1 March, 2024


Snivelling Won’t Combat Corruption; Are We Waiting For Sri Lanka’s Nelson Mandela? 

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The constant refrain in the press and in political circles is that nothing will come right and nothing can be done in Sri Lanka unless corruption is eliminated. “Aiyoo no hope for Lanka till corruption is eliminated”, “Corruption is endemic in this country”, “It is an incurable disease”. This is the refrain of people who moan, grouse and propose no concrete programme. Does Buddhism’s “All life is suffering” (dukkha) encourage this? I agree that the grouse is not without reason and I have seen hundreds if not thousands of published and spoken and curses. But what concrete programme do they propose as a practical way out? They are “ubiquitous scolders” as I call them waiting for a saviour, waiting for our Nelson Mandela to come down from the clouds and lead them to salvation?  What if Madiba is busy breaking rocks in Robben Island and his visit to our shores is much delayed? 

To quote more comments: “Having suffered corrupt governments, for so long an incorrupt one is the clarion call of the day”; “The masses are enduring economic hardships and seem to have made up their minds about a change of government. Whether it’s going include system change I don’t’ know”; “President Wickremesinghe (RW hereafter) is soiled by association with the Rajapaksa clique and for retaining corrupt Ministers in his Cabinet”; “Fraudsters that have been crowding the Rajapaksa-regimes are still in the Cabinet. IMF monitoring or not, there is no way fraudsters can become saints”; “RW does not have the aptitude to run a disciplined outfit”. This is all true but in addition to snivelling we surely need to intervene with concrete programmes? Snivelling alone won’t do.

Yes, protest movements and militant campaigns have achieved a lot elsewhere. That’s the lesson from other theatres. For example, the campaign against the $5 billion to $6 billion Husky Project, the West Coast Project and Pike In-Situ Project in Canada delayed or cancelled projects. Much larger, tens of-billion-dollar gas and oil projects are on the move for 2022-30; Gazprom, Russia ($139 billion), Exon-Mobil ($84 billion) and Chevron ($67 billion) both US, Qatar Energy ($66 billion) and Saudi Aramco ($62 billion)) both Middle East, Total ($62 billion) and Petrobras ($60 billon) are on the drawing board. The total planned long-term spending on gas and oil projects together can be found on web sources, for example globalwitness.org. They can be disrupted or delayed. That’s lesson one to learn from elsewhere.

What protest movements have achieved is very significant; economic and social and moral. If protest and mobilisation delay a project by a few years it makes the project-financiers very nervous. A one- or two-year delay in a tens of billion-dollar or a five or six-billion-dollar project can entail a loss of hundreds of millions and may even lead to cancellation. The setback is not only financial. Often such activity involves mobilisation of indigenous peoples whose lands are threatened and this sparks wider social movements in the population at large.  This is the second gain.

Thirdly there is the moral impact on young people. Earthrise is a powerful force driven largely by young people in all parts of the of the world. I wrote about this in my piece about “1848 – year of revolutions?” The aim of radical young people is to reverse climate change and prevent ecological disaster. This is a palpably political movement. The Island of Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Marshal Islands, Seychelles and Tavalu, to mention just five, will disappear under the sea within four decades whatever we do now. Dozens more will vanish if continued carbon dioxide emission is not reversed at once. Hence there are moral and economic imperatives; the same time the islander’s fears are existential. Thanha in polluting countries for more-and-more is clearly moral, but so is capitalism’s need for ever expanding markets. 

Do not say capitalism cares only about almighty dollars and has no morality. It’s more complicated and that’s the reason I brought in young people. Your daughter or granddaughter may be charged with a sense of moral justice. Try ignoring it and you will precipitate a family crisis and a sense of moral betrayal. My daughter and granddaughter are not persons whose moral opprobrium I will dare provoke! The point therefore is this; fighting social injustice works in three ways, all significant. It can impose costs on project investors, that is it can hurt them where it hurts the most, the pocket. Secondly, injustice can mobilise wide social segments in defence of the poor and indigenous people and minorities. And third, do not ignore the moral dimension, it can get fired up in unexpected ways. Remember that climate change and social injustice are two concerns that can ignite youth worldwide. “Earthrise”, the glorious photo of the Blue Planet made by the Apolo-11 astronaut’s on July 20 1969 has fired up the young everywhere. 

However, the problem is that some governments are backtracking. For example, China the world’s largest polluter seems to have backed out of its zero-pollution commitment and will go ahead with massive coal fired power projects. The reason is a big slowdown in economic growth due to electricity shortages. Though to be fair I grant that I have seen tens of thousands of wind farms spread out across huge land expanses. In Europe environmentalist are getting goose pimples about floating wind turbines out at sea which can be towed from location to location depending on the wind regimen. One can in summary say that the commitment to combating climate change is a mixed picture.

