Saffron bombshell

Island Editorial 

JHU Spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe has dropped a bombshell. He has gone on record as saying that some government politicians received as much as USD 100 mn in kickbacks from the Hambantota Port deal. He says his party will make a formal complaint to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).

The JHU, weeks before the last general election, broke ranks with the Rajapaksa government, which it condemned as a corrupt regime, and joined forces with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition, promising to usher in good governance. Now, the Saffron party tells us that the self-proclaimed messiahs are also corrupt to the core! It has, however, made no revelation as such. That the current administration is not a collective of paragons of virtue is only too well known.

JHU leaders contested the last general election on the UNP ticket; some of them were elected to Parliament and appointed Cabinet of ministers. So, technically, the serious allegation the JHU has levelled against the UNP-led government is tantamount to self-criticism.

The JHU emerged as a political force by eating into the support bases of the UNP and the SLFP mostly in the urban areas. It is faced with the daunting challenge of shoring up its crumbling image and retaining its identity and vote bank, on which political marriages of convenience have had a deleterious effect. It, therefore, has to offer itself as an alternative to both main parties by being critical of them.

However, now that the JHU has realised its yahapalana gods have feet of clay and begun to flay them in public it ought to tell the public what it intends to do next? Will it continue to shack up with the corrupt or vote with its feet the way it did towards the tail end of the UPFA government? It is no use going about telling the public what is already known to one and all. What is needed is action and not rhetoric.

The JHU has to name the bribe takers if it has irrefutable evidence that the Chinese have greased the palms of some government politicians to secure the control of the Hambantota port and acquire a vast extent of land adjacent thereto. It did not baulk at naming names when it took on the Rajapaksa government, did it?

The case against the former regime was heard in the People’s Court, whose ruling went against the Rajapaksas. The same court has been moved against the current administration and its ruling will be known at the next election. Hence, the incumbent leaders’ polls phobia! However, they cannot go on postponing elections till the cows come home as public resentment is welling up rapidly. The longer people’s franchise is suppressed the higher the political risk a government runs. The devastating electoral knuckle sandwich suffered by United Front government in 1977, having postponed elections by two years arbitrarily, may serve as an example.

Somebody had to pay for bribery, corruption and abuse of power which characterised the last government; it was President Rajapaksa who did so. He lost his presidency and the SLFP-led UPFA administration crashed immediately afterwards. Rajapaksa took the credit for the country’s successful war against terrorism because he had provided unwavering political leadership to the armed forces, the police and the Civil Defence Force. Similarly, he was expected to take the blame for his government’s wrongdoings, which were legion.

Likewise, it is inevitable that President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be held responsible for the malpractices of their joint administration including alleged corruption involving the Hambantota Port deal. They cannot afford to ignore a damning allegation one of their partners in governance has made. They are left with no alternative but to order a through probe into the Hambantota kickback scam. Let the CIABOC, the CID and the FCID be ordered to conduct probes into the JHU’s allegation.