16 April, 2024

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Corruption Is Corrosive & Contagious 

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Corruption is the ultimate criminality. It is also a contagion that spreads both vertically and horizontally. It is clearly eating the heart and vitals of our Nation.

Corruption is indisputably a dominant reason for our plight. A lot of sanctimonious scoundrels have promised, with monotonous frequency, to “eradicate” this rampant evil. Each event that unfolds in the all-pervasive political arena, serves to increase the public’s revulsion towards politics and its practitioners. For instance, everything that emanates from the Diyawanna Sewer, increases the penetration of this diabolical menace;. In our early life, parents and schools drilled in developing minds, a compulsion to adhere to the most strict rejection of lying and deception. No more. The indelible example is of this is that in developed countries, the newsagent leaves a pile of news papers on the sidewalk in front of the shop, with a little label indicating the price of each. A customer would pick his choice and leave the relevant price in  the tray.  Seldom, we were told was there a risk of a cheat betraying this trust. This kind of simple event, makes me an unashamed and admitted “Anglophile” or “Europhile”

It appalls me to witness how casually people who should know better, are chronically dishonest, and do not deserve the genteel  “economical with the truth”. They should, in our lexicon be qualified as liars.

A distressing fact is that the closer one gets to the top rung of the social ladder, the higher the intensity of fraud. In consequence there was one of our Heads of State who was described as “a Compulsive Liar“. How then can one address such a person as “Honourable”? I am therefore inclined to be careful to restrict this to them who genuinely qualify. A colleague goes even better – when one such stands up to speak, he just walks out. May seem trivial, but symbolically powerful. 

Financial impropriety is not all, but an important factor under the general rubric of “corruption”. Why does our Government fight shy of using the readily available listings of the “wealthy” on the Internet? Panama Papers, Pandora Papers. The information is shocking. Several are not cheats, but many others clearly are. When a guy with no substantial means of becoming rich, having neither talent nor worth, turns up with stashes of millions of  Dollars, be called to account? Is it a question of “He who is without guilt, may cast the first stone?” No stones, no guilt. More likely. Is it a case of “You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours”. Lots of back-scratching is evident.

The most distressing feature is the lateral and vertical spread of financial corruption. Some seem to display remarkable ingenuity of changing crises to bonanzas. Nothing seems beyond their reach. Nothing is protected from the clutches of these vultures. If a quarter of that “talent” is employed towards the public good, Sri Lanka can become a bright country like our often mentioned Singapore.

The ”horizontal spread” is one where the dishonest in one Institution (say Department), spawns the practice in another. The vertical spread is within such a body, where subordinates are inspired to feel “If it is good for my boss, how can it be bad for me”?

To take a simple scenario. Say, someone is flicking his petrol coupons or fudging his travelling claim, a whole chain of persons participate in continuing the chain, down to the officer who writes the cheque. 

This spreads of the contagion of corruption, corrodes and fouls all. Take the case of stashes of the products of dishonesty, so readily accessible on the Internet. Why is there no obvious follow-up action? Is it not strange that these products of crime are not extracted, and used to meet our nation’s commitments. How so? It seems as though we are displaying the caution of one who is walking on eggs.

Everyone would know about the (James) Bond Scam. There are strong suspicions, but again an inexplicable  delicacy and neglect of follow-up. In relation to hoards in banks and safe havens abroad, why have these clearly corrupt treasure troves (Nidahan) been captured and restored to their rightful owners – the Sri Lankan people. If such monies are diverted towards meeting our foreign borrowing obligations, our burden might be substantially reduced. This would be  morally and ethically proper. The usual excuse of “the Law does not provide” is a feeble and unacceptable excuse.

I believe that the famous “Numbers only” accounts in Swiss Banks etc. have been made more transparent. This is action (endorsed by the UN?) that permitted the gold snatched from the Jews, and national wealth that has been  robbed by persons like the Marcos (Phillipines) and the Suhartos (Indonesia) and be restored to the rightful owners – the people.

One understands that such remedial measures, require the aggrieved nations to institute legal action within their own jurisdictions. In our case, there are several cases of astronomical amounts held by persons who have engaged solely in “politics”, with no inherited wealth or activities to generate some massive amounts. If a dozen or so of such delinquents are showed into jail, our nation would not require future “Aragalayas”.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    0

    State/public corruption are corrosive and contagious

    Those who grew up and settled into it won’t be able to see the obvious difference. That’s the biggest problem. If the economic situation does not improve for a long time, corruption remains like a shadow over which poverty dominates.

    That is why the South Asian region is hardest hit today. They try to justify this with the help of religious thoughts or karma.

    Every time we are forced to watch Hindi movies like Surangana Kathandaar lately, it is like the dreams of many poor people in India. It is quite difficult to observe the realities of the minorities in Sri Lanka as the main obstacle is the social, cultural and diverse resistance against them. Magic cannot work to bring new dawns, but dreams must.