To move on from the economic to the political dimension, the problem is that illiberal, or sometimes frankly dictatorial minded rulers win lawfully free and fair elections, sometimes by thumping majorities as with Victor Oban in Hungary and Enrique Peña Nieto the previous president of Mexico, or at least by moderate margins (India’s Modi and Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa). What this means is that the masses are complicit in the process of undermining democracy. It may indeed be the case that these leaders “mislead” them by appeals to nationalism, extremist slogans and populism (aren’t we ever so familiar with all that) but the fact remains that the people themselves are very much part of the process of ruining democracy. Democracy in such cases is itself self-destructive and uncritical idealisation of liberalism is thoughtless.   

Aren’t anti-corruption and anti-fraud much the same in practice? In Lanka at this time Ministers and Parliamentarians outside the National People’s Power (NPP) are coprophagous and apply themselves only to their own benefits. Anura Kumara may have the drive, desire and discipline but it has to go hand in hand with a comprehensive plan of national economic development. It’s a game for big boys and he needs he needs the flexibility to play in this arena. The NPP has its work cut out for it. 

The international scenario is that the period before us will be defined by a broadening effort to find work-arounds and substitutes for reliance on the dollar and dependence on the United States. A recent example is the proliferation of Chinese currency swap arrangements, including the unprecedentedly large swap contract that was just been made between China and the European Union. 

Another is the ongoing effort to forestall the extraterritorial effort to prohibit trade with Iran using U.S. laws and by avoiding dollar settlement or the New York-based U.S. banking system.  Trade settlements in currencies other than the dollar are growing, with use of the yuan rising especially rapidly.  China’s emergence as the world’s biggest oil importer has boosted its attempt to buy oil in its own currency rather than dollars. The euro’s difficulties temporarily scared off those trying to stitch together new, plurilateral currency arrangements;  but these efforts are resuming among groupings as diverse as ASEAN, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Union of South American Nations, the West African Monetary Zone, and the so-called BRICS”  Given widening fears of overdependence on the dollar, there will be others yet undeclared who will explore these avenues. This is the background against which the NPP needs to formulate its programme.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    “there is no way fraudsters can become saints“
    Hope the current lot of “CROOKED” ones prove that isn’t true by returning the wealth stolen from National Coffers voluntarily and if they openly declare all the illegal activities they have committed so far.

  • 5

    SL needs to tackle it’s ETHNIC issue first and foremost before thinking of any other issues facing the Sri Lankans. Secondly it’s important to apply law and order equally to all the citizens of the country. Thirdly, there should be a change in the current educational system. There are too many International Schools that produce candidates to sit for overseas exams in order to gain foreign universities admissions. When they graduate they find jobs overseas and there is no gain for the Motherland.
    Fourthly, promoting of ethnic or religious hatred should be banned.
    We need a new constitution passed ASAP in order to build a strong foundation for FULL RECOVERY

  • 3

    We need a new constitution in order to get civilised educated clean people elected to the parliament.
    If we can’t analyse the causes of current pathetic state of the country, how can we solve the issues to THRIVE

  • 6

    “Trade settlements in currencies other than the dollar are growing, with use of the Yuan rising especially rapidly. China’s emergence as the world’s biggest oil importer has boosted its attempt to buy oil in its own currency rather than dollars.”

    America’s pre-eminence is slowly slip sliding away. Good ol’ Donald aided the process in no small measure: most other times or anyone else would’ve been quickly branded a traitor but unlike before most Yanks bought into it. Donald was a godsend for China ……… and Putin …….. to hasten the demise.

    American corporate greed aided the Chinese to come up to speed in most areas ……. the Chinese are screwing the Yanks in more ways than one.

    Check out the prices of Nordost HiFi cables ….. https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/nordost-introduces-new-supreme-reference-cable-range-odin-gold/

    “The retail price is $54,999.99 for a 1.5 meter length; additional half meter stereo increments are $8,000.00.”

    I bought Chinese clones for a couple of hundreds ……. no difference in sound: the exact same sound. ……. Long live Mao, Deng x Ping, Xi Jinping, Ping Pong, Confucius, Fu Man Chu, Bruce Lee, Gong Li, ……….

    Death to Native.

    • 1

      Death to Native.
      Over my dead body.
      I very much care for him and his health.

