalanaya that at least their complaints are being entertained by the Bribery Commission. Already, at least two Government Ministers had been summoned by the Commission and their statements recorded. One cannot recall a Minister of the Rajapaksa regime ever being summoned although complaints were lodged against many of them by members of the then Opposition. The only instance that comes to mind is the case where a former Minister close to the Rajapaksas, who could not account for Rs 400 million in his possession. But when summoned by the Bribery Commission that worthy proffered the excuse of being stung by a polonga for his no show before the Commission. There was no summons or pursuance of the case after that until it was reopened by the present government. This JO MP too is among those today stridently canvassing the issue of corruption in government and ironically was seen joining the rest of his colleagues to make complaints against Ministers of the present government at the very Bribery Commission which summoned him, to no avail.

The JO is today like a drowning man clutching onto a straw for survival. It is now hanging onto the COPE report and Arjuna Mahendran has fallen like manna from heaven to the JO to be used as a whipping boy, after having exhausted all other issues such as Wigneswaran, the ranavirivo, rata pava deeme vedasatahana and what not. In the melee it has also dragged in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe into its campaign of vilification.

According to the JO, among the names submitted to the Bribery Commission is that of the Prime Minister whom they accuse of having benefited from the Central Bank bond scam even though no mention whatsoever is made of the PM in the COPE report which was signed by all its members including those from the JO. Even his worse critic during his 40 year political career has not called into question the honesty and integrity of the Prime Minister. That he is above board on financial matters was vouched for even by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga during the bitterly fought Presidential Election campaign of 1999.

Hence, it is clear that a well thought out strategy is currently being played out by the Joint Opposition to target the Prime Minister who has been a thorn in the flesh of JO members in parliament, felling them with his wit and eloquence. The plan is to besmirch the image of the PM who has acquired the sobriquet Mr. Clean over the years so that they could effectively counter the corruption charges against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the argument “he is not the only one.”

The move also comes in the wake of fresh initiatives in the pipeline to probe the overseas bank accounts of the former first family where it is claimed that billions have been stashed. It also clearly a ruse to deflect from the charges against the JO members now making a bee line to the Bribery Commission at every turn. This way they assume they can throw dust in the eyes of the public and cover up their own larcenies.

The government should therefore be alive to these machinations and show up these wolves in sheep’s clothing for who they really are. Investigations against them should be expedited, lest they get more emboldened and take their game to further lengths creating a situation where the hunters become the hunted, in the public eye.

This is by no means to suggest that Government Ministers involved in corrupt deals should go unpunished. Like the President practically said the other day, he was not elected to replace one set of rogues with another lot. He was elected he said to clean up the Augean stables and not permit a repetition of the past. Besides elimination of corruption from the body politic formed the main plank of the Yahapalanaya platform. Thus, naming and shaming the guilty should assume top priority, if the pledge made to the people is to be upheld.