Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 July 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Can candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa name those 'wrong-doers'?

The issue of massive corruption in government has never before been raised as it has been during and after the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. Very early in the first Rajapaksa presidency, a very powerful government minister became known as 'Mr. Ten Per Cent' for his predilection for commissions on the side for various projects approved by him, or, even initiated by him.

A whole new class of capitalist cronies grew around the regime making the country's big business community worried that it would be shut out of the economic development programs by these cronies. How the cronies got around the regime is, surely, a story waiting to be written in safer times. How the business elite got around the barriers of the cronies is also a story waiting to be written one day. Equally interesting might be the role those cronies played in encouraging and supporting that snap presidential poll in January which went awry for the incumbent.

Right now, it is the many cases of corruption by the politicians and bureaucrats and sundry hangers-on that are being written and are making headlines. The sheer volume of corruption is so great that there is a doubt whether everything will ever get fully revealed and accounted for. Certainly, the corruption probes, being done strictly according to proper procedure, should continue far into the next government after August 17 - unless political expediency and opportunism gets in the way.

The sheer scale of the corruption and mis-governance surrounding it became so obvious in recent months. Especially since the news media dynamism enabled by the freer conditions post January 8 has begun revealing the vast scale of the plunder, the former President himself, could not ignore it.

Ultimately, even as the hue and cry grew louder and louder, former President Rajapaksa himself actually dared to acknowledge that corruption. The acknowledgment has come in public speeches made by the former President in which he admits to have refrained from prosecuting those whom he describes as 'wrong-doers' and 'corrupt persons'. The tenor of his pronouncements in this regard leave no room for any interpretation other than that the wrong-doing was committed by people he knew although he now seems to regret that he did not act against them.

When a former head of state makes any pronouncement about such a serious matter as corruption in government, it has to be taken very seriously by the country as a whole. Indeed, there is a general expectation that the government of the day will take up the former President's contentions for investigation.

To date, the current government has not moved to ask the former President to provide details about these cases of wrong doing that he has public talked about. Even if the government has failed to take the inititiative, the citizens would expect the former President who made the initial pronouncements to help out by volunteering this information to the authorities.

As someone who has always claimed to be 'tough' on issues, it would be expected of Mr. Rajapaksa that he would be most active in pursuing those wrong-doers he has talked about.

The forthcoming parliamentary elections will certainly provide former President Rajapaksa with the best platform to not only disclose these wrongs and wrong-doers but also to lead the way in bringing them to book and thereby prove his own credentials as a one-time un-corrupt President. Over to you, Mr. Rajapaksa.

Inner party democracy

When Maithripala Sirisena stood for the Presidency, his principal electioneering slogan was to bring about good governance in the country. Hence, yaha paalanaya (good governance) became synonymous with Maithree paalanaya (Maithree rule).

But, in the aftermath of the huge crisis inside the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the role perceived to have been played in this crisis by the President himself, many may ask whether Mr. Sirisena has been as successful in his governance of his own political party.

Running a country according to a specific political mandate received from voters is not necessarily the same as running a political party, especially in politically under-developed Sri Lanka. Running the country is a matter of direct public interest and public accountability. The internal matters of a political party - or any other citizens' voluntary association - are not directly a matter of public interest or public accountability.

The membership of a political party has the right to decide the nature of governance and administration of their organisation. Thus, whether or not their organisation's internal governance conforms to liberal democratic norms or fascist or authoritarian or cultic styles is entirely the choice of that organisation's membership.

Certainly, any political party that vies for the vote of the citizenry and does so on the basis of ensuring national governance in accordance with the national democratic norm, will probably find it easier to win the popular vote if it is seen to practise what it preaches inside its own organisation. More importantly, the political performance of that party, in gaining representation of various interest groups and communities of the citizenry becomes all the more effective if internal democracy enables such representation in a transparent and fair manner. Leadership building inside the party is also likely to be more successful if leaders are popularly elected via a transparent process inside the organisation.

Today, the liberal-style 'democracy' that frames the Sri Lankan polity certainly does not apply to the organisational structure of most, if not all, Sri Lankan political parties. In most politically and economically developed countries, it is not only the State structure that is democratic in nature. The political parties in those countries are also governed by certain minimum standards of democracy. It is time that Sri Lankan parties learnt from the more mature democracies and move towards similar structures. It is likely that the cabals, conspiracies and factionalism that dominate our parties will disappear as they reform and modernise internally.

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