23 October, 2017

Corruption Of Power & Power Of Corruption

By Vishwamithra

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”  ~John Steinbeck

Political power is not just a tool in the hands of those who hold it. It is not a license that guarantees immunity for all crimes that are committed under the cover of that license. It is not a power vested in the holder to run amok with all what is inside the national coffers. It does not give any power whatsoever to those who wield it with unlimited and unchecked supremacy to decree what is right and what is wrong. Political power is an instrument of trust; it is a time-barred mechanism that is invested with a great deal of constraints and controls; it is a sacred oath taken by those who are elected by voters with infinite faith and belief that the power so invested would not be abused or used against justice and fair-play. That power cascades from the rule of law which is the core and soul of a civilized people. It flows from our constitution.

Yet when the constitution is silent on any subject of socio-political dynamic, then come statutes, convention and precedent. If all that is absent, natural law takes over. What is reasonable to a reasonable people is conventionally described as follows: ‘Natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature to deduce binding rules of moral behavior from the dawn of civilization’. However, it is not my intention to venture into a legal debate over an analysis of these nuanced theories of natural law. Political power as assumed by most of our politicians goes way beyond the constitutional and moral boundaries. Corruption of that power, corruption of that sublime faith and confidence people have reposed on that political power, has been the most visible and palpable occurrence before our very eyes. People’s faith and confidence so endowed on politicians has been desecrated and debased. That process of desecration and degradation did not begin yesterday or the day before. In fact, corruption of political power is as old as the concept of political power itself.

Let us not go into the sordid history of corruption of political power through the ages. Let us confine ourselves to the Sri Lankan context. Corruption of power does not happen in a vacuum. It does not exist in a world devoid of all other related or unrelated socio-political forces at work. It is happening in the midst of varied and conflicting paradigms of social forces and human enterprise. Whenever and wherever money is involved, whenever spending of other’s cash and assets, the human being tends to be more elastic in his spending habits and that elasticity extends beyond an endurable limit when he or she realizes that whatever the venture they are engaged is under their control. A corrupt mind identifies the vulnerable limits or lack thereof; that mind sees a hidden commission in a road development project; that mind sees a concealed sub-contract that could be handled by his brother-in-law or his wife’s cousin. A corrupt mind sees what incorrupt minds don’t see. Corruption of power has been in play for the last six or seven decades. It has never evaporated. On the contrary, it has grown exponentially and those practitioners of corruption have multiplied, especially in the company of nepotism. Nepotism allows corruption to grow out of control. An avaricious mind that is already corrupt unilaterally decides that all collections of such ill-gotten wealth must be held within the realm of their kith and kin.

In such a corrupt and crooked circumstance, the power of the politician grows and its growth is fearful and dangerously uncontrollable if it seems, at least in the eye of the holder of that power, long-lasting and permanent. That corruption of power now becomes subordinate to the power of corruption. The power of corruption now holds enormous weight and dangerous dimensions and the consequences of that power in turn produces a chain of socio-political anomalies which become regular to the eye of the victims of that power. That is what precisely happened during the reign of the Rajapaksas. They had the power. That power was conclusively corrupted, it was desecrated and defiled beyond all recognition and in the twenty first century, it was the siblings and the immediate family of Mahinda Rajapaksa that accelerated the pace of this dreadful cycle of corruption of power and power of corruption. Corruption of power was refined and an ugly thread of nepotism was woven into that dark fabric of corruption. What is in display in the various allegations and charges against the Rajapaksas is that fabric- a fabric that is framed in constitutional powers legitimately granted to President of the country-  but depicting a grossly interlaced jumble of patterns with prominent threads of nepotism intervening the beauty and delicacy of political power.

It is indeed a tragedy that this pattern was embraced by the so-called elite of the country. This elite is essentially a class of heavy-moneyed and unscrupulous businessmen and women whose idol was the then President of the country. The politicians were corrupt, the civil service was corrupt, lower levels of government service were corrupt and even minions such as drivers, peons and gofers were corrupt.

It is extremely hard to rid oneself of these agents of corruption. Society in total was being eaten into by these worms. These are the worms that populate the cocktail circuit; they are the ones who travel to and fro the airport when the President goes and comes back from abroad; they entertain the first family in a fashion that surpasses all royal banquets. Not that this did not happen during the times of other regimes. It did happen; the difference is the magnitude of the monies involved, frequency of events and nepotism that surrounded the orgy of corruption. Such a debauchery of political power, its corruption by the its holders, the callousness with which the underlings were treated, sheer arrogance of the siblings and immediate cohorts, they all fashioned an illusion of ever-lasting power, a power which could do, more or less, anything and everything.

