Hoping for Lanka’s Pakistan moment
Sri Lankans have been adopting models of all sorts. Their legal system is based on the Roman-Dutch law with borrowings from other sources. They got the Westminster model of representation from Britain. The presidential system is an executive hotchpotch, to say the least. They have an Indian make of devolution system. Now, they are trying to adopt the German electoral model. Other models such as 5S of Japanese origin are also in vogue here. Never has Sri Lanka given serious thought to adopting any model from Pakistan, which has had more than its fair share of trouble including military rule and terrorism, all these decades.
But, now it is clear that Sri Lanka has got to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book, where fighting corruption is concerned. The Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office over corruption. Leaked Panama Papers has brought about his downfall. This, however, is not a new experience for him; he has been stripped of that post twice previously.
The court ruling has said specifically, among other things: “PM failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables from Capital FZE, UAE in 2013 nomination papers.” Sharif has stepped down. Opinion is divided in Pakistan on the Supreme Court judgment. Opposition activists are dancing in the streets, distributing sweets. The Shariff loyalists are naturally incensed. However, the apex court ruling is bound to have a deterrent effect on all political leaders, present and future.
It is unthinkable that a sitting President or Prime Minister will ever be arraigned on corruption charges in this country let alone removed from public office. Even the ordinary ruling party parliamentarians are above the law. When it becomes too embarrassing for the government in power to defend some of its MPs arrangements are made for them to enjoy the bail-on-arrival facility, as it were, in Courts.
There have been a handful of instances where politicians in power had to face legal action, but the judicial system was manipulated for them to escape. It may be recalled that under the Rajapaksa government a minister who pleaded guilty to a cheque fraud got away with the serious offence, which would have landed an ordinary citizen in jail; he only paid state costs! None of the rogues in the previous government notorious for bribery and corruption and abuse of power have been thrown behind bars though two and a half years have elapsed since the beginning of the yahapalana rule.
This year has also seen another head of state suffer a devastating judicial gavel blow over corruption charges. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached, subsequently arrested and jailed over a high-profile corruption scandal. Charges against her pale into insignificance when compared with the allegations against politicians in this country.
Whether the judicial decision against PM Sharif will help Pakistan with its campaign against corruption remains to be seen. People in this part of the world are gluttons for punishment; they have a remarkable propensity to suffer corrupt politicians gladly. It may even be another false dawn for Pakistan. But, a prerequisite for a nation’s war against corruption is to let its political leaders and others in high positions know, in no uncertain terms, that no one is too big or powerful to be caught and punished. The Pakistani judiciary has done just that and the onus is now on others to take it from there. Breaking the twin evils of corruption and abuse of power is half the battle in developing a nation.
Having been taken for a right royal ride by a bunch of wily politicians who promised to usher in yahapalanaya, Sri Lankans must be hoping for the ouster of the crooks living off the fat of the land at their expense.