By Vishwamithra –
One can examine the Bond-scam report and arrive at conclusions after such a close perusal in two diametrically opposed lights.
1. In the context of the current political environment, its apparent findings and President Maithripala Sirisena’s interpretations of the findings and his vicarious intentions of defaming some UNP members of Parliament, despite the fact that his very election as President was principally facilitated by the United National Party (UNP), would lead to him being branded a ‘traitor’. We need to note that the appointment of Arjuna Mahendran who is the central figure in this whole scheme of alleged corruption, as Governor of the Central Bank, albeit at the behest of Prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, was President’s responsibility and his alone.
2. One can also look at this Report in the light of the inherent culture that has been built around all government servants and those who are accused of misdoings have been partners in the alleged felony willy-nilly. Yet what government in power would dare probe into allegation against itself and withstand the cruel punishment meted out to them in the courts of public opinion?
The content of the Bond-scam report may be true, may be contentious or even may be outright false. Neither can we argue the validity of the substance of the allegations, nor reject them outright. The Report is still under the Presidential care. According to some reports, ‘Sumathipala Udugamsuriya, Secretary to the Presidential Commission that probed Treasury bond scams has stated that the releasing of the report would be President Maithripala Sirisena’s prerogative. Udugamsuriya said so when the newspaper inquired from him whether a copy of the report could be obtained. The official said that their mandate was for a ‘fact-finding inquiry’ and report to the appointing authority. Responding to another query, Udugamsuriya said that about six copies were printed for members of the commission. Asked whether the report could be posted online; Udugamsuriya said that the commission couldn’t decide on that either’.
As opposed to the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1978 wherein the powers of the Commission were far too wider than the one that held the inquiry held into the ‘Bond-Scam’, in that the 1978 Act could recommend as to what action should be taken consequential upon the findings of the inquiry, the ‘Bond-scam’ inquiry is a mere ‘fact-finding’ probe. The public humiliation it has generated, especially among those- whiskey-drinking, club-goers of the Colombo-elite kind, who were the very beneficiaries of vastly-concealed corrupt financial deals during the Rajapaksa regime, is immense. But that humiliation is essentially limited to those vulture-elites of Colombo. The issues that confront the masses are totally divorced from such sophisticated schemes of white-collar financial crimes. Ever increasing cost of living, apparent lethargy and apathy shown in the pursuit of the previous regime’s corrupt practices are predominant among the voting public. Allegations against the Rajapaksas are many; the very alacrity with which the ‘Bond-scam’ probe was concluded makes it look like a 100 meter sprint while the pursuit of the Rajapaksa-scams are appearing to be a Marathon. It is indeed very disturbing and distressing, especially among the UNP voters, who along with Tamil and Muslim minorities, elected Maithripala Sirisena as President of this country. Those who defied Sirisena at the 2015 elections are elated while those who supported him are aghast at the turn of events. That is democracy turning into ‘demo-crazy’.
Yet, the findings of the ‘Bond-scam’ are ugly. They tell a story of massive fraud and corrupt intent of a select few in the Colombo politico-financial theatre. Whether President Sirisena releases the Report or not, both Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena must bear in mind that the masses must be educated of the glaring differences between the two governments, the Rajapaksa-led UPFA and Maithri-Ranil-led coalition, specifically in relation to the notion of transparency and accountability of democratically elected governments.
The current administration decided to inquire into its own public servants and its own Cabinet Ministers. That is a remarkable trait of a transparent and accountable government. ‘Yahapalanaya’, at least in this instance, is manifestly in operation, it seems. The return of the rule of law is something to celebrate. With all its weaknesses, with all its many a folly, its decision to let the press be free in a real sense and lifting of the gloomy shadow that trailed almost all anti-Rajapaksa journalists, the government has been successful in making its fundamental change visible in the current environment. The toxicity that engulfed the media personnel during the Rajapaksa-era is losing its stench; the Right to Information Act is having its tangible effects and the very political thugs, who during the Rajapaksa-era made all attempts to curb that elementary human propensity for intellectual curiosity, are taking refuge in that very Act and pursuing receding mirages of political victories.
It is in this context of freer environment of political dynamics that the present debate about the ‘Bond-scam’ fiasco needs to be examined and dissected. While many allegations and charges are being still probed into and referred to the department of Attorney General, and awaiting further action as part of the due process afforded to each and every person so charged, during the Rajapaksa-led regime, the power-holders meted out ‘justice and fair-play’ at the whims and fancies of the ‘First Family’. What is evidenced in the current administration in the United States of America in which ‘Trumpism’ seems to be trumping the true and fair-minded Republican lawmaker, was manifestly apparent in the Rajapaksa regime. Mahinda Rajapaksa loomed over the UPFA members like a mighty Gulliver overwhelming the little Lilliputians.
In the present coalition there is no Gulliver nor are there any Lilliputians. Yet the leadership quality that is in evidence does, at times, seems to be far short of the necessary ingredients that make a steady journey all-congruent and seeking a stern and sure target. There is no more negative image one can project than a one that is pregnant with ‘uncertainty’. That sense of uncertainty largely contributes to lethargy on the part of the players and nervousness on the part of the spectators. Both elements of human expressions, lethargy and nervousness are products of weakness and softness. The current administration needs to disrobe itself of that garb. The Maithri-Ranil Combo needs to dissipate that aura of negativity and transform that into a very positive force by taking the offensive to its adversaries. That kind of proactive elemental force might be absent today, but there is no reason or rhyme to presume so tomorrow.
Does the current regime have that elemental synergy to turn something negative into a positive force? There is ample opportunity and space for one such move outside the box. Why not both Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe call for a truce between the Elephant and the Beetle-leaf prior to the local government election? Some might perceive this basic idea as laughable and ludicrous. Therein lies the elemental reality of bold and audacious thinking.
The action that the UNP leadership needs to take regarding Ravi Karunanayake becomes very relevant in this context. The leadership must leap ahead of the average voter and his wildest imagination. Discipline and discipline alone can take any organization forward. If and when discipline breaks down, the whole organization is bound to collapse on itself. However, such iron discipline, that element which makes man advance beyond one’s confines is sadly absent in all political parties today, including the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
Leonardo da Vinci is associated with the following quote: “You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” Such brutal truths are few and far between. Application of such universally relevant truths is not too presumptuous. Yet being as modest and simple as an ancient ascetic, a politician indeed never sees himself in the light of such a nihilistic lens. Scholars from Chanakya to Machiavelli and Aristotle to Bertrand Russell to Jean Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky have all outlined the basic architecture of human behavior and its many facets of expressions in most lucid form and the ironical fundamental is that each and every such scholar has failed to draw players from the margins.
On the contrary, politicians almost always succeed in bringing in those who occupy the space outside the margins. Whether this is an intrinsic measure of politicians or a mere accident of political evolution, I do not know. Yet the large meadow of reality shows much greener pastures than one would dare to dream about. That is why the Bond-scam would remain in the realm of gossip rather than matters of consequence of hard political bargaining.
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