Tackling bribery, corruption | Daily News

Tackling bribery, corruption

The revelation made by President Maithripala Sirisena that although the Bribery Act was introduced 23 years ago only four convictions had been achieved up-to-date, no doubt, is an indication how the canker of bribery and corruption had been treated with frivolity in this country by its leaders and those in authority. Addressing a local government election rally in Matale, the President said during the time of his predecessor those arraigned for bribery were either granted bail, or, the charges changed following a telephone call to Hulftsdorp, while the Bribery Commission was weakened and rendered impotent.

The President, who was a senior minister under Mahinda Rajapaksa, certainly would have had inside knowledge on how the system operated. It was plain to all that the Attorney General’s Department too dawdled on the cases against Rajapaksa henchmen. Not just on bribery and corruption cases but also cases of rape and murder. It was party time for those in the regime, bent on filling their kitties, in illegal ways.

It is not that the law was inadequate. The Bribery Commission was active and showed results during the times of Nelum Gamage and Ian Wickremanayake although the latter was accused of carrying out a political witch-hunt. After all, four convictions had indeed taken place, as the President had acknowledged, from 1995.

It is blatant interference into the Commission's functions and orders to sit on cases that resulted in the poor conviction rate. Nay, bribery was allowed to flourish. Mega corruption, at the very top, seeped down to the bottom layers. The President recently made the rather interesting remark concerning his predecessor, in this connection. He said when, as SLFP General Secretary, while addressing a local government election rally, he had prevailed upon the candidates not to engage in corrupt acts but to serve the people honestly, only to be made to eat humble pie by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, while making the final address, requested the candidates that when they steal, to do so discreetly, without being found out.

The President, we are certain, had no reason to make up this story. This puts in perspective the attitude displayed towards bribery and corruption by the leaders of the day. The twin evils thrived to the hilt, what with the green light given by the highest in the land. Not just encouraging bribery and corruption. Exposing corrupts acts within the government was also frowned upon. Minister Rauff Hakeem, on Wednesday, recalled his own experience, that went onto demonstrate this in no uncertain terms.

As one time Chairman of COPE he was instrumental in exposing the monumental VAT fraud at the Inland Revenue Department. Instead of being commended for unraveling the fraud, that cost the state tens of billions of rupees, all that he received from the former President were strictures for placing the government in an embarrassing position, by making such a revelation, forcing him to quit as COPE Chairman. Government MPs and Rajapaksa lackeys, who were nabbed for graft, and, summoned before the Bribery Commission, were given the kid glove treatment, following orders from the top. One recalls the famous instance where a Deputy Minister and staunch Rajapaksa ally, who was unable to explain how he acquired assets worth Rs 400 million, when summoned by the Commission, was conveniently stung by a polanga. The Commission took this explanation lying down and did not pursue the matter further. Regrettably, this case is still lying in abeyance, with hearings repeatedly postponed. This worthy, incidentally, has today become a vociferous crusader against corruption and one of the vocal critics of the Yahapalanaya government, on the Bond matter.

The Chairman of the Bribery Commission Sarath Jayamanne has called for the amending of the anti-corruption laws, as it stands, in order to give it more teeth to facilitate prosecution. But will amending the law make a difference, going by the past record, in this connection? It all boils down to the will to genuinely implement the law without political interference. There are positive signs, though, that this sad chapter of political interference to bail out crooks will be closed, if recent developments are anything to go by. The President is determined to see the anti-corruption drive continues in earnest. Addressing yet another election rally he said he would not hesitate to take action against corrupt elements without any consideration as to which party they belonged to. He noted that he stepped out of the party he was in earlier due to its corrupt nature. But having formed a new alliance, if there was corruption, there too, he would certainly not accept this as a policy.

It is such sentiments, and, open expressions of commitment to eradicate bribery and corruption in government that were singularly lacking during the ten year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa. This naturally gave his cronies the license to indulge in corrupt acts. So much so, a powerful minister, and, Rajapaksa sibling, was known as Mr. ten percent. This worthy too is among those vociferous JO stalwarts, railing against government, over the bendumkaraya.


 

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SEVENTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE Those of us celebrating seventy years of life can reminiscence of a bygone era when some of our politicians of late fought the British imperialist rule to gain independence of the country. The sacrifice made by those astute men and women of intelligent patriotism is engraved in our hearts. There were never instances of those politicians selfishly building their own empires whilst hoodwinking the people. They came to serve in mitigating the difficulties of the masses utilizing their own time and money. The examples set by these persons are etched in available documents published. Men of formidable wealth often reduced to the meagre financial position. These patriots now confined to stone cold tombs, Alarmed and perhaps rising from their graves to sadly witness the frauds blatantly perpetrated by their successors, on the very people whom they espoused to serve. Regrettably, this marks our progress made in the last seventy years as a reward for their struggle to gain independence. It certainly is a disgrace to all. As we move towards the next era let us fervently hope that civil society will have the strength and courage to install dedicated leaders who will come forward to unselfishly pledge themselves to contribute their sincere efforts to bring order and respite to the peace loving people of this blessed country. This should be our humble prayer for the coming era. SEVENTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE Those of us celebrating seventy years of life can reminiscence of a bygone era when some of our politicians of late fought the British imperialist rule to gain independence of the country. The sacrifice made by those astute men and women of intelligent patriotism is engraved in our hearts. There were never instances of those politicians selfishly building their own empires whilst hoodwinking the people. They came to serve in mitigating the difficulties of the masses utilizing their own time and money. The examples set by these persons are etched in available documents published. Men of formidable wealth often reduced to the meager financial position. These patriots now confined to stone cold tombs, Alarmed and perhaps rising from their graves to sadly witness the frauds blatantly perpetrated by their successors, on the very people whom they espoused to serve. Regrettably, this marks our progress made in the last seventy years as a reward for their struggle to gain independence. It certainly is a disgrace to all. As we move towards the next era let us fervently hope that civil society will have the strength and courage to install dedicated leaders who will come forward to unselfishly pledge themselves to contribute their sincere efforts to bring order and respite to the peace loving people of this blessed country. This should be our humble prayer for the coming era.

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