By Emil van der Poorten –
While there is no gainsaying the value of political supporters who fit the category of zealots in most circumstances, there is a “down side” to that equation for the Rajapaksa Regime that has coasted on such support for a long time.
The reason for such myopia would be obvious to anyone who observes the human condition no matter how cursorily.
In the last analysis, the truism that “If we don’t hang together, we will hang separately” is the bedrock of the movement to restore Mahinda Rajapaksa to his throne with all that entails.
There is absolutely no doubt in the minds of any observers of the Sri Lankan political and financial scenes that a very impressive web of absolute corruption has been built in a relatively short time, considering the extent and tensile strength of that web.
That the totality of the siphoning of public funds into private pockets may never be known is something that the very nature of the enterprise would suggest.
“Massive leakage” would be a polite term to describe what has occurred over the last ten years. “Haemorrhaging,” would probably be more accurate terminology. And that embezzlement of public funds has not been confined to any (privileged) stratum of the ruling clique. In colloquial terms, “every mother’s son” has been dipping into the public purse and I am talking here only of simple acquisition of government funds not of the more subtle “commissions” and “santhosams” that accompanied so much as the establishment of contracts, leave alone their execution.
To describe the (illegal) acquisition of the state’s wealth by private individuals as being on an “industrial scale” would not be an overstatement. On a local Pradeshiya Sabha level, I am aware that the most that will be spent on a particular road repair contract would be Rs. 4.7 million. The amount allocated for the purpose? Ten million rupees and this I was told by the Minister who claimed to have moved the funds from his Ministry’s budget specifically for that project. You do the arithmetic, dear reader, and take a guess as to where the “missing” 5.3 million rupees went.
What I have described is at, probably, the lowest strata of representative government in Sri Lanka.
People who are involved in this kind of criminality CANNOT afford a change to the status quo.
The veritable avalanche of objections to the establishment of the Financial Criminal Investigation Department has as its objective the prevention of the establishment of a tribunal, under established administrative and legal process, to deal with extraordinary levels of corruption. That some of the time of this tribunal which should have, logically, devoted its efforts to the larger thefts, was wasted on obvious forgeries and other scandalous (and criminal) conduct on a smaller scale is the unfortunate reality. This was, beyond argument, a very poor use of use of time and effort when there were bigger fish to fry.
The fact that pretty much the entirety of the judiciary had been systematically corrupted to an extent that had made it pretty much non-functional was the reality the Sirisena–Wickremesinghe government inherited and had to face. However, there was a need, identified by some of us, at least, to establish an array of tribunals within the bounds of established jurisprudence to deal with the mountain of illegality that the President elected on January 8th inherited. That did not happen for reasons best known to those who had responsibility to have done precisely that, beginning with Ministers designated with responsibility for “Law and Order,” no less!
Bewailing the fact that the horse is galloping into the sunset after those whose responsibility it was to have the stable door shut and locked is bloody cold comfort for the people of this country whose economic lifeblood has been drained by these political vampires. This is not being wise after the fact because there were many of us who were very specific in suggesting what steps should be taken to avoid this very calamity.
It is beyond dispute that the broad corruption of society and every element of administration and government has been to the detriment of a significant part of this country’s population. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of that state of affairs do have, in comparative terms, critical mass. There have been enough crooks and their hangers-on to have significantly affected the decisions being made on a day-to-day basis in the matter of efforts to cleanse the Augean Stables of 21st Century Sri Lanka. The spread is from the topmost levels of the junta that ran this country up to the 8th of January down to some “catcher” at the Pradeshiya Sabhawa level. Every one of them knows that their days of illegal-cash accumulation might soon come to an end and, perhaps, more important, that there might be a price to pay for past sins. Can you think of a better glue to bind this little army together?
Many of those fighting to stay out of jail have already opened their purses to move bus-loads of people to public meetings in support of the Monarch seeking the return of his Throne. Their “generosity” in this regard is nothing but logical given that it could be a more-than-reasonable price to pay for a “stay out of jail” card and the prospect of losing all their accumulated loot into the bargain! These certainly could be desperate times for these bandits whose greed, in and of itself, would not have reduced their ability to see a rather dim future if they let anything resembling the “due process of law” proceed unhindered.
The surest way to ensure that their futures are not jeopardized would be for this army of crooks to bring back their patron(s). That would not only protect them from the sins of their recent past but have the added bonus of opening new vistas of theft with, perhaps, even greater impunity.
If the citizens of this country do not even now see what the future could well hold for them if they are found wanting in simple common sense, they will have nobody to blame but themselves for a calamity that will make the recent past, replete with butchery of incarcerated prisoners, look like a Sunday school picnic.
The collective Achilles Heel of this horde, however, is the fact that, by their very nature, those at the upper end of the pecking order feed on the smarm of those with a vested interest in maintaining their leaders. It becomes a vicious circle, the bonds of which are established at the expense of an accurate evaluation of the reality as the general population sees it. The miscreants and their hangers-on, perhaps due to some deep-seated psychological need, feed off each other with a “Machang, we are invincible and should not give in to any doubt on that score. Developing strategies that accept the possibility of the broad mass of the population of Sri Lanka wanting its pound of flesh for what we’ve done is nothing but defeatism and must be resisted at all costs.”
Of course there will be lapses, some of them based on established previous practices.
Whenever Sri Lanka was subjected to criticism of any kind, particularly by “the west”, Weerawansa and his buddies would respond in a dozen different ways. Mahinda Rajapaksa would hold up the metaphorically-whetted finger, check the breezes of public opinion and then announce the “official” position.
In a seeming return to that tradition of “covering every base with a different response” came the admission from Mahinda Rajapaksa that he had not only been aware of bribery and corruption among his horde on his watch but that he had knowingly overlooked such conduct. Now this is not some parent admitting that the apple of his or her eye was capable of being naughty. No, this was a clear and unequivocal admission of complicity in crime by one who, by his own admission, maintained files on those nearest and dearest to him politically. Not smart, by a long shot and an admission that has already begun to come back to haunt him thanks to the likes of Rosy Senanayake.
However, slip-ups of this kind are to be expected from those who seek to convince themselves of their invincibility even on the heels of a defeat.
But no matter how repulsive the glue that holds this horde together there is no denying how strong it is by its very nature. Remember, even if they have not heard it, they know, instinctively, that “Those who don’t hang together will hang separately!”