Learn from Romania

Island Editorial

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK), who claims to be the chief architect of the 2015 regime change and what is being flaunted as the UNP-SLFP unity government, has recently called for action to prevent corruption within ministerial ranks of the yahapalana administration before bringing the corrupt in the previous government to justice. So, now, it is confirmed that the yahapalana gods also have feet of clay!

CBK has, however, added in the same breath that corruption in the present government is not even one thousandth of that of the members of the previous government. She deserves thanks for her candid statement though one may not agree with her on the scale of corruption under the present regime. On the other hand, some key members of the Rajapaksa government, accused of corruption, are in the present Cabinet! The question is what action the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition has taken against its own members indulging in corruption.

Cartoon added by TW from internetImage result for romania crisis cartoon

CBK minced no words when she accused a member of the former ruling family of having stashed away ill-gotten money to the tune of USD 1,000 million in an offshore account. Naming the person concerned she dared him to sue her if she was wrong. What follows from her argument is that the amount of public funds which the incumbent ministers help themselves to averages at least USD 1 million each at present, being one-thousandth of USD 1,000 million.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has gone on record as saying the former ruling clan helped itself to public funds amounting to USD 18,000 million. This works out, according to CBK’s logic, to USD 18 mn for the current ruling cabal. Will the government explain why none of its members has been arrested and remanded for lining their pockets at the expense of the public? Joint Opposition (JO) firebrand Wimal Weerawansa has been remanded for allegedly abusing state vehicles and causing a loss of Rs. 90 million.

The general consensus is that the Rajapaksa regime was corrupt though the stolen money has not yet been recovered. A government in power is capable of covering its tracks because it keeps police, the state prosecutor and the anti-graft commission under its thumb. President Maithripala Sirisena has publicly admitted that there has been a bond scam at the Central Bank and the culprits must be brought to justice. He has appointed a special presidential commission for that purpose. But, there have been several other mega rackets which have gone uninvestigated. The JHU, a constituent of the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena coalition, has publicly alleged that some ministers received bribes amounting to USD 100 million from the Hambantota Port deal alone. The Customs have, under political pressure, released hundreds of fraudulently imported SUVs from its custody. There have also been paddy and rice rackets which have cost the state coffers billions of rupees.

It has been a case of Hobson’s choice for the people. They helped dislodge the previous regime because they believed it was corrupt and the crafty politicians who toppled it, promising a radical break from the past have proved to be no better. Public disillusionment and resentment, welling up at an alarming rate, presage trouble as can be seen from what is happening in Romania, where Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu’s government, which also came to power pledging to eliminate bribery and corruption as a national priority, has let down people by opting to give kid glove treatment to the corrupt.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets across Romania against a controversial decree of the Grindeanu administration to let many crooks off the hook. It has been revoked due to public protests, but demonstrators say they have lost faith in the government; they are vowing to go on protesting indefinitely.

This is what happens to any country when politicians who capture power pretending to be messiahs fail to live up to people’s expectations and are found to be a bunch of rogues themselves. People power protests become the inevitable outcome of public discontent, especially when elections which help the public vent their anger are postponed indefinitely. Leaderless protests and anarchy are coterminous. If the yahapalana rulers think they will be able to prevent a popular uprising with the help of some malleable judges and a servile police force they are mistaken.

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