By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 27: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Failed Economy—Bribery and Corruption to Maintain Power
Bribery and corruption thrive at every government institution in Sri Lanka. Regrettably, these corruption schemes continue to be fueled and contributed by bribers in the private and public sectors. They have opted to be silent (i.e., inaction until the Aragalaya started in April 2022) or partner in the crime by giving bribes. Such corrupted attitude(s) not only among politicians and administrators but also among the public must stop with the necessary system change.
Time to stop bribery and corruption
Since the parliamentarians refuse to change the corrupt system they thrive on: it is time for the public to take charge of it and eliminate bribery and corruption from Sri Lanka. Despite pessimistic assertions by many taking heads—pundits (who may also contribute to the problem), eliminating corruption is undoubtedly doable within a year or two if the public takes a firm stand against it for the betterment of Sri Lanka.
Despite the financial insolvency of the country, corruption and looting of the treasury by some politicians in conjunction with senior administrators in the government and corporations continues unabated. Because of the escalated corruption, Sri Lanka is listed near the top among the most corrupt countries, besting some of the traditionally corrupt African countries. Politicians have brought disgrace to our nation. Nevertheless, Sri Lankan politicians do not seem to care. They hardly discussed such in the parliament and failed to devise strategies and laws to prevent such.
Despite the bankruptcy, embezzlement and corruption continue, relentless pilferage of national resources, as the public witnessed multiple food importation scandals, cooking gas-, fertiliser-, fuel and coal- scams, etc. Citizens witnessed these outrageous robberies multiple times in recent months. The question is, which major transaction or tender did not involve fraud? Perhaps none.
Incredibly, these perpetrators have the guts to continue these embezzlement—daylight robberies that no one seems to be able to stop yet. No wonder Sri Lanka became one of the most corrupt countries in the world in a short period. However, this trend can be and must be changed.
Politicians refusing to change corrupt practices
Since corrupt practices are highly profitable, politicians and administrators vigorously resist changes. They are comfortable with the “status quo” and eager to continue the same awful, rotten system—allowing them to continue bribery and other corrupt practices. As a prerequisite, via constitutional amendments, they maintain the lack of independence of the judiciary. Consequently, the vicious cycle continues. The fundamental reason why the president and the ruthless clan use overwhelming force to suppress Aragalaya and arrest and torture youth. They fearmonger the rest of the population to maintain the power at any cost.
In the late 1980s, under the direct charge of the prime minister (now the president), brutal suppression and killing of thousands of youths happened at Batalanda and several other torture camps set up by the police. Interested parties should review the Batalanda Report, which the government put under the carpet. People have the right to expose these and other recent government brutalities to the world: making them available to the public and the World Courts in Hague.
The president and the puppet cabinet have no ideas about how to boost the economy, reverse the economic calamity, and overcome political and financial crises. Therefore, he has turned into what he is familiar with—using “Batalanda tactics” to (ab)use the police to carry out extra-judicial brutalities to suppress the youth uprising. The public sees him as selfish, opportunistic, uncompassionate, and unethical.
The following video is yet another example of the Sri Lankan government using police brutality against unarmed, peaceful protest marches by university students and other citizens. Is this democracy or dictatorship? Why should any foreign countries or entities fund dictators?
Why is it crucial to change the political system in Sri Lanka?
The current president is a classic political failure, no matter how one sees it. Not only did he fail five times as the prime minister, the worst in the history of Sri Lanka for any politician, but he also single-handedly destroyed the United National Party. By doing so, he lost his seat in the last election—a political orphan. Moreover, all indications are that the president, unelected by the public, will miserably fail yet again for the sixth consecutive time.
Citizens must take conscious decisions, and strategic initiatives peacefully reverse this alarming trend to completely change the political system in Sri Lanka. The public must ensure that those who are (and were) responsible for the economic collapse, bribery and pilfering of public funds, and loan premiums out of the country over the years are brought to justice under the new constitution.
The only way to reverse the current disastrous negative trend and looting by politicians is to overhaul the political system and enact a foolproof new constitution for Sri Lanka with zero corruption options. It can be done, and it must be done. Despite political obstructions, collectively, Sri Lankans can do it: how it is achieved is up to the citizens.
Complete failure of the government to solve the economic crisis
In a bankrupt situation, whether a corporation or a country, it must promptly implement austerity measures and other steps to reduce government expenses, increase local income generation, and enhance exports to bring dollars. However, more than eight months have passed, and the government failed to take practical action to reduce its massive and unwarranted expenses.
Examples of the latter include (i.e., reducing the number of over-employed government servants by at least 40%, cancelling unnecessary projects, reversing the loss of income of government-owned and subsidised industries and corporations, rectifying wrongdoings by the Central Bank, plugging pilferage/stealing of public funds, etc. Neither have they implemented policies or plans to kick-start the economy—the supply chain, production, and exports. What they are doing is simply wasting taxpayer funds.
Today’s budget (8.29.2022) proposed by the finance minter, the president himself, offered no real solutions to the economic crisis or attracting foreign exchange. “Much talk with zero action” by the president and ministers—nothing non-political had been offered to protect the poor and the vulnerable! Neither funds were allocated nor provided a mechanism to raise funds (other than the evil desire to print money) to protect the poor. However, the ministers are eager to allocate billions of rupees to construct houses for MPs—a bunch of hypocrites.
Lack of ideas and actions to rescue the economy
The government have failed to devise a single significant, non-destructive plan to sustainably increase exports and government revenue, except for putting the burden on the public by raising taxes and increasing commodity prices by more than 100%. A deplorable set of politicians are pre-occupied with enhancing their perks, building their houses at public expense, bringing laws to protect and legalise their illegally acquired properties (and stolen from the public), spending public funds for self-protection—frightened fowls, and continue to damage the economy and harm the population.
They all should vacate from their elected positions and give them to 60 younger generation MPs (not current parliamentarians) under the new constitution. Even a group of university students can run the country better than the current lot of MPs.
Meanwhile, the mentioned brutality against the public cannot continue. It is time to get international attention—the United Nations Human Rights Commission, The European Commission, the European Parliament, the UK and USA, International Courts in Hague, etc., to put pressure on the current dictatorship, including stopping the potential of killing thousands of youths, as they did in the late 1980s.
Individuals, groups, and societies concerned about the ongoing disasters, brutalities, pilferage by politicians, and the future of Sri Lanka, must write to the mentioned international organisations with facts and figures. Suppose the population does not want to see their family members get killed; they should forget about the minor differences and unite under one umbrella to make the needed permanent change to the political system before it becomes too late.