    This is in stark contrast to the Vietnamese, who are in many ways a rapidly developing nation, although largely Buddhist. Awareness of productivity and respect for law and order should feed into our austerity measures, along with a few other positive attributes. Then we South Asians can talk about achieving our goals. Therefore, rebuilding our human resources is more important than investing in physical infrastructure projects. First things first and everything else can follow.

    tbc

    • 3
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      cont.
      As the public’s main source of news is now television, the country’s media can devote more time to improving public awareness. People don’t tend to read newspapers like they did decades ago.

      Not only the politicians (representatives of the people), but also the people are too sympathetic to corruption…. Not taking action against it is in their blood.

      • 3
        2

        UP,
        “If a dozen or so of such delinquents are showed into jail, our nation would not require future”
        Unimaginable, under any circumstances!!??
        Unpatriotic action to imprison, saviours of the Nation!!?? Never work!!

  • 3
    2

    UP,
    How could Sri Lanka do that in respect of the Patriotic Messiahs, who redeemed this country from the clutches of the Terrorists!!!??? That would amount to Treachery!!!
    Unimaginable sin against the Patriotic leadership!!!
    Unacceptable from a proud civilised Sinhala Buddhist Nation!!??

    • 3
      2

      Mahila, though it took me some time, I do value your opinion. Refreshing to have people like you, who do not shy away from sharing their honest opinion.

      • 3
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        Many seem to, not get your sarcastic, contrarian / contradicting, cynical, but HONEST views. For sure, it took me some time.

      • 2
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        Chiv,
        here are always 2 sides to any story!!?? Hold on, in my view there is always in any situation a 3rd side to it!!!???
        THAT’S THE TRUTH!!??
        SOME FORSAKE THAT FOR PERSONAL REASONS AND FAVORISM DEPENDING ON THEIR FANCIES!!??
        Humble human trait! Nay FRAILTY!!??

        • 0
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          Fully agree. In Lanka many stories seem to have more than three versions.

  • 4
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    I have come to the conclusion that in SL, if a person is rich, then, most likely, the wealth has been made on the back of poor people, usually, by exploitation &/or unfair means. It maybe the case all over the world but it is very significant in SL. The rich have certainly got richer & the poor have become poorer, with the gap ever widening & a dwindling middle class. The middle class have a choice, either become poorer by maintaining the status quo or join the gravy train, even if its for scraps from the high table. The bribery expected by almost all state employees, from officials to the humble peon, is ample evidence. I say this from experience because a few years ago, I needed to shift an elect. pylon planted in my property during my grandfather’s time & the elect. board estimated Rs 1.8m but the bribe to get it done was Rs. 3.2m (”all inclusive cost Rs. 5m”) I was told by the peon who acted as the broker that several officials & engineers were involved, hence the high cost. Is it a SL trait or a fault in the education system?
    Cont.

    • 0
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      Raj-UK,
      “Is it a SL trait or a fault in the education system?”
      None of those!!??
      It is probably the 2600+ years of civilisation tempered by Sinhala Buddhist culture!!!??
      Have you ever heard anyone at an almsgiving ceremony, for a participant to seek a second serve of any sort for them!! No the message would be “Please serve so and so a second serve or preferred portion”!!?? When that person is satisfyingly served that person in turn request for a serving to the original person!!!?? Al concerned are satisfied and live in harmony!!
      It’s an all-enveloping culture of “BROTHERHOOD” even and including in the matter of Corruption and nepotism!!!????????

  • 5
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    Cont.
    Many years ago, my father required medical attention & he insisted that I take him to the govt. hospital because he had no savings, only his pension, after being a govt. school Principal all his life. He did not want me to spend on him & was unaware that he was entitled to my medical insurance provided by my employer as I was unmarried at the time. Later, when I joked that he had worked all his life but had only a meagre pension to depend on in his old age, he told me quite seriously, that when a person is in the twilight stage, he (or she) may look back in life & wonder how rewarding life has been but it would not be the wealth, especially, ill gotten, that will give satisfaction & a person should be able to die peacefully without being troubled. His advise, I will remember to my dying day. So, I am surprised how our politicians, in particular, can even sleep at night, knowing they are being cursed by people. Would they ever realise that all the wealth they have stashed is worth the mental strain it would bring later? I may not be wealthy but I can die happily because whatever my achievements, I can proudly say that ‘I did it my way’, as Frank Sinatra used to sing.

    • 1
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      Dear Raj, I totally agree with you Raj.
      It goes through my head over and over again. On my return from SL last November, I could not sleep consecutive days, because all what I observed on the roads, supermakets, pharmacies or whereever I went to, reverberated in my head.
      To me, even if I make a small mistake to my colleagues, I become nervous. They are also the same (they are non-srilankens).
      HowEVER politicians like Mahinda, thought they are/were leaders of the nation, behave like blinded men who stole it from the day one, how they close their eyes at night ? is a greater puzzle to me as well.

      tbc

  • 0
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    Is he slipping of the rupee going to get much more obvious soon?
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lImDxPlMSw
    .
    That’s about Fitch Ratings.

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