The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has brought us to a crisis that seems worse than what the politicians did by bringing us to bankruptcy. It is the process of recovery – with that shaky pledge of US $ 2.9 billion in four years, to overcome the unprecedented economic turmoil.Among the IMF aims to stabilize the economy,
protect the livelihoods of the Sri Lankan people, and prepare the ground for economic recovery and promoting sustainable and Inclusive growth, is the fight against corruption.
Economists and specialists in Good Governance would have much to think and say about the IMF, its goals, plans, history and all that. We have some politicians who are hugely against the IMF and others who are in favour of it, or wholly supportive of it. But this call against corruption is a message that the Sri Lankan people have been waiting for from our political leaders, from whatever party or colour, from Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MPs, Heads of State Institutions and all others for more than two decades. All who have remained disgustingly silent other than the occasional political hurrah shouts.
The IMF may be the new divinity, saint, aacharya, sacred preacher or teacher in this fight against corruption in Sri Lanka. It certainly brings new courage to the people to launch a serious and meaningful fight against the system of governance – apart from political crookedness – that has been, and remains the biggest weight, pulling our country and people to the very bottom of the social structure.
Where are we to begin, long before we think of the end. Shall we begin with the Politicians and the Parliament. The Island in its editorial Tuesday (6th) titled “Rotten fish and other stinky matters”, brought good focus on the increasingly corrupt system of Parliamentary Governance. It says that “there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Parliament, which has to be strengthened, but the performance of its members has been appalling”.
While there was corruption among MPs in the past too. Some were found guilty by a commission of inquiry appointed by the late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. That remains the only probe into corruption by our MPs in the 74 years since independence. What we see today is a shocking acceptance of corruption, and even crime, in the very conduct of the parliamentary process.
Today, we have a key minister of the government, functioning in Parliament, who was found guilty by a court of misusing the powers and privileges of his former chief ministerial office, sentenced to two years Rigorous Imprisonment suspended for five years, and also fined Rs 20 million besides being ordered to pay Rs 1 million as compensation to the complainant. Under our current political thinking, the suspension of his rigorous imprisonment, enables his functioning as a Cabinet Minister in Parliament … the symbol of the Dharmadeepa!
This is just one example of the spread and stay of corruption in the Sri Lankan legislature. Other members, even sentenced on charges of murder, have enjoyed the privileges of parliament … the dirty system goes on!
A big noise has been made by the Rajapaksa – Wickremesinghe power-players of the Aragalaya protesters who functioned close to the parliament area. But total silence on corruption prevalent in the National Assembly. There is nothing ever said by both Right and Left MPs about the cost of their being MPs, hugely loaded on to the people.
What are the costs of parliamentary sessions, committee meetings, the costs of transport – with luxury cars owned by them at parliamentary cost, cost of fuel and drivers too.
What about the cost of their offices in their homes and elsewhere, the payments to their wives or husbands, and other family relatives who work in such offices. It is a system of crookedness that is today’s governance,
How many worthy speeches are made by MPs today other than their regular shouts against each other on largely crooked issues, that have little to do with service to the people? The very parliamentary process requires a clean-up which even the IMF may not be able to provide,
Apart from corruption within and related to Parliament and the process of Parliamentary Democracy, there is a display of dishonesty, fraud, swindling and graft that have become a crucial aspect of governance and service to the people.
When the country has been pushed into bankruptcy under corrupt governance, we have seen the dirty play of politics, robbery in the Central Bank, and in the recent imports of cooking gas, fuel and coal; while the people were queuing up and dying to obtain these essentials.
Sri Lanka certainly deserves to be known as the dirty and grimy Stone of Corruption, far from being the Pearl of Asia. This requires a complete probe into the very system of elections and governance, which has continuously added to and sustained this corrupt system and the continued playing out of the public.
There is no assurance that the Ranil-Rajapakse governance of today will bring an end to this. The recent swearing in of a Cabinet Minister who was removed under a serious complaint of corruption by a foreign government to former President Gotabaya is a recent display of hugely corrupt governance.
Can the IMF ensure that its call to fight against corruption be a reality within a country and system of governance that is corrupt in every aspect of government? The non-release of the agreement with the IMF to the public is a show of the distorted system of governance that Sri Lanka has moved into in the past two or three decades. Can a renewal of court cases against corruption, ensure that names and families in governance will be charged? What don’t we know of the moves of the Commission on Bribery & Corruption?
Can the IMF be the real saviour of Sri Lanka from corruption – whatever it may do to bring us out of bankruptcy? That would be the real task of the IMF in Sri Lanka today, as it has helped in some African states.Thus far, there is little to show that Sri Lanka’s ruling powers are in any way keen to fight corruption. We may even give the IMF a new pain in its mind as our rulers are glad to give to our people.