(Text of Editorial Appearing in the “Sunday Observer” of November 19th 2017 Under the Heading “PM:Facing The Nation”)
In how many countries would heads of governments go before a high-level investigation to provide information that would help in that probe?
Tomorrow (Nov 20) Sri Lankans will see a new chapter in our Republic when, for the first time, a sitting Prime Minister faces questions in an official investigation into allegations of irregularities and corruption in a government institution.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tomorrow (Nov 20) goes before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Central Bank bond transactions, at the invitation of the Commission, to provide any information that might help the Commission’s investigation.
The ‘Bond Inquiry’, as this on-going investigation is popularly called, has drawn much public attention as a probe that may lay bare alleged massive corruption by bureaucrats and business people.
The public’s interest in corruption in the public sector has risen to a pitch in the wake of the era of unprecedented corruption by politicians, bureaucrats and business cronies during the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The citizens’ awareness has been stretched almost beyond belief at the sheer scale of the bribery, scams and wastage of public funds and resources during the decade of the Rajapaksa presidency.
Even more scandalous has been the emerging picture of not just massive corruption but the blatant effrontery with which the rip off has been perpetrated in this past decade of the Rajapaksas, with seemingly barely concealed irregular directives and illicit deals flying in the face of economic and budgetary rationality.
With this recent past history of mis-governance, citizens are rightly alert to these issues and when the Bond Commission wanted clarifications from the Prime Minister, Mr. Wickremesinghe has been fittingly sensitive to these public sensibilities. After all, his National Unity coalition government was elected on a wave of huge public disillusionment over the previous regime’s charade of pseudo patriotism that disguised the nepotistic rip-off of the country.
Having won the nation’s political confidence to govern, Mr. Wickremesinghe is clearly ready to face his nation at any time with his side of the facts, thereby sustaining that confidence.
The Premier is a senior public officer responsible for financial policy and critical financial decisions in government. The Central Bank operates according to financial and economic policy guidelines laid down by the Government. Thus, the Bond probe needed to obtain clarification from the Prime Minister about these matters as related to their inquiry.
The Premier’s ready co-operation with such an investigation may puzzle those who had got used to the kind of cavalier attitude towards matters of law and order by leaders of the previous regime. After all, it was during the Rajapaksa regime that incorruptible judges and other public officers were pushed around, to enable wheeler dealers and thugs to get away with robbery and murder.
Avoidance of justice was the name of the game in those days and the public began to become either indifferent to public integrity or ignorant of the need for rigour in the national accounts. All this changed with the arrival of the ‘Good Governance’ coalition with its promise to reverse the trend to national bankruptcy.
Premier Wickremesinghe’s testimony tomorrow in front of the Bond Commission will be testimony to this commitment to national renewal.