A NATO (No Action Talk Only) summit on corruption was held in Colombo yesterday. Fiery speeches and solemn pledges were made by politicians, who vowed to rid the country of bribery and corruption. Been there, done that! The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions!
Leaders of the incumbent government have talked the talk for long enough and now it is time for them to walk the walk, but they are talking the talk once again. Many a pair of shoes is said to be worn out between saying and doing. The yahapalana regime, which undertook to cleanse politics, kicked off with a grand bank robbery as it were; some lackeys of the ruling politicians made off with treasury bonds to the tune of several billions of rupees. The culprits have not only gone scot free but also are seen in the exalted company of some government leaders who promised to battle corruption with might and main yesterday.
Amateurs wear full-face helmets and carry guns when they stage wild west style bank heists; politically connected professional robbers don three-piece suits and flash thousand watt smiles while removing their booty through the front door of the bank of banks with no questions asked, so to speak.
Several mega rackets have already caused irreparable damage to the image of the yahapalana regime during the last two years. The JVP told Parliament on Thursday that the Paddy Marketing Board had sold its buffer paddy stocks to a single miller and the country was likely to face a scarcity of rice during the festive season.
A multi-billion-rupee coal racket, which, the apex court said, had shocked its conscience, has not been probed properly and the racketeers have got away with it. Hundreds of undervalued luxury vehicles, taken into custody by the Customs, have been released on orders from some government grandees and the state coffers have lost billions of rupees as a result. But, nobody has been brought to justice. It is only wishful thinking that the crooks loyal to the present dispensation will ever be hauled up before courts for their sordid operations. They are too big to be caught!
The government proposed in Parliament a few moons ago that a cap would be slapped on campaign expenditure as funds politicians received went unaccounted for. That proposal struck a responsive chord with all right-thinking people. Will President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe set an example to others by revealing how much they spent on their election campaigns last year and where the funds came from? Charity begins at home. If they do so, others including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be compelled to follow suit.
(It would also be interesting to know how rishard badiuddin got the plum portfolio of trade again -TW)
If the government leaders think they can dupe the discerning public into believing that they are paragons of virtue by holding anti-graft summits, they are mistaken. It may be recalled that David Cameron, reeling from a Panama Papers revelation, while he was the British Prime Minister, held an anti-corruption summit in London to shore up his crumbling image, but in vain.
It is now time for action against corruption. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) should put an end to expensive anti-corruption circuses and investigate the allegations against powerful politicians and their henchmen. The Opposition says complaints against government politicians are not investigated by the CIABOC. Will it tell the public whether any government politicians have refused to answer its summons?
Public awareness of bribery and corruption is already at a very satisfactory level and the CIABOC and the Law and Order Ministry should not spend public funds to hold summits etc. at star class hotels while people are starving and children are dying without treatment.