The pugnacious and aggressive attitude of these cohorts was such they could close a section of a main road if and when they were dining inside a restaurant located along that road. When the ‘brother’ travelled on road, it was closed a way ahead of time, causing irritating traffic jams in Colombo and elsewhere. Such was the power of corruption. When one brother had to go outside Colombo, his Mercedes or the BMW was transported on a special long-bed truck while he flew by helicopter- all this at the expense of the local taxpayers’ money. Such was the power of corruption.

Last week I happened to be at a get-together of a school fraternity and while helping ourselves to scrumptious dinner we invariably sailed into a not-too-stormy discussion about politics. One fellow started criticizing the present government and in a most negative way stated that that nothing is moving, meaning that unlike during the previous regime, everything is at a standstill. I noted that the person who uttered such an ‘illuminating’ critique was a chairperson of a major state-owned institution during the last regime. Everyone around him was silently nodding, acknowledging the partial validity of the statement. Encouraged by the almost-unanimous nodding of his listeners, he went on attacking the various Ministers of the current government, until one of them looked into the eyes of the critic and stated thus: ‘I will accept everything you uttered, but getting rid of the Rajapaksas alone is good enough for me and for the betterment of the country. That alone could justify the existence of the present government’. No one dared to challenge the validity of that statement. The ex-chairperson’s silence was deafening.

Rajapaksas’ corruption of power and power of corruption were intertwined. In terms of the cause and effect theory, one gave effect to the other. The cycle of corruption of power and power of corruption will continue to generate ugly results for the country, devouring the best talents who are our civil servants and throwing them under the bus by the very politicians who happen to nurture them. Wesley Eugene Fesler was a famous American football, basketball, and baseball player and coach of football and basketball. He once said thus: ‘hypocrisy is the audacity to preach integrity from a den of corruption’. The Rajapaksas belong in that den.

Walled within this catacomb of choices the average Sri Lankan is looking for one way or the other. What is before us is not a binary choice. The issue before us is multifaceted and multilayered. Not only our average voter, the so-called super-elites in Colombo too are seeking refuge under a leaky roof of binary choices. All of us seldom realize that the outside-shower is drenching us all without mercy and without discrimination. The showers of criticism are as good an equalizer as rainwater pouring from the skies.

The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 3
    11

    “I will accept everything you uttered, but getting rid of the Rajapaksas alone is good enough for me and for the betterment of the country. That alone could justify the existence of the present government’. ”

    Mr Vishvamitra note down the following”:
    “I WILL ACCEPT EVERYTHING YOU UTTERED, BUT GETTING RID OF TERRORISM ALONE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE COUNTRY. THAT ALONE COULD JUTIFY IGNORING ALL THE SHORTCOMINGS OF RAJAPAKSHA GOVERMENT. ———-
    Soma

    • 3
      0

      In lanken context, corruption and higher abuses are defined :

      anyone those who perpetrate high crimes including murders such as thaot of Thadjudeen s are crimes and belong to the punishments be convicted with life long imprisonment for all citizens except anyone related to Rajapakshe family.

      Reason why I am telling this:
      with much hope kept SIRISENA * RANIL yahapalanya govt, we dreamt the killers of Thadjudeen the young man in mid 20 ties to have murdered by Rajpakashe family the direction mediation of former President s wife ( who should have no hearts as a mother) but supported – until today nothing is done in terms of serving the justice…
      had this govt been not elected, they would have even today BRANDING it as a result of a brutal accident of known kind- however, the torments of dead players mother and the relations are reechoeing the country, creating one disaster behind the other by now… nothing seem to be working even if the dead body parts too have been stolen by the contract of Rajaakshe himself… and had been found in the labs of SAITEM… however, JMO who examined was not even questioned. … if this was the case in UK , Germany or any other soils, people would have gone on protest asking Rajapakshes to be stoned and put to death. … but this island is brutal as no others…. they prove it day by day. /b>

    • 2
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      somass Ji———-“BUT GETTING RID OF TERRORISM ALONE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE COUNTRY. THAT ALONE COULD JUTIFY IGNORING ALL THE SHORTCOMINGS OF RAJAPAKSHA GOVERMENT. “—————————————————————————————————————————————Good, Are you now grateful to Hindia, ………………… and finally to VP who won two elections and one war for Rajabaksas.? ———————————

  • 5
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    We can go on grumbling and complaining for decades more, but nothing will change, till the planting of acolytes of the party high-ups to contest elections is transformed to allow the voters to elect their representatives to the ruling assembly, as in the Canton system of governance prevalent in Switzerland.

