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CORRUPTION - THE NEXT BIG CHALLENGE

ASOKA S

So here we go again... Government is considering stripping Chandrika of her civil rights. The reason; the allegedly corrupt land deal involving 150 acres of Prime land in Battaramulla for a golf course.

Corruption in Sri Lanka has become a normal part of daily life. Sri Lanka is ranked 96th most corrupt nation on earth, way behind India's 76th. For a country the size of India this bodes well and for tiny Sri Lanka this is a National Embarrassment. More importantly corruption destroys fairness in daily life of people. It is a social cancer.

So Chandrika allegedly has done a corrupt deal involving millions of dollars. Why on earth that the Attorney General not file charges and bring her to stand trial like anybody else? Why strip her of civic rights? Is that the way Lanka avoids political leaders ending up in jail? A sort of a clean and conformable punishment?
Isn't stealing large sums of public money a bigger crime than a man spending in jail for a common crime like stealing a TV, selling illicit alcohol or a similar relatively minor offense?

Once upon a time Civil Servants wore white dress with a tie. That dress code symbolized honesty and integrity and hence a civil servant was a very respected person of society. They carried power that could render them vulnerable for corruption and the tie and white dress symbolized a "gentleman."

Well, after independence successive governments managed to slowly but surely send the civil service to dogs. They came to symbolize corruption more than anything else. What went wrong? Who is to blame? Well, the blame lies fairly and squarely on every government since independence. Well, I must however state for the record that there are still thousands of honorable civil servants who try hard against all odds to do their job cleanly. But the tide is too strong against them.

I remember walking into Registrar of Companies Office in 80's to obtain a corporation registration and being told that the wait time would be weeks. Minutes later she took me to her big boss who promised to get the whole thing don in 2 or 3 days provided he handled it for a tidy some of money. I wanted to get up and punch him in the nose (pardon my anger) and walked away disgusted of my own country. The man was robbing sitting right on the chair of a senior Civil Servant. That was then. I dare not think of the situation today.

I once confronted a very senior ex civil servant about the way the DMV issues licenses to motor cycle drivers - He is now a very powerful minister. I observed to my own eyes in Bentara area how each driver paid a few hundred rupees to the inspector who would line them all up together on Galle Road and have them drive together a couple of hundred feet and passed them all then and there. It was a joke and a bigger shock of my life. The above mentioned civil servant told me that the fault lied not with the corrupt Inspector but with those who bribed him. I had to point out to him it was the inspector who got paid from the government to do a job which was to test the competency of the driver. The Commissioner of Motor Traffic need to resign instantly for heading such a corrupt organization on behalf of Lankan people. Or is he too busy catering to his boss minister's personal needs to keep his own job?

Well, that is a bit of taste of our beloved country today. Politicians are busy being rushed in long motorcades (God Knows for what) while country's essential business has gone way below the dogs. What on earth all the 107 ministers supposed to is the billion dollar question. I don't think most of them know the answer themselves.

Prez Rajapaksha hopefully will end this brutal war soon and he will deserve our respect and credit for doing his job. Let us hope he will then take the same aggressive approach to end corruption. He can start with sending a few dozen politicians to jail for a start. If he has the political will and boldness to do this, he will go down in History as a 'Memorable" leader.

Or am I being just too naive?

 

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