By W. Vishnu Gupta –
It is alleged that our politicians have been siphoning money off the national treasury or from coffers belonging to the people during the better part of the last seven decades. The voters have resigned to accept that there is an unwritten law in the country, that explicitly licensed the politicians and their cronies to embezzle the national wealth. The judiciary system or the bribery commission established by the very same thieves who have made a career practice out of money laundering, have indirectly participated, and blessed the larceny executed by the vile men and women in politics. Billions were spent on probing the recent central bank bond scam by another pseudo-Investigation commission; a nicely orchestrated media show just to appease voters of Sri Lanka. As expected, rule of law has miserably failed to punish the culprits and to recover the losses to the nation.
Likewise, the revelations of pandora papers, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) of Washington DC, last week is just a tip of the iceberg, the alleged financial transactions attributed to Nirupama Rajapaksa and Thirukumar Nadesan are not different from that of all other bandits in the political establishment, the country has been suffocating due to the illegal activities of the politicians of Sri Lanka especially since 1977. Those who came to the parliament carrying few rags in suitcases have become extremely wealthy, some are alleged to have acquired mansions and villas in the UK, USA, Australia, Singapore, and Dubai. The pandora papers are not different from the exposés in the book titled “Chaura Rajina” or the Bandit Queen authored by Victor Ivan. It is strange no pseudo commission was appointed to investigate the allegations made in the “Bandit Queen.”
Maithripala’s Claim in November 2016
In 2016, Maithripala Sirisena revealed in Galle that there has been a grand theft in the administration of then government.
“Ape Hamuduruwane, yesterday I received a file from the Treasury. In the file it states that, in your neighbouring district of Matara, an agreement had been signed by the government with a Chinese company for the Nilwala Ganga Project in 2012. A cheque for a sum of Rs 1,000 million had been given by the Finance Minister in 2012 for work on this project. You may remember that the past presidential election was held on 8 January.
On 7 January 2015, the Treasury issued a second cheque for the Nilwala River Project. Hamuduruwane it was for 3,012 million rupees. In 2012, Rs 1,000 million was given. Prior to the presidential election, on 7 January 2015, a cheque for Rs 3,012 million was issued. The total is Rs 4,012 million. Was 7 January 2015 a day that work was done at the Ministry? Which Ministry was working on that day! Which government office worked on that day?”- By Bandara (Ceylon Today)
We all know who the ministers and secretaries were responsible for the above reported financial transactions and a few days back Anura Kumara Dissanayake jokingly referred to this affair in the parliament. Obviously from the nonchalant response received in the parliament from the MP’s and SLPP stalwarts, it appears according to the politicians there is nothing extra ordinary about the missing Rs. 4,012 million. It is a normal occurrence, and the politicians of all shades are telling the citizens either put up or shut up. The abandoned lot, the citizens neglected by the nation have put up with the hunger, misery, hopelessness, and humiliation since 1948. However, are they willing to shut up forever, despite the Covid-19 restrictions the farmers, teachers, fishermen and trade unions have thronged the streets to express their discontent and challenged the government and authorities. The global community is silently watching the evolving situation in Sri Lanka, and the politicians in power should think twice about their vile policies and practices. The government must get their priorities in order, most of the citizens abandoned by the nation, expect to feed their children, educate, and clothe them. The construction of jogging tracks, selling national assets, and feeding the political cohorts at the expense of taxpayers are not in the priority list of the people especially the abandoned ones.
The public authorities responsible indirectly or directly for sustaining and promote the “put up policy” advocated by every government of last seven decades must pay serious attention to emerging discontent of the people. The investigations into the financial crimes must be credible, swift, and authentic, they should investigate the financial frauds alleged to have committed by various politicians and their personally appointed administrative stooges. Regrettably, most if not all public authorities in Sri Lanka are not credible and authentic as the higher echelons are filled with the political cronies. It is claimed that our politicians have been stealing our wealth with impunity because they are supported by equally corrupt political administrative flunkies and very powerful handlers linked to public media dens plus unethical business corporations. Judging by a comment made by Victor Ivan, the judiciary system also seem to be very docile in Sri Lanka, In an article published in FT, referring to the acquittal of large number of political honchos accused to have committed financial frauds he said “In this backdrop, the Government has no legal or moral right to prosecute and punish any person who has committed any offense, no matter how grave it is.” Lack of rule of law is the underpinning principle of any uncivilized nation, those countries are destined to be failed and bankrupt.
The Gift of Gab is the only lifeline
Some politicians have used their ability to speak and entertain masses effectively to remain in politics, there are many in the Sri Lankan parliament as it is the only qualification to enter politics, hoodwink and bilk the nation’s treasury directly or indirectly. In a recent TV debate, a leading politician of the country emphasized that Ceylon Petroleum Corporation belongs to the government which is true under the state enterprise by Act. No. 28 of 1961 passed in the parliament. However, he failed to mention that citizens are the shareholders of this public corporation and the government represent the interests of the citizens. Hence when a major decision is made especially affecting the citizens’ security, welfare, and the sovereignty, it is necessary that the government obtain the approval of all if not majority stakeholders (Citizens, Employees, Suppliers) prior to implementing such decisions. CPC is a legal entity and (it should be given all privileges accorded to a “person”) neither the politicians, nor the cabinet of ministers nor the president own the CPC. It has been reported that CPC acquired Trincomalee Oil Tank facilities from the UK in 1960’s. Furthermore, the Committee on Public Enterprises, the audit committee of the parliament has informed the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation in 2017 to acquire the oil tanks situated in the Trincomalee Harbour as the Memorandum of Understanding between the IOC and CEYPETCO is not valid. It was astonishing to note that the above politician with the gift of gab was insisting that Trincomalee Oil tank farm belongs to India. It seems this politician have become one of the international salesmen and made every attempt to pull the wool over eyes of the citizens of Sri Lanka. The present regime does not owe any favors to the people but they legally obliged to consult the stakeholders of every public corporation before auctioning, leasing, or selling the national assets such as ports, oil tank farms, buildings, agricultural lands, and the high security zones coming under the management of said corporations. The government actions can be challenged by the future generations if not by the next government under the international commerce law. Hence all foreign entities vying to acquire a piece of Sri Lanka, a sovereign nation must be cautious about the deals proposed by the international salesmen in the government.
The Common Denominator
The recent scams linked to imports of sugar, medical equipment, cooking oil, garlic in addition to banning of chemical fertilizer, sale or lease of national assets, the serious grievances of farmers and fishermen, loss of data at NMRA, release of elephants from custody, delay in ordering of the Covid-19 vaccines, and pandora revelations, all these cases have a common denominator defined by the leading politicians aided by crooked administrative officers and sustained by unethical businessmen. It is corruption; a behavior which deviates from the duties of a public role because of private pecuniary gains. It includes bribery, nepotism, and misappropriation.
The present GOSL must analyze carefully the consequences running roughshod over the very same people voted them into power to camouflage the failed policies that affects the nation. Simply put, the sovereignty of the nation is the most powerful legal instrument in the possession of citizens, and it does not belong either to the executive, legislature, or the judiciary branch of the government. All politicians and the inept judiciary mechanism must be reminded of the fact that the GOSL has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in March of 2003 on behalf of the sovereign nation of Sri Lanka. The speeches made with no constituents and credibility in various forums are not considered of any value to the sovereignty held by the citizens of the country. Thanks to social media and ICIJ findings, though it is minute, alleged dubious financial activities of our politicians and related corruption is the biggest threat to our sovereignty, security, and the survival. The last seven decades remind us of the story; the “naked king.” It seems we have had only naked kings and a naked queen since 1977.