Daily News Editorial
Theme Cartoons googled and added by TW
President Maithripala Sirisena has dropped a bombshell of sorts. Addressing SLFP organisers at the President’s House on Wednesday, the President revealed that there were rogues and wrong doers in the previous regime as well as the present one and that he has kept this uppermost in his mind when working. President Sirisena is the first Executive President to own up that there were rogues in his government (SWRD Bandaranaike took action against certain MPs who were convicted of bribery). Of course, President Premadasa too came out with the revelation that there were thieves in his government. But this was after the Lalith Gamini duo left the government and tried to impeach Premadasa. Those familiar with the politics of that era would recall the rash of neu gilla, Mahaweliya keva (ships were sunk and Mahaweliya was devoured) posters that appeared throughout the country at the same time.
JRJ, while not directly admitting that there were rouges in his government, nevertheless increased the salaries and perks of his ministers on the basis that this will keep them out of temptation’s way. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga did not reveal that there were thieves in her government but only that there were those who besmirched her good name, mage moone deli gewa, after the infamous Wayamba election which was rigged to glory, courtesy prominent members of her government.
In that sense President Sirisena’s admission is a first and is bound to be met with mixed reactions.
There will be those who will acknowledge the President’s candidness in admitting that there were indeed rogues in his government while others would ask what was he doing about it?
Politicians in the present day are not of the same make and breed that the people came to know in the immediate post Independence era. That was a time when politics was strictly a public service that attracted philanthropists, benefactors of various causes and the upper echelons of society who were awash with the dosh and did not need politics to stand up financially. Of course there were a few among this breed who sought upward social mobility and used politics as a convenient vehicle for this purpose.
Today, things have changed drastically, with politics being a livelihood for some while for others it is a means of becoming super rich. It is an open secret today how those who did not even posses the means to purchase a push cycle are riding in flashy SUVs and Pajeros while owning property and mansions overseas. With no academic qualifications required to become a parliamentarian, it was party time for all and sundry, the riff-raff included, as it is all too evident today.
True, one can blame the open economy as the primary cause for the level of corruption one sees in present day politics. The liberalization of the economy and the dismantling of safeguards and barriers had certainly opened the doors for financial crimes such as money laundering on a scale never heard before. It is also equally true that the type of individuals who have entered politics had contributed in a large scale towards the present malaise. Those with criminal records and unsavoury characters have today laid siege on the body politic, muscling their way to plunder and ill gotten wealth, using the political power at their disposal. Both main parties are guilty of harbouring such elements in their midst but entertain them for their voting getting value. The Proportional Representation system has only exacerbated matters.
Now that the President, no less, has admitted that there are rogues even in the government it is incumbent on him to identify such elements and weed them out .He will no doubt cover himself with glory by such an act as the first Head of State to show the door to his own men who are corrupt . After all, he is on record stating that the people did not get rid of one set of rogues to replace them with another set. Besides there is his mandate to fulfill to cleanse the body politic of corrupt elements.
Namal’s mea culpa
Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa has made a mea culpa of sorts, perhaps on behalf of his father former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The eldest of the Rajapaksa progeny, the other day, speaking to journalists outside the Supreme Court, said that he felt incarcerating former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was wrong and that it is better if it did not happen. In the same breath the former first son says that the he (Fonseka) was imprisoned through a legal procedure after allegations were made against him and that they, meaning the Rajapaksas, did not take revenge by politically insulting him. It is obvious to even a political novice that Fonseka was imprisoned for politically challenging Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a clear act of revenge. The fact that nothing is heard of the case brought against Fonseka is a clear indication of this. If depriving the war winning Army Commander of his civic rights was not political revenge let Namal explain what it is.