By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
We need no reminders to see the perilous state in which we are floundering. No foreign assets to meet previous commitments and current needs. Seven decades of corruption and extravagances are biting painfully. Do we really need reform or do we progress merrily in our folly? The latest discourse is to provide an “Amnesty” to defaulters, in the vain hope that this will provide some breathing space. Will it really?
This is not the only time that such amnesties have happened. Before we take the same road, does not prudence demand that we consider the results of previous experience? We are told that the earlier responses have been miniscule. If so, are we blindly stumbling into the same hole?
A mere half-hour surfing the Internet will cough up some heady information. In keeping with official nitpicking, such titillating information will be cursorily dismissed as “Social Media Fabrications”. But are they likely to be so? Surely not. The names disclosed are not the Smiths, Browns, Whites and Greys which could easily roll off the pens or keyboards of typewriters and computers. The uncanny accuracy of the complicated Sri Lankan names is astonishing. Such accuracy speaks of diligent pursuit and thus enhances plausibility. If the letters and spellings are so deadly correct, can the figures be far wrong? Some of the disclosures are little surprise, others are quite revealing. The sources are unsurprisingly not disclosed, but one can be sure that there could be ways of finding out, if diligently sought. But, will we? Panama Papers, Pandora’s Box ?
There seem to be at least two ways in which these, considerable amounts could have been squirreled away. Firstly, as blatant corruption by bribery or commissions, or secondly by failure to bring back legitimately secured as monies generated from export sales or services rendered. Both are, if not criminal, at least “irregular”. Of course, very few are plausibly earned, but nevertheless required to be repatriated, or at the least disclosed to the relevant official authorities. Such could, with considerable magnanimity, be classed as “irregular”, but not criminal, as are the others clearly are. If there is a will, there will surely be a way. Are we serious ?
How have these hoards been generated? Bribes, Commissions, Drugs, Contraband, Smuggling of Goods and People, Gambling and Prostitution are well known generators. There could be many other ways too. All these are illegal and therefore punishable.
It would only be fair to suggest that punishments should be exemplary and even “Capital”. They should forestall repetition and of be of deterrent value – to discourage potential new players. These dregs of society deserve merciless pursuit, ensuring that they will never raise their nasty heads again. Decapitation unfortunately, would be extreme and untidy. There are other options. But the effect of any are well deserved. Drug lords destroying millions of young lives, have forfeited any right to live. Let St Peter decide which escalator they mount, – upwards to heaven or downwards to hell.
Are our authorities really determined to eradicate these menaces, or are they really playing their familiar cosmetic games? Being Election Season, they would be averse to raising inconvenient hackles – and to hell with our distressed and hapless people. Are we ready to countenance the same frauds? Maybe not, this time around. The citizenry is too desperate to watch passively. Patience has its limits. “Hell hath no fury as a people deceived”, is apt summary.
Do those who have cheated the Law and the People, deserve to be so lightly let off? Not unless we also release convicts from Death Row, and let them loose in our Legislature and perhaps into Cabinet as well. We have examples and perhaps even seen, or yet to see worse !
Declaration of Assets? Don’t be so silly. Is there any good reason why all unaccounted for Cash in Banks, Fake Companies, Fixed Assets and other illegal stashes, cannot be confiscated into the State Coffers? We have oft heard the excuse that “The Law does not provide”. In which case, why not change the restricting laws, rules and legislation? Or come off it . There is a shortage of Chinamen who favour “Hair Buns”, (Konde Bandapu Cheennu) willing to believe such fiction.,
Transparency, consistency and equity are the “Buzz words”. if we are to follow this popular destiny. Resolve and consistency are what preceded the success story of Singapore. We are fond of citing this example bot tardy in emulating. Our Parliament is rich in ritual, but poor in substance. It must move out of merely criticizing their opponents and engage themselves in priority needs. Will they, or would action be uncomfortably close?.
It is on record that certain Bank Laws relating to confidentiality, have been relaxed by the intervention of International Bodies (United Nations?). This was evidently done as a means of returning the embezzled monies, by the likes of Marcos (Philippines) and Suharto (Indonesia). Apparently, nations concerned have to prove sufficient commitment before seeking intervention. Our Legal and Financial Authorities must study such positive options. In fact, a team dedicated to find and ensure safe return of our pillaged ownings, is more than justifiable.
I hope that this small note will justify its title.