Daily Mirror Editorial
On Friday July 28, 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to resign as Prime Minister of Pakistan after the Supreme court disqualified him from holding public office in a landmark decision based on leaked documents – Panama Papers – released in April 2016.
The ‘Panama Papers’ originally obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zaitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), was made public in April 2016. They revealed how the rich and famous ranging from political leaders, to dictators, to democratically-elected national leaders, to government officials hide their wealth (ill-gotten or otherwise) in offshore tax havens across the globe.
According to the leaked documents, twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.
All those named in the Panama Papers have denied any wrongdoing. According to the ICIJ, notable figures mentioned in the leak range from the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko; Alaa Mubarak, son of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; Ex-Vice-President of Iraq Ayad Allawi; King of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud; President of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan; Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson; a close friend of Vladimir Putin, Sergey Roldugin; Former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani; Li Xiaolin, daughter of Li Peng, the former Premier of China; Rami and Hafez Makhlouf, cousins of Bashar Assad, the President of Syria; Clive Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President; Mariam Safdar, Hasan Nawaz Sharif and Hussain Nawaz Sharif, children of Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The ‘Sunday Times’ referred to several Sri Lankans who were said to have been named in the Panama Papers. The ‘Roar Reports’ of April 30, 2016 quoted the Panama Papers as having listed three Sri Lankan companies, three clients and 22 stakeholders. However none has been investigated. Pakistan’s Premier Nawaz Sharif is the only person to have been officially investigated since the documents were leaked, found guilty and ordered to be removed from office by a court of justice anywhere.
Pakistan’s premier is the second Prime Minister to fall victim to the leaked documents – the first being Icelandic Premier Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson – who resigned when massive street demonstrations engulfed that country in the aftermath of the news leak.
Premier Sharif ,on the other hand, despite street demonstrations which paralysed cities, vehemently protested his innocence. Ultimately the protests organized by Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his political party – Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf – led to the Supreme Court to set up of a Commission of Inquiry led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to probe the Premier and his family following the revelations made in the Panama data leaks. The findings of the Commission ultimately led to Pakistan’s Supreme Court finding Shariff guilty of corruption and being unsuitable to hold the office as Prime Minister. It took a little over a year for the wheels of justice in Pakistan to probe, uncover and lead evidence which led to the Premier being found guilty by the country’s highest court of law.
What a startling difference to events unfolding here in Sri Lanka. Our government was elected to power on a promise to wipe out corruption and punish the guilty. Today, nearly two-and-a-half years after the government was installed, none of the political big wigs accused of corruption has even been prosecuted. Instead today we see them in the forefront fighting against the very organizations set up to investigate them.
To successfully combat corruption, one needs first the political will to eradicate the menace in our midst. Political meddling and fiddling with investigative mechanisms is a means of ensuring the wheels of justice do not function smoothly. It is a sure way to promote the –‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’- political system which has operated in this country since the Independence.