24 August, 2019

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Prevention Is Better Than Cure Should Apply To Corruption As Well 

By Lacille De Silva

Lacille de Silva

Our representative democracy and bureaucratic organizations need vast changes. Both these are suffering from increasing deficiencies and legitimacy too. It looks as if we are “close to being a failed state”. The country therefore is facing enormous complexities, including major governance issues. It is all because the country has been captured by a strong group of paranoid political elites belonging to all parties. They have amassed excessive wealth and resources illegally having defrauded public funds running into millions, billions and trillions. 

Such ill-gotten monies are being used unethically and hungrily to defend and prevent any rival elites, with good leadership qualities, taking over governance. The prescription essentially involves insulating institutions from corrupt politicos and strengthening democratic practices and forces. In Aristotelian terms, I quote – “the good leader must have ethos, pathos and logos. The ethos is his moral character, the source of his ability to persuade.  The pathos is his ability to touch feelings, to move people emotionally. The logos is his ability to give solid reasons for an action, to move people intellectually”. 

We have experienced that almost all the elected representatives invest millions and billions to get elected to representative institutions, including Parliament. It is because they want power by fair means or foul. The concern is that the system is dominated by organized and powerful people who do not want to adopt methods to deal with the problem of fraud, restrict opportunity, and limit the ability for potential fraudsters to commit deliberate acts of fraud.  

They also do not introduce deterrent techniques, policies, procedures and controls and activities such as training and fraud awareness to stop fraud from occurring. According to KPMG survey carried out sometime back,  a majority of public sector institutions have not recovered their stolen assets. It has been found that it is preferable to try to prevent loss from occurring in the first place. The old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ certainly applies to fraud as well. 

Professor Ian Robertson had also stated that “The longer the politicians are in power they are more likely to abuse it”.  I quote- “The artefacts around democracy were invented- such as judiciary, and a free press – because it was observed that leaders often went off the rails and above the law, seeing themselves as special once they gain power”.  In Sri Lanka too, we have seen politicians who have gone off the track very long for decades. Cases that had been detected have not been duly investigated. The perpetrators do not take the law seriously. They commit such crimes audaciously, without batting an eye-lid, one after the other. 

All of them lack moral integrity, which is the most valuable and respected quality of good leaders. Impunity therefore was a creation of all those corrupt politicos who held power since 1970s. Robertson, a Professor of Psychology, Trinity College, Dublin had studied political figures and in his research he had found I quote – “Power can go to some people’s heads and change the way their brain functions – their personality changes, they have a loss of empathy, they are more narcissistic – and are increasingly of the opinion that without them, everything will fall apart”.    

In Sri Lanka too, as Professor Robertson says, power has gone to their heads. He has added that longer they are in power, they are more likely to abuse it.  They have thereby failed to understand public sentiment, I quote – “With public sentiment nothing can fail: without it, nothing can succeed.  Consequently,  he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who can enact statutes or pronounces decisions” – Abraham Lincoln. 

Constitutional experts believe that one of the greatest contributions of the United States Constitution, and perhaps, the most influential section of the US Constitution is its preamble. Let me therefore draw your attention to the preamble of our Constitution, I quote – “The People of Sri Lanka…..and having solemnly resolved by the grant of such Mandate and the confidence reposed in their said Representatives who were elected by an overwhelming majority, to constitute SRI LANKA into a DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC whilst ratifying the immutable republican principles of REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY and assuring to all People’s FREEDOM, EQUALITY,JUSTICE, FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS and the INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY as the intangible heritage that guarantees the dignity and well-being of succeeding generations of the people of SRI LANKA and of all the People of the world, who come to share with generations the effort of working for the creation and preservation of a JUST AND FREE SOCIETY:

WE, THE FREELY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA, in pursuance of such mandate, humbly acknowledging our obligations to our people and gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain and preserve their rights and privileges so that the Dignity and Freedom of the individual may be assured, Just Social, Economic, Cultural order attained, the Unity of the country restored, and concord established with other Nations, do hereby adopt and enact this CONSTITUTION as the SUPREME LAW of the DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA”.      

