|Thursday, 11 March 2004|
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Declaration of assets
The Programme for the Protection of Public Resources of the Human Rights Institute has drawn the attention of all the candidates contesting the April 2 General Election, to their legal responsibilities and duties to declare assets and liabilities.
In terms of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law No 1 of 1975 as amended by Acts No. 29 of 1985 and No. 74 of 1988, candidates at a General Election are required to declare their full assets and liabilities to the Commissioner of Elections.
There is also requirement that the declaration made by the candidate should be within a stipulated period.
This call for the declaration of assets and liabilities of candidates is very appropriate, particularly at a time when bribery and corruption have reached an all time high.
Graft has reached such enormous proportions that it is something we have come to accept as part of our daily lives.
Groaning under the burden of a very high cost of living, which has reached astronomical levels, the average family has to pay bribes even for public utility services.
The long suffering Citizen Perera has to pay bribes to municipal workers to have his clogged drainage cleared, to have his electricity and water bills checked, to obtain a copy of a birth certificate, to obtain a due payment from a Government Department and all manner of other basics.
Then, there are those who have to pay heavy bribes to errant politicians to obtain employment or to seek his just dues from pre-poll promises, to have them do what is their duty.
The public are swindled of billions of rupees as a result of bribery and corruption in awarding of contracts and tenders which ultimately poor Citizen Perera has to pay for, each time he buys a kilo of rice, sugar, a pack of milk or other essentials, for, the high cost of paying for these tenders and contracts by the Government, is reflected in the spiraling prices of consumables.
People enter politics usually with honourable and very laudable goals such as the alleviation of poverty, bringing down the cost of living, improving the standards of living and the elimination of bribery and corruption.
However, they soon succumb to the heady wine of power, become arrogant and corrupt, stuffing their pockets with filthy lucre. Finally, the sweet life turns sour and these contemptibles end up being useless to society, useless to country and finally even useless to themselves, Parasites.
We commend the efforts of the Human Rights Institute for drawing the attention of candidates and emphasizing their legal responsibilities and duties to declare their assets and liabilities.
Nearly one year has passed since a US-led coalition invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, who himself was captured in December. Despite the deadly blasts that blight Baghdad almost daily, the 25 million Iraqis have every reason to look forward to a brighter future as plans are underway to transform power peacefully under a new Constitution.
The roadmap for Iraq's future has been clearly laid out, though many challenges will have to be met in getting there. The 25-member Governing Council set up under the coalition has adopted an interim Constitution for a federal Iraq. A new Parliament to be directly elected by February 2005 will adopt a permanent Constitution. Iraq will also get a new defence force totalling 40,000 infantrymen by end 2004.
Along with these developments, Iraq has also begun exporting the one commodity that it has in abundance: oil. Iraq has the world's second largest reserves after Saudi Arabia, with an estimated 112.5 billion barrels of crude.
Many world leaders condemned the Iraq war. Coalition leaders have been criticised after the failure to find any trace of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the supposed existence of which was the very reason for seeking to oust Saddam.
Now that coalition forces are in control of Iraq, it is too late to ponder over these matters. Instead, the world should focus on handing Iraq back to dedicated individuals who can run their country according to the aspirations of their people. The Allies changed the political face of Iraq; Now they should not hasten to leave Iraq without putting a stable, democratic governing mechanism in place.
That will not be easy without finding solutions to some difficult issues. A year after the outbreak of war, coalition forces still face bombings and attacks. They are no nearer to finding the instigators of these attacks and stopping them. A clear strategy is also needed for reconstruction, for which donors have pledged US$ 33 billion. The biggest danger is the threat of internecine war among hardline factions of Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Ordinary Iraqis must not suffer interminably. Coalition partners, in consultation with the United Nations, must ensure that these issues are resolved without undue delay. A stable, conflict-free Iraq will be a gift to its peoples and an asset to world peace.
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