A wild goose chase (Original Title – Island Editorial)
Sri Lanka must be the country with the highest number of anti-corruption campaigners in the world. If one kicks a wayside bush, at least a dozen anti-corruption activists will be thrown out, as they say. These knights in shining armour sitting astride swift, white steeds, embark on much-publicised crusades against corruption. In 2015, we thought the country would be free from the scourge, at long last, given the sheer scale of the anti-corruption drive we witnessed in the run-up to the last presidential election.
Cartoon internetted by TW
Alas and alack, a little over three years on, the brave knights have returned loaded down with stolen public funds besides Treasury bonds. President Maithripala Sirisena has, over the weekend, asked how many politicians could truthfully call themselves clean. This query itself is proof that the country is back to square one anent bribery and corruption. Who guards the yahapalana guards?
Ironically, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Sunday, called for action against the corrupt elements in the present government. He said information of their corrupt deals had been received by the yahapalana leaders and it should be disclosed to the public posthaste. If he had done, while in power, what he is now asking the current rulers to do, he would have been able to make short work of the Opposition common candidate Sirisena in the last presidential race. Towards the end of his second term, Rajapaksa claimed that he had slews of files on some UPFA dissidents’ corrupt deals, but did not reveal them to the public. Shielding the corrupt led to his defenestration.
Why the yahapalana government has failed to rid the country of bribery and corruption is not difficult to understand. How can the corrupt eliminate corruption, upon which their very survival is dependent?
The UNP comprises politicians, rejected by the people for years owing to corruption, abuse of power etc. The SLFP consists of those who are accused of having amassed a great deal of ill-gotten wealth while they were members of the previous government. Some of these unsavoury elements are currently in power and the others in the Joint Opposition (JO), campaigning against corruption!
At elections, the people are left with a choice between two groups of crooks. They have apparently decided to vote for the more efficient of the two, for want of a better alternative, if the outcome of the last local government election is anything to go by. The people vote a political party into office not because it is good but because the one in power is much worse.
President Sirisena has boasted of possessing a magical sword which, he says, he is ready to use for the sake of the people. He has not taken out that blade in spite of his rhetoric. The time has come for him to unsheathe his Excalibur and charge at the corrupt with might and main in keeping with the solemn pledge he made to the people before the last presidential election.
Looking for clean politicians is a wild goose chase. President Sirisena ought to expose the corrupt ones in his government and ensure that they are brought to justice forthwith.
A minister has allegedly deprived the country of a billion-dollar project by demanding a bribe from a foreign investor. This, he has done while the Treasury is thirsting for forex and the rupee is tumbling. Will the President order a high-level probe into this allegation and disclose its findings to the public before taking action against the culprit? Such rogues make the economy scream and they must be brought before the special High Court.