By Sarath de Alwis
We live in times of moral complexity. Whose deed is more pernicious? Burglar raiding the vault or the cop who wipes off the burglar’s fingerprints?
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will appear before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry today.
The Commission, according to a news report has summoned Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya to lead the evidence of the Prime minster.
The AG has said: “The reason they have summoned me is due to the respect of protocol for the Prime Minister, who is the second citizen of the country. I will be leading the evidence on behalf of the Commission.”
On a scale of 10 for a ‘Scandal Armageddon’ a phrase borrowed from Dan Rather – the American TV anchor , the ‘bond boondoggle, easily earns a good 9th place.
The Watergate Scandal, in the United Sates, the Profumo Scandal in the UK and Spectrum Scandal in India impacted and radically altered the systemic structures of their respective justice systems and media coverage.
In the digital age, transparency in Sri Lanka is yet a demanding enterprise.
The bond business was probed by two parliamentary committees. The first got aborted. The second produced a report with footnotes.
The detailed inquiry by a presidential commission is now at its tail end. The cascading intensity of the affair reaches its climax when the Prime Minister appears before the commission today.
No matter how his encounter with the commission turns out, its final outcome will be monumental and transformational as Watergate was in Washington, Profumo in London and Spectrum in New Delhi.
It will have an equal or a more far-reaching influence on our ‘Sri Lankan ‘gemeinschaft’.
The writer seeks the reader’s pardon and tolerance. The use of the German word is no flaunt of punditry. It is only the absence of a precise English equivalent.
The German sociologist Max Weber explains gemeinschaft. It is the form of the social order resulting from “rational agreement by mutual consent,” meaning members of society agree to participate and abide the given rules, norms, and practices because rationality tells them that they benefit by doing so.
Richard Nixon had to resign, fearing impeachment, not because he ordered the burglary in the Watergate building. He did not even know about it. He faced the prospect of being impeached because he ordered its cover-up.
The relentless Watergate investigation untied the mind of Richard Nixon. The Profumo probe bared the mind of Prime Minster Harold McMillan. The ‘Spectrum’ scandal untangled the turbaned cerebral elegance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
His predicament is closer to ours. He was compelled to confess why he had compromised his demonstrated integrity. He did not remove a corrupt minister. He did not order the investigation is warranted. He explained political accommodation of corruption as a ‘coalition dharma’.
The country awaits the Attorney General reconnoitering the mind of Prime Minster Wickremesinghe. It is hoped that he will find out why it was necessary to uproot the successful investment banker from his home in Singapore- the far eastern ‘Shangri-La of speculative capital. Our Shangri-La just opened its business only last Saturday. A friend informs this writer that the gala event was a fabulous receptacle where the political class was kissed and greeted by their oligarchy counterparts.
Doubtless, the Attorney General will explore the mind of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on relative merits and demerits of private placements and auctions.
The tale of the two Arjuns has the complexity and the sublime paradoxes of the original Arjuna centric philosophical classic the ‘Bhagavad-Gita.
The Gita offers a central premise. Act decisively. Do not get mired in over- analysis. Especially when you are knowledgeable. We are usually prone to draw comfort in talking and analyzing than acting upon knowledge. “The immature think that knowledge and action are different, but the wise see them as the same.”
Post script.”In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. “Justice Hugo Black 6-3 Majority opinion of US Supreme Court permitting publication of Pentagon Papers.