Eliminating bribery and
A proposal made
by the Chairman of the Commission to Probe Allegations of
Bribery and Corruption Retired Supreme Court Judge Ameer Ismail
for the appointment of an exclusive elite body to tackle the
scourge of bribery and corruption in society should merit the
attention of the authorities.
Justice Ismail was yesterday quoted in our weekend paper the
Sunday Observer as saying that an independent authority should
analyse the question of corruption without the intervention of
the Police since the latter was prone to temptation and subject
He said this in the context of Sri Lanka been ranked 92 in
the Corruption Perception Index done by Transparency
International - a watchdog on corruption is state institutions.
The report said corruption was rampant in the public sector.
The Chairmanís call for leaving out the police in fighting
corruption can be appreciated given the dubious record acquired
by the Police Department in recent times of being in the top of
list of state institutions plagued by rampant corruption.
The unravelling of the Sakvithi financial scam has revealed
how certain police officers had deposited millions of rupees in
the crashed venture. From where did they acquire such wealth?
The frequent newspaper reports linking police officers with
bribery at various levels only goes to buttress the claims of
the Chairman. But will excluding the police along in the fight
against corruption put things in order?
We say this because corruption today is a deep seated malaise
that has spread itís tentacles into the body politic to such a
degree so as to become an entrenched phenomenon. Nay it has
become part and parcel of everyday life.
It is well known that even for a file to moved in Government
Departments palms have to greased. Whatever body is formed it
will be a Herculean task to eradicate this evil that is eating
into the vitals of society.
With incidents of bribery and corruption showing an alarming
rise with even the hitherto white sepulchres such as the
educational institutions tainted (the recent survey showing the
Education sector surpassing the police Department to occupy the
top of the list for Bribery) a radical change is needed by any
body that comes into being to slay this hydra-headed monster.
Another aspect that should be taken cognisance of is that
bribery and corruption today is not the simple oiling of the
palm of an office peon or a court clerk for expediting a job. It
has grown to such a degree as to become institutionalised and
taken a firm grip on society. Bribery and corruption of course
has undergone a sea change in concept and quantum. Today bribes
involve mega bucks that could tempt even the most incorruptible.
As they say everything has itís price. Therefore any new body
as suggested by Justice Ismail should comprise persons who are
well known for their high degree of honesty, integrity and who
are above board in all respects. They should be persons who
would not be influenced by any quarter or easily swayed into
Such a body should ideally comprise persons of eminence in
the corporate sector, respected ex-public servants or former
members of the judiciary. Corruption needs to be tackled at the
root so that the entire body politic could be cleansed of this
evil. No doubt the wheeler dealer culture spawned by the open
economy and liberalisation took bribery and corruption into new
But what is of concern is the massive rip offs at State
institutions and wheeler dealing that not only cause losses to
these institutions but add on to the costs of goods and services
provided by these bodies, impacting on the Cost of living. Any
new body should deal not only with the micro but also the macro
aspect of bribery and corruption as well.
It should strive to transform the public mindset with regard
to bribery for without public corporation it would be next to
impossible to tackle this problem. Whatever new initiative to
fight the scourge a radical approach is needed. New laws should
be drafted to impose stiff penalties for Bribery and corruption
and a wide exposure of the perpetrators. More probity should be
demanded from State Institutions which are havens for bribery
It was only the other day that Transport Minister Dullus
Alahapperuma referred to the Motor Traffic Department as having
achieved a dubious name over the years as an institution wracked
with corruption. This no doubt is only the tip of the iceberg.
Some of our state institutions over the years have been
synonymous with bribery and corruption so much so some of their
big wigs live luxurious lifestyles not commensurate with their
The proposed body should periodically investigate the assets
of state sector bosses while it should be given the powers to
probe all the mega deals entered into by state institutions. By
such vigilance they could help keep a check on the cost of
living which otherwise could be subjected to the vagaries of
kick backs and other financial shenanigans.
Time was when cases of bribery and corruption were few and
far between and the perpetrators were dealt with severely. One
recall the famous case of an MP in the 1950s who had to vacate
his seat after being arraigned for bribery. Have we ever seen
similar action since then?
Surely there have been enough allegations and speculations
since then against many MPs. This is where the new body could
play a more pro-active role. It should be vested with sweeping
powers to go for the big fish without let or hindrance. There
should also be provision for a periodic scrutiny of assets of
members of Parliament and Heads of State institutions.
Today only state institutions have a mechanism to arrest
bribery and corruption and the private sector is immune from
such scrutiny. It would be ideal if Transparency International
also venture into this realm so that it would help present a
true picture of the wide gamut of bribery and corruption in our