Preambles, the world over, often outlines a country’s fundamental goals. The preamble to the Constitution of Japan emphatically states that they are peace-loving, I quote – “Never again shall we be visited  with the horrors of war… desire peace for all the time”.  Preambles therefore contain statements about the constitutional philosophy, future aspirations, commitment to resolve disputes by peaceful means and many more.   

Our leaders, since 1970s have been unethical. It is heartening that the Supreme Court had however ruled unanimously that President Maithreepala Sirisena’s order to dissolve Parliament and hold parliamentary elections is unconstitutional. This is a historic unparalleled judgement. It is the first time in Sri Lanka that an act, purported to be a constitutional prerogative, has been quashed, by the Supreme Court. It is primarily because the 19th Amendment paved the way for removal of full immunity of an incumbent President. 

It is also alleged that Jayampathy Wickremaratna had crafted the relevant Amendment, I quote – “with the support from Ranil’s office, without the involvement of other political parties”- Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha. It proved that Ranil Wickremasinghe succeeded in amending the Constitution to fulfil his needs, perhaps only because he was well aware that he is not electable if he contests Presidential elections. 

Why is that RW and Jayampathy did not take steps to suitably amend the electoral system and the need to reduce the composition of Parliament almost by half, which are the root causes of all these problems? Under the present preferential system, all candidates spend millions to get elected from the district. They are fully well aware that the people had to carry a huge burden having devolved powers to provincial councils under the 13th Amendment. Due to all these, poverty is increasing and 42% of the population live below the poverty line. It could be predicted that this situation will become even worse. 

Their priority should have been to replace a top heavy government and avoid political misadventures by addressing the burning issues, i.e., (1) to reform the public sector overall to achieve all sustainable goals (2) to identify necessary economic reforms to strengthen the economy (3) to increase employment opportunities etc., to minimize rising inequalities(4) to address burning issues such as rising cost of living (5) to introduce ways and means to minimize corruption, abuse of power, waste etc., 

In my view, the malaise is all due to the political culture and fragile  foundations. It is awfully distressing to understand how one of the oldest democracies in the world has been totally destroyed including  the rule of law. We are therefore unable to govern the governors. As such we are subject to free rein, which is arbitrary, capricious and brutal.  They do not promote rule of law, after having pledged to the constituents and having got a mandate for the purpose. They act in subtle ways doing everything possible to unplug the concept of rule of law to achieve their  self-seeking agenda. 

We had plenty of elected representatives and public servants, in early 70s,  who always respected the Constitution, all formal laws, unwritten rules and norms. They disliked the abuses of power. They ensured that they served the country for the public good and not for personal financial benefit or gain.  They protected the citizens from arbitrary and unfair government action. At present, without such public officers, the entire government machinery has now become a chaotic garb.   

It is sad that Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister had forwarded a list of names exceeding the Constitutional restriction that the Cabinet should not exceed thirty under any circumstances – I quote: Article 46 (1) The total number of Ministers shall not exceed thirty; and (b) Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy Ministers shall not, in the aggregate, exceed forty.  It is pertinent to mention that all those State Ministers were introduced during Premadasa rein. It was no doubt a violation of the Constitution, since there was no such category or provision in the Constitution at that time.  

The authorities have now craftily introduced two categories, i.e. Ministers who are not in the Cabinet (now known as State Ministers) and Deputy Ministers, when in fact both categories are naturally holding ministerial posts who are not members of the Cabinet Minister. All what they want is to give constitutionality to accommodate greedy politicos. Dr. Harsha de Silva who is now a State Minister said that there is hardly any difference between a Cabinet Minister and a so called State Minister.

