The issue of making peace with the
LTTE - as important as it is - is not the only issue of vital importance
in the affairs of this country.
For many bribery
and corruption is not the crucial issue when the day-to-day litanies
of employment, schooling, transport and other such matters are paramount
in their minds. But yet, bribery and corruption often go to the
root of many of the maladies that this country faces.
Take some of
the statements the Bribery and Corruption Commissioners made at
a press conference held on Friday. About 1000 bribery prosecutions
are held up due to the fact that one of the appointed Commissioners
is dead, and has not yet been replaced. Since its inception - from
the flawed law to the flawed appointments made to the key posts
in the Commission - the Bribery and Corruption Commission has been
a joke at the expense not only of the public kitty, but also at
the expense of public confidence and considerations of good governance
Not a single
shark has been found guilty by the Commission and almost hilariously
the only conviction that could be boasted of was of a school Principal
who took a bribe of cups and saucers. Even then, she too was acquitted
loaned by the Attorney General's Department to the Bribery and Corruption
Commission was focussed on an agenda of his own, and he targeted
the then Director General of the Commission for reasons best known
to him. The energies of the Commission were spent on this task for
much of its early years.
fact is that not a single Cabinet Minister has been prosecuted,
and one of the Commissioners said at last weeks press conference
that political influence was an element in frustrating the Commission's
investigations. There was a headline-grabbing story in local newspapers
some months ago of ex - Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte having stashed
away Rs. 45 million in Certificates of Deposits in a private bank
vault. This newspaper also reported for instance that investigations
are pending against seven current Cabinet Ministers.
is now in an unusual limbo which is like some enforced bureaucratic
coma. It cannot function because all three Commissioners must sign
any document to legally constitute the Commission, and this is the
point on which former Treasury Secretary Paskaralingam escaped prosecution.
Paskaralingam was subsequently rewarded with a Government consultancy.
It shows the attitude towards Bribery and Corruption by successive
Governments. There is probably no purpose in the Commission, whenever
its functions are resumed (there seems to be no real urgency anyway
in doing that on anybody's part) going after all and sundry.
If it goes
after a few Cabinet Ministers - past and present - and a few key
officials, that should suffice to send a strong signal with regard
to graft and corruption which has robbed this country of resources
which belong rightfully to its harried and beleaguered people.