Power and corruption
Posted on July 19th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena never misses an opportunity to wax eloquent on what he considers his government’s achievements. Speaking at the inauguration of the Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2018 in Georgia the other day, he declared that his administration had adopted some important measures to sever the link between power and corruption. On reading what is reported of his speech, many a discerning reader must have said, ‘My foot!’

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe rule began with a mega scam at the Central Bank (CB) in 2015. A Singaporean, brought in to head the CB, on the instructions of his political bosses, manipulated the Treasury bond issuance to enable his son-in-law to make billions of rupees fraudulently. It has now been revealed that quite a few government politicians benefited from the largess of the bond racketeers. This scam, which has caused massive losses to the country and the workers’ superannuation fund, would not have been possible but for the nexus between power and corruption.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his ministers defended CB Governor Arjuna Mahendran under a cloud to the hilt in Parliament. President Sirisena threw his weight behind the PM as he was dependent on the UNP for his political survival. If he had not dissolved Parliament to prevent the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on the first bond scam from being taken up for debate, the people would have been able to make an informed decision at the last general election.

Above all, if action had been taken against Mahendran at that time, the second bond scam would not have occurred the following year. He wanted the UNP to win the parliamentary polls so that he could hold his bete noire, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at bay. He succeeded in his endeavour, but at the expense of the country, which lost billions of rupees as a result.

The President has also claimed, in Georgia, that his government has strengthened the so-called independent commissions. The National Election Commission is idling like the Mattala Airport. Its Chairman has taken exception to the endless postponement of polls. His commission can only protest. The National Audit Commission (NAC) has not been given adequate teeth. The recently passed National Audit Act is a far cry from the original National Audit Bill, which contained necessary provisions for the NAC to combat corruption effectively. So much for the government’s commitment to combating corruption!

President Sirisena has told the world that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) has been strengthened and is devoid of political interference. If so, will the CIABOC reveal the number of complaints it has received against the key politicians of the present government and how many of them have been investigated so far?

Unlike in the past, all key appointments are, today, made by the Constitutional Council (CC), the President has said. That may be so, but the fact remains that the CC stands accused of rubber-stamping government decisions. Its members are known for their commitment to what is known as the yahapalana cause. Prominent among them are the Prime Minister (UNP), the Speaker (UNP) and the Opposition Leader, who backs the government. Five other members are appointed by the President on the recommendations of the PM and the Opposition Leader. One member is nominated by the majority of MPs who do not belong to either the PM’s party or that of the Opposition Leader and appointed by the President. Thus, the President, the PM and the Opposition Leader decide on the CC appointments save one.

The CC has come under fire over the appointments of the incumbent Attorney General (AG) and IGP. The AG’s Department and the Police draw flak for their subservience to the government. The fish is said to rot from the head down.

One is justified in insisting that yahapalana leaders’ claims be taken cum grano salis.

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