    • 1

      I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry, reading Nordost’s snake-oil salesmanship. Gota should hire the writer.

      • 2


        Don’t ask me why but some cables make a difference. But no difference is worth that much of money; well, unless it’s a blue-eyed sun-bronzed Lankan blonde. :))

        Nordost cables are very good: makes a big difference to the sound. I have some of their older ones which were not so expensive. Then the prices started going crazy. No cable is worth that much. The Chinese make a pretty good clone. I am testing them now and I’m pretty impressed.

        In one room I have Yamaha NS-1000M speakers: one of the best speakers – if not the best – I’ve ever heard. But very hard to get all the partnering rig right as they are so revealing. Their beryllium twitter and the mid domes can be ear bleeders with some gear and cables. The speaker cables I’ve used for a long time are from an obscure maker that are made out of pretty inflexible solid copper tubes and they tame the beryllium drivers very well. The Chinese Nordost clones come pretty close and better them in some areas.

        https://www.hifinews.com/content/yamaha-ns-1000m-loudspeakers …… https://audionostalgia.co.uk/yamaha-ns-1000-m-review/ …… https://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/yamaha_ns1000m_active_e.html

  • 3

    “IMF monitoring or not, there is no way fraudsters can become saints”; “RW does not have the aptitude to run a disciplined outfit”. This is all true but in addition to snivelling we surely need to intervene with concrete programmes? Snivelling alone won’t do.”
    Many are the snivelling experts, including the ones calling for a nebulous “system change”. This “system change” is turning out to be like Schrödinger’s cat. From LG elections, bloody revolution, genuine Buddhism, constitutional tinkering (!), all mutually incompatible. The gall of politicians and the gullibility of people is astounding. Look at the recent claim by a known fixer that another fixer took 250 million dollars to bury a claim of 6 BILLION dollars. Wow!
    My theory is that the very people who snivel about corruption will be the first to grumble when they can’t jump a passport queue, have to pay a traffic fine, or have to pay customs duties. It’s our culture.

  • 0

    Are we waiting for Sri Lanka’s Nelson Mandela?
    Good question, & Snivelling Won’t Combat Corruption either. As far as I am aware, only the JVP/NPP talks about ending corruption but didn’t GR also talked tough about reforming corrupt govt. institutions at the beginning? Even Mandela’s party & his wife were deep in corruption, so I doubt even a SL Mandela could start the ball rolling in combating corruption unless supported by a similar civic minded team, & forming such a team is mission impossible. Still, an honest leader with integrity would be an inspiration, particularly, to aspiring younger politicians, & I am sure there may be a few such people in civil society.
    Karu J is such a person but his age may be considered a hindrance. However, if Charles can be crowned king in his twilight years & Biden elected to run (arguably) the most powerful nation at a similar age, why not Karu, preferably, aided by civic minded people like Nagananda K?

  • 3

    “They are “ubiquitous scolders” as I call them waiting for a saviour, waiting for our Nelson Mandela to come down from the clouds and lead them to salvation?”
    What for?
    What did the ‘old’ Nelson M do for his people?
    He and the ANC sold out to the mining multinationals. (Some claim as part of a release package).
    What a sellout it was.
    I am sure that the author has heard of Patrick Bond if not read some of his brilliant articles on post-apartheid South Africa.

  • 3

    “President Wickremesinghe (RW hereafter) is soiled by association with the Rajapaksa clique and for retaining corrupt Ministers in his Cabinet”; “Fraudsters that have been crowding the Rajapaksa-regimes are still in the Cabinet.”
    RW is not soiled by Rajapaksas, but his style is different. His style is passive. Do you think that he bought Karuna amman free of charge? What about Bond scam by his best friend? He is very close with Rajapaksas and both are greedy of power directly and money indirectly.

  • 2

    I get the impression that the “leftist” spirit in Prof. Kum propels to advocate “protests” as a solution to corruption. The positive virtue of protests is that it can drive a massive public opinion against corruption. But will that alone help it? Corruption may lull a bit during the crescendo of the protests. After that? Will it be back to square one? Strong laws such as public hangings, beheading, chopping off limbs and whipping at least 20 lashes in the Galle Face? Even in countries where one is stoned to death for adultery its takes place unabated but the detection of it is low. The trick of the trade is that along with a massive public opinion campaign (protests if one calls it) the “productivity” of the bureaucracy must be increased with proper HR policies so that a slimmer staff with a much higher pay packet can be one of the major factors in driving a wedge between the bureaucracy and the politician united in plundering the nation. Yet another is to hold the bureaucrat accountable in courts instead of the politician.

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