Naming and Shaming the Corrupt
Corruption takes its toll not only on a country's economy but also on its very social fabric, causing things to fall apart, if left unaddressed. Therefore, it is only natural that the civic-minded people have risen against governments both here and overseas demanding tough anti-graft laws.
UNP National List MP Harsha de Silva has told The Sunday Island (of Sept. 04) that the corrupt must be named and shamed in this country. Yes, it should be done, but much more stringent action is called for if we are to tackle the vexed problem effectively.
The corrupt may be named but their hides are so thick that it is well-nigh impossible to shame them, we reckon. They have no sense of shame, to begin with. How can one shame the shameless? Look at the present-day parliamentarians. They draw fat salaries and attractive pensions paid with poor people's money and enjoy various perks such as duty free vehicle permits, soft loans (to be paid back in ludicrously low installments), free fuel, foreign junkets, heavily subsidised food at the parliamentary canteen and the like, but it is not infrequently that the House has to be adjourned for want of a quorum. If a public employee is found guilty of such dereliction of duty, he or she has to undergo severe punishment. But, the lawmakers, by virtue of their privileges, go scot free and public funds to the tune of millions of rupees spent on maintaining Parliament go down the gurgler without MPs to take part in debates. In Sept, 2007, we pointed out in these columns that food sufficient for over 2,000 people was thrown out from the Parliamentary canteen every month. This kind of criminal waste of food occurs in a country where over 25 per cent of children are malnourished and most of the poor who constitute about one half of the population hit the sack on empty stomachs! So, how can anyone shame such politicians?
In Sri Lanka, any notorious crook responsible for the plunder of public wealth can rest assured that he or she will be able to secure nominations from either the SLFP or the UNP to contest elections--parliamentary, provincial or local government. Wasn't it the other day that Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne made a very candid statement in Parliament that some politicians were involved in narcotics trade?
Sri Lanka’s parliament: In need of a bit of spring cleaning.
Regrettably, among the self-appointed campaigners against corruption, we see some hypocrites long in the tooth and out of power such as politicians, bureaucrats and judicial officers notorious for having abused their privileged positions to have court cases against them thrown out and get away after being caught with women in compromising positions inside official vehicles after dusk in public places on the way home (gedera yana gaman), licking political boots/sandals, taking bribes in kind for perverting the course of justice and manipulating the judiciary in every conceivable way in favour of the powers that be, before taking to judicial activism in a bid to be popular in time for retirement. When such people try to do an 'Anna Hazare', the discerning public exclaim: Ane Apoi! They are, in our book, like a group of aged women of easy virtue, who, unable to practise the oldest profession any longer, are condemning adultery! The less said about them, the better!
Corruption of the present government stinks to high heaven, period. It must be battled with might and main all right. But, that is a task best left to the public figures without a history of corruption and abuse of power. They alone are capable of mobilising public support for that noble cause. True, we may have to look for them a la Diogenes of Sinope, who went, carrying a lamp, in search of an honest man in broad daylight. However, we are not without such honourable men and women to fight for us. Let the search begin!
Harsha is one of the few parliamentarians keen to make a difference in politics and they should therefore deserve encouragement and assistance from the public. However, they have to pluck up the courage to come out and take the battle to the government without trying to fight it from a safe distance through the pages of newspapers. Public resentment over mega rackets under the incumbent political dispensation such as the CPC hedging deal, the purchase of steel flyovers that cannot take heavy vehicles and the importation of low quality petrol, cement sans quality certification and substandard pharmaceuticals, have gone untapped.
Similarly, it behoves Harsha and other Opposition lawmakers who have donned the armour of crusade to put their own house in order, first. They must name the UNP politicians responsible for the various corrupt deals under the UNP-led UNF government (2001-2004), including the illegal sale of Sri Lanka Insurance, exposed by the COPE and a condemnable amnesty for notorious racketeers such as tax defaulters causing an enormous loss to the State coffers to the tune of billions of rupees.
The Island, Sri Lanka
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