By Sarath de Alwis –
“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” ~ Mayer Rothschild
Founder of the Rothschild dynasty
It is now clear that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to ride out the storm that has engulfed him, his party and his administration.
Endowed, as he is, with a prodigious supply of illusion and indifference, that is only natural. The Prime minister seems to emulate the Somerset Maugham character in the novel ‘Razors Edge who asserts “You’re beginning to dislike me, aren’t you? Well, dislike me. It doesn’t make any difference to me now.”
The writer is indebted to the Political Editor of the Sunday Times for this anecdotal reference to Maugham’s novel the “Razors Edge’.
In his political column last Sunday, he says that the President has, with his statement to the nation on the report of the Bond Commission has placed his Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s relationship with its coalition partner, the United National Party on a Razor’s edge.
The reactions in the English print media on the report of the bond probe is a telling commentary on the deep rooted privatization of public affairs in our land.
The editorial in the Sunday Times was far more interesting. It is a classic example of what the famed American columnist and media pundit Walter Lipmann described as the ‘world outside and the picture in our heads’ in his seminal work “Public Opinion’.
The Sunday Times editorial faults the President for making the main points of the CoI report “without the courtesy of showing it to his Prime Minister.”
The editorial proceeds to unravel the electoral fall out of the Presidential statement. “..it begs the question whether he had a different game-plan in using the report as political leverage against his coalition partner in Government with the all-island local council polls next month. In his address he said that he had already sent a copy of the report to the Attorney General – why did he not give a copy to his own Prime Minister? Does he not trust him?”
The Sunday Times Editor is blunt with his opinion. “That he mentioned the PM’s name in his public address without first telling him seems strange, if not politically incorrect, and especially so in a coalition partnership.”
The editorial continues “… Not that he should have omitted the reference. He shared the report given to him the previous Saturday with only his close confidants. Is his own PM now no longer one of them?”
Even in this digital age the news media has a definitive role to set the nation’s agenda in situations such as the current drama surrounding the Bond scam. People who like to be informed rely on well documented information about public issues. Large headlines, lead story on page one, editorial comment frame the issues.
Was the President wrong in not showing the transcript of his statement to the Prime minister? This writer opines that the President was right in not showing his statement to the PM. If the President was prepared to amend, adjust or alter the text, he could have indeed done so. The purpose of this missive is to again reiterate what this writer asserted in a previous essay. We voted for President Sirisena the common candidate for a specific task. This is the first time in the last three years that he has acted in accordance with the compact he made with most venerable Maduluwawe Sobhitha thero.
Anticorruption is not an industry. It is not a project. It is not a policy. It is about institutional reforms. It is about enhancing transparency and accountability in state and economic institutions. The ordinary citizen has a greater claim on the findings and recommendations of the CoI on Bonds than the Prime minister who appointed the Governor whose conduct is the subject of the probe.
This is not about coalition politics. This is about social empowerment and anti-corruption strategy. The surest way to achieve this objective is to first recognize that corruption in high places is systemic. The antidote is social empowerment, expanding and protecting, political and economic resources, and alternatives, open to ordinary citizens.
Only social empowerment can provide the necessary support for institutional reforms. The President must be commended for empowering us citizens by his forthright statement.
As has been made evident during the public hearings of the Bond Commission, the you scratch my back, I scratch your back syndrome is embedded in a web of personal or neo-patrimonial relations that cover our politicians, businesspeople and an intermediary class of shadowy operators who specialize in maintaining the equilibrium in competitive party politics.
The most interesting aspect of the political column of the Sunday Times is the reference made to the ‘placement of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka under the Prime minister.
The report states “The Sunday Times has learnt that the commission of Inquiry has also raised issue on the placement of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) under the Prime Minister on grounds of the legality of the exercise. The commission is of the view that in terms of the law, the subject should have remained with the Ministry of Finance.
The Sunday Times Political Editor then proceeds to explain ‘There was a political rationale then for the move. Ravi Karunanayake, who was the Finance Minister, had faced court action over the remittance of funds from Raj Rajaratnam, a stock broker of Sri Lankan origin in New York and now in jail in the US for insider trading. The investigation had been initiated by the Exchange Control Department that came under the CBSL. Hence it had been considered prudent to bring the CBSL under the Prime minister.
The statement is not plain stupid. It is the type of obnoxious predication made by pretenders to divine knowledge in public affairs. Such parvenus are possessed of pride that their puny cerebral cavities cannot contain.
The Prudent thing would have been to find someone else not linked to stockbrokers jailed in New York. It is this same Prime Minster who allowed Foreign Minister Karunanayake to hold on to the National Lotteries Board.
Corruption in our land is both longstanding and thriving. It is normal and acceptable. Therefore such statements are made in the knowledge that such were acceptable.
May be Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP should consult President Jacob Zuma of South Africa now battling the constitutional court. Responding to the Constitutional court findings against him he asked what are these values? Then he provided the answer himself. African Problems must be resolved in the African way. Because if we solve them only legally, they become complicated. Law looks only at one side only and does not look at other things. It deals with cold facts but they are dealing with warm bodies. That is a contradiction.