Furthermore, it is frightening that RW, the PM, has included the names of several politicians, as Cabinet Ministers, who have been utterly corrupt and accused of serious corruption issues.  Ravi Karunayake, as we are aware, was one minister  who had been compelled to resign over numerous allegations. He too had been re-appointed once again without taking legal action against him.  In short, time and again a number of them in the present Cabinet have committed frauds and have abused their positions for personal gain.  They have been re-issued with another licence to commit further frauds and financial crimes.  They therefore show no interest at all to establish rule of law and good governance,  except for a rhetorical comment in that regard. 

Owing to these problems, there is destructive and counter -productive  conduct, theft, fraud, sabotage, anger, frustration, despondency, pessimism and aggression. In addition, how did political tribalism come about in Sri Lanka?  It began, in my view, a several decades ago, when SWRD Bandaranaike broke away from the UNP camp and formed the SLFP with a view to promote his own vision. SWRD was a leader who was subsequently assassinated by the very same forces.  

JR Jayewardene during his election campaign in 1977,  appealed to the nation, I quote – “Give me 120 good men and I assure you we will fulfil our pledges…if we fail you, you are at perfect liberty to vote us out anytime”. The people trusted the then UNP leadership and overwhelmingly voted and elected the UNP regime with an unprecedented mandate with 139 seats in a 168 member Parliament and gave not only a two-thirds but a five sixth’s majority as well, which was the finest ever victory ever secured by any party since independence.

JRJ used the mandate he received to enact the law and called himself the first “elected” President, without being elected to the post.  JRJ had stated  – such an executive is a strong executive, seated in power for a fixed number of years, not subject to the whims and fancies of an elected legislature, not afraid to take correct but unpopular decisions because of censure from its parliamentary party.  This seems to me a very necessary requirement in a developing country faced with grave problems such as we are faced today”.  

Steps had been accordingly taken to transform the system of governance from a Westminster-style parliamentary system to an executive presidential system, which had finally paved the way for a weak Parliament.  Under the previous Constitutions (Soulbury (1947)/Republican (1972)), the Executive had been made answerable and accountable to the Parliament,  which JRJ had wanted changed. A brand new Constitution was thereafter enacted once again to consolidate the presidential system in 1978. Executive President was deceptively made answerable to the Parliament constitutionally, which realistically never happens to-date. An impeachment procedure too had been introduced to remove the President. Dr. N.M. Perera had argued that the “impeachment procedure was a near impossibility in practice”.  Hence, crafting a strategy for ending lawlessness and establishing rule of law is a herculean task.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    I believe the cure is the name of our nation. Democratic socialist republic of Sri Lanka.

    Democracy will ensure that the majority will rule.

    Socialist system will definitely take care of the poor and the weak. It will also strengthen the government industries.

    Idea republic, will ensure that the decision is a joint one in the correct direction.

    After the cure, to stabilize and prevent another disaster, we need to strengthen our export industry.

    All the rest will fall in place, when all of us together ensure the basic human needs to every Sri Lankan.

    • 5
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      Corruption is inevitable so long human race would not be replaced with its genetics. That they have written in their genes.
      :
      I have no doubt GMO pioneers of MONSANTO nature companties would work on that in the decades to come.
      :
      Until then the struggle would be there- while highly corrupted POLITICIANs would abuse their own folks to the core.
      :
      Lately, I happened to watch a STUNNING YT video on former presidents sitting and standing one another on an one single row – and listened to eulogy held by Bush Junior , looked to the world so peaceful and exemplary.
      Can our politicians behave so politely and decently today or were they ever be able to do so in the past ? Never.
      :
      Non of US former presidents constantly fought for grabbing power after they rendered their 1 oer two terms. They knew the rest of their times would be precious to invest for the WELFARE work of the masses but in volutary means. President CARTER and CLINTON have yet been doing it to the letter. :
      .
      But compared to them our former powerful President has still been worrying and ,making effort to come back and grab the power. He has been making world laugh on and on, his perks allocated to him could better be used for the destitute in the country, has he ever done so ? no instead he is seen in pseudo visits being made to temples. Whose money has he been abusing this way, ? where has his SO CALLED PATRIOTISM been ? There are impoverished masses in this country but politicians live their luxurious life styles. Rajajpakshes are more than any other presidents in this country. :

    • 5
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      Lucille De Silvs,

      Yes. Yes prevention is better than cure. That is why known criminals are put behind bars and kept there. The problem we have is that the political criminals are NOT put behind bars, and they roam freely causing more damage. Examples.

      Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Thor numerous cronies

      Ravi Penthouse and numerous cronies,

      Sirisena and numerous cronies

      Why are they Bove the Law?

  • 6
    0

    Lacille,

    A very well written and thought-through piece! Refreshingly different ……… Rare in Lankan journalism these days.

    In IQ stakes ( and perhaps morals/ethics as well ) …….. You’re in the top 0.0001 percentile of Lankans …….. the rest 99.999 is the worry


    PS Nice to have you back; thought the Parisian night life had taken a toll on you! :))

    • 1
      0

      Thank you so much my friend. Trying so hard to send the correct message to our fellow Lankans. I still believe we could make it.

      • 0
        0

        Lacille,

        “I still believe we could make it.”

        I wish I could share your optimism.

        But what we can do ( and perhaps doing ) ……. in our small way …….. is to help usher Lanka into the post-gullible age/era


        We might be in the first or second year of a 2500-year journey …………..

  • 4
    0

    You say Corruption started with JRJ, I say it was there from the time of independence. JRJ mastered it into an art. Later during MR era criminality was added to it and now what you have is what you see. Most of Lankan politicians now are corrupt, criminal and racist.Also just a reminder , the major players have been in politics, almost since JRJ times. RW, MS and MR together have almost more than 150 years of politics/corruption.

    • 1
      3

      MODA CHIV: corruptions can not be stopped full 100%. but, the institutionallized corruption began since 1977. Now, it is legalized. Every politician does because of that there is a competition for power. Politicial decision taking can be carried out even by a child, Actor, actress or any one. Administrative decisions should ba carried out by educated. In Srilanka, everything is carredout by politiciand who do not have such knowledge. But, People say UNp or SLFP. Why do we need different colours to developa village or township. The whole wide USA is headed by the PResiden and the cabinet. See how Sri lanka. All 225 are experts. Experts, even after the education and experience are just slaves.

  • 3
    0

    Cure????? I do not see any signs of it. In countries where a politician is found to be corrupted, at least the individual may face a hearing (if not punished), In Lanka they get elected/ re elected as PM and Presidents. Mind you this is facilitated by so called democratic elections where bigoted public vote and elect these criminals. Lucille, sorry to say this in medical language is called as Metastasis (in cancer- spread to other sites), sepsis(in case of infection ) and multi organ failure (in general when out look is bad). In psychology this is called as co dependence where patient and care giver are in denial or unhealthy and enabling each others sickness. You can pick what ever term you like but definitely it is not the sign of cure/prevention. Irony is that even few fortunate countries who claim to be corruption free has at least one politician who was punished for the offence. Where as In Lankan political which is known only for corruption there is none quote. That goes to show as a country how dysfunctional and broken down are we.

  • 2
    0

    Lacille de Silva ~ “Prevention Is Better Than Cure Should Apply To Corruption As Well”
    Sorry Lacille. We are well past the stage of preventing corruption. We have to look for a cure.
    The divines have been bribed into silence – Hindu through visits and offerings, Buddhist through Benzs to local representatives, Christian ask for example Arundika Fernando, Islam through ACJU & MMDA1950.
    Can we, layLankans, find a cure?
    .
    We cannot replace the two bad teams vying for the reins of GoSL. But there is a silver lining. During the last four years or so corruption is freely discussed. We must use this freedom while we can.
    Then we must hope that the teams clean themselves.

  • 1
    0

    JD if I answer to your comment there will not be any difference between you and me.Also I noticed no one is anymore responding to your incoherent comments. Time to learn from others.

  • 0
    0

    You mean “Prevention Is Better Than Cooray?” Who is this Cooray you are talking about?

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