Daily News Editorial
The public won’t buy it
(Image and cartoon added by TW from internet)
The Joint Opposition is to launch an awareness campaign to enlighten the people on the misuse of public funds by the Yahapalanaya government it was reported yesterday. In furtherance of this, the JO also plans to hold seminars in each district twice a month. A website is also to be launched on corrupt Yahapalanaya politicians, the report states, while handbills too are to be distributed among the public. To top it off, a direct telephone line and an email address is to be introduced for the public to complain on any corruption by government functionaries, taking place.
And who is spearheading this elaborate campaign to rid corruption in the government and make Sri Lanka a model state? He is none other than our good old Mahindananda Aluthgamage, whose rags to riches tale is now in the public domain.
Why, the former Sports Minister, whose many financial depredations are currently being exposed, who was for a brief period a guest at the state lodge, and who is currently out on bail in a court case involving a mega financial scam, failed to demonstrate this enthusiasm and crusader’s zeal to eliminate corruption in governance, during the 10 long years he was a powerful minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government begs an explanation.
Surely, he would have had all the wherewithal and easy access to the records at the time as a government Minister, to name and shame the culprits, unlike now where he has to rely only on second hand information and hearsay. For, there was enough incidents of mind boggling acts of corruption at the time, as is being gradually unraveled at present, for Aluthgamage to go full throttle exposing all the graft and sleaze, now that he has shown himself to the public to be a champion against corruption, taking the trouble to hold seminars, distribute leaflets etc. around the country.
Is it because he was a powerful government Minister at the time and rode the gravy train, like the rest in that government, that he kept mum and now has suddenly turned into an anti-corruption crusader when the long arm of the law is closing in on him? According to the news report Aluthgamage says; “There is no evidence for the complaints made against us. But we have solid evidence against the complaints we are about to make” with regard to his widely proclaimed determination to expose 10 corrupt Yahapalanaya ministers.
One recalls reading a news report some time ago, at the tail end of the Rajapaksa era, of a questionable acquisition of a property at an elite address in Colombo by Aluthgamage. The news report also furnished the number of the court case at the Colombo District Court and explicit details of the transaction including the astronomical sum paid for the property. The case was consigned to the forgotten things of limbo at the time and it is time that the Yahapalanaya government unearth this case and pursue with the matter, if only to give the lie to the MP’s claim.
Be that as it may, there is no question about exposing corruption among the present ministers in the Yahapalanaya government. After all, President Sirisena was elected on the plank of not only bringing to book the crooks of the last government, but also eliminating corruption from the body politic. Aluthgamage and his band of anti-corruption crusaders, now trooping to the Bribery Commission, almost on daily basis, with complaints against government ministers, are well within their right to pursue action against the corrupt.
However they should first establish their credibility for the task they have undertaken. It will be hard for the public to believe that the exercise undertaken by Aluthgamage and Co. are genuine and done with good intentions. Almost all the JO MPs going before the Bribery Commission have cases pending against them.
Their entire project is going to fall apart based on just one factor. The JO in their enthusiasm has also accused Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of collusion in the alleged Bond scam. The PM may have his faults, but corruption is certainly not among them. Even the worst critic of the Premier will concede that the PM is aboveboard who is untainted by even a whiff of a financial scandal during his four decades long political career. This fact is also firmly ingrained in the minds of the public, cutting across political differences. The Premier’s credential in this respect was vouched for by none other than Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga when she was his bitter rival at the 1999 Presidential election, at a public rally.
Dragging in the PM’s name, plus the highly questionable credibility of the current crop of “crusaders against corruption” would no doubt have created the public perception that what they are engaged in is a pure act and a media circus. The exercise is also a clear attempt at drawing a red herring to detract from the host of mega corruption investigations against the “anti-corruption crusaders” themselves and former VVIP politicians. This too, the majority of the public are aware of.