If you were to ask a cross section of the voting population whether they believe that elected officials fill their bank accounts through bribes, commissions, falsification of accounts and other kinds of illegal, immoral and fraudulent means, it is likely that the vast majority would respond ‘Yes, they do!’
For decades, the people of this country have seen exponential growth in the fortunes of the elected, regardless of their humble beginnings, righteous pledges to clean up and remain clean themselves and so on. It has come to a point where hanky-panky is taken as a given with the citizens considering ‘taking’ as a given. It is an ‘inevitable’ that they have resolved to live with, an ‘ok’ price to pay provided that things they want get done.
This probably explains the generally lukewarm public response to the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) findings. What is most significant about the revelations, then, is not the considerable evidence of mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption and downright fraud but the absence of horror on the part of the general public. It is an apathy that props wrongdoing.
It would be erroneous however to blame public apathy and a culture of looking askance for all the ills that plague political society. Sri Lanka is not an anarchic political (non)arrangement. There are laws. There are law makers and law enforcers. There is a state and there are institutional arrangements designed to uphold justice and fair play. Flawed, yes, but nevertheless quite some distance to go before we reach a signboard called ‘Redundant’.
COPE findings have provided the Opposition with some debating points, but as expected, instead of strong statements to follow up with necessary action, the response from the Government side has focused on making counter-claims about wrongdoings of the UNP. That’s just not enough.
The scandal of the National Savings Bank purchasing The Finance shares at prices well above the going rate at the time has prompted the President to call for an investigation. Wrongdoers must be punished of course. Their pain should not however be alleviated by a different post in a different institution. More importantly, steps should be taken to prevent wrongdoing. Holes must be plugged; at all levels, in all institutions.
All this call for the immediate constitution of an Independent Audit Commission empowered to brush aside the objections of politicians and made of individuals with high moral fibre and proven track record in things such as decency, honor, discipline and ability.
DEW Gunasekera has worked hard. So has the rest of the COPE team. If there is one way to reward them, it is to make bodies such as COPE meaningless.
[from the Editorial, The Nation, May 13, 2012]