The comatose Commission
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 in Appeal.

The prosecutor 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.

The incredible fact is that not a single Cabinet Minister has been prosecuted, and one of the Commissioners said at last week’s 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.

The Commission 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.

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