  • 6
    1

    ‘I will accept everything you uttered, but getting rid of the Rajapaksas alone is good enough for me and for the betterment of the country. That alone could justify the existence of the present government’. ………………….. The greatest achievement of this government is the repealing of the 18th amendment. ………… For that, every parliamentarian should be rewarded with a Bugatti.

  • 3
    3

    Why were you silent when JR rigged elections, attacked houses of Supreme Court Justices? where were your ideals of this Pro UNP idealism when JR unleashed thugs on opposition rallies? When he rigged a referendum? Where were you when Batalanda happened in the South and Sinhalese were murdered for sometimes just walking on the road during your Premedasa era? Did Gamini D tell you not to write? Or did you benefit from them so much that with a pretension to being a rational objective person all you are doing is carrying a vessel of water for this incompetent regime? Yes there is freedom of expression now, but can that be eaten? MR cannot win again. Everyone knows that, but you deliberately cover up for your UNP buddies from your past? Remember Nuwara Eliya issue when drunken JR men threatened Sirimavo B? Remember rigged elections? Sad to see you pretending to be objective when everyone knows that you are a diehard UNPer who benefited from GD’s largesse. And why not talk about Ravi K’s palatial mansion after he intimidated and bought up all the neighbors plots of land some for below market value by using his minions? Come on men, we were not born yesterday.

    • 6
      0

      You forget that green blood flows through the author.

      Lest we forget, can we remember the slaughter 87-89 lead by UNP (where Ranil was a minister) or the carnage of 83 again led by the UNP (with Ranil as minister)?

      • 1
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        Perriamamaa ,
        Please add the most babarian, uncivilized, shameful event that took place on this soil: burning down the Jaffna library. Ranil was a powerful ministerr. ——Soma

    • 4
      0

      Pola

      “Why were you silent when JR rigged elections, attacked houses of Supreme Court Justices? ……”

      I think the author was not born or a baby maximum he would have been just a kid, when what you said happened. If am not mistaken I have a hint he was born in 1984. So does that answer your question?

      • 0
        0

        NO he was very very active in the UNP with Gamini D. So stop trying to defend this diehard UNPer. Haven’t you noticed how he defends RW and Batalanda?

  • 2
    0

    It seem parliament operate as a corporate entity, violating laws and making profit for its members by robbing its citizens.The constitution protects legislator and not the citizens. The forces and police are given the false impression that they are great people and empowered to punish the citizens anyway they wish but may be they realize too late that they are also the same citizens who are being punished by these criminals after removing the uniform on retirement.

  • 3
    1

    Thank you Vishwamithara for another brilliant write up. In my view this reinforces what Prof H L Seniveratne has been advocating.
    TQ Nimal Fernando for being philosophical unlike Soma’s venom spitting.
    Where is SL smart patriotic Caddy boy (Dr.DJ ) of MR, on the picture ? Is he hiding behind MR’s back carrying towels & water for all ? or is he acting as a soft cushion for MR to sit on ?

    • 2
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      Non PhD: “”Thank you Vishwamithara for another brilliant write up. “”“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” ~John Steinbeck”” it took that school teacher from the village over 2 years to digest that quote provided to him- mulathanni stubborn as a mule like all islanders. Now he has copied pseudo rani style- bloody acrobat/ social engineering in an innovators world. Okkama Horu Copyright infringement patent right infringement- insider trading very lankan tamil- palmyrah cake head.

  • 1
    0

    A power of corruption is accrual of wealth. The wealth is spent to increase the wealth and so it continues

  • 2
    0

    All true but the other side of the coin is the gang led by RW, his old Royalists gang. All are corrupt. One is no better than the other. The UNP and the SLFP are just a different reflection of a deeply corrupt society

  • 2
    0

    The Rajapaksas are unique in Asian history, there has never been such uneducated uncultured scoundrels in office.
    Asian countries have elected actors,generals,professional educated leaders but nothing like our low life who stole the election by bribing the enemy to stop votes for Ranil.
    The filth are still free hoping for impossible return thanks to government cowardice.
    Making us a .laughing stock among foreign missions.

    • 2
      1

      “”The Rajapaksas are unique in Asian history, there has never been such uneducated uncultured scoundrels in office.”” When monkeys fight they scatter dirt; when tigers fight one gets hurt.
      Lanka needed the best Toad like Churchill who could never rule peacetime because horses pull dung carts than go to battle. But his internal development plans were better than today’s begging like JR days. “”Making us a .laughing stock among foreign missions.” When a toad gapes, what a mouth! and what breath!

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