Journey in search of conscience | Daily News

Journey in search of conscience

The first to be named as having taken ill-gotten money from Perpetual Treasuries that is accused of being the principal actor in the Treasury bond scam was Dayasiri Jayasekera MP, one of the “Sweet 16” that sits on a two-legged stool. Not content to be alone who revealed that there are 118 MPs in all who are similarly involved. It led to a frantic search involving appeals to the President’s Secretary, the Speaker of Parliament, Director of the Government Archives etc. which ultimately drew a blank as the Honourable Speaker announced that there is no list of names of MPs having got money from Perpetual Treasuries.

Ironically it was revealed in Court on the same day that State Minister Sujeeva Senasinghe had received Rs.3.2 million. By this time Minister Sarath Fonseka has confessed to having received Rs. 100, 000. One can only infer that there could be many others despite the amicable Speaker being unaware of.

Now all these gentlemen have an excuse. They say the money was given for election expenses. It is fair, they claim in unison. Though it may not contradict the law, which has its own drawbacks, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth when a criminal finances a people’s representative. What altruistic motive has the former to finance the latter, unless to exert an undue influence on his conduct of official duties, if elected.

JO politicians

The latest situation is that some JO politicians have started accusing left and right various personalities including those in civil society movements so that the whole matter is converted into an insoluble puzzle which may give a chance to real culprits to pass the blame on strangers, for in local politics accusations are only traded but not pursued or proved.

This gives the culprits a time to lie low and then rise up with venom asking “Have you proved us guilty?” This is the stand taken by leaders of the last regime accused of large-scale fraud, corruption and misuse of public property as the arm of law seems to be too short to reach them as Nanda Malini says in a popular song that her arm is too short to pick flowers.

That, however, is different from how an honourable gentleman would act if he is accused wrongly. He would prove the accusers wrong with facts and figures or seek redress from Courts of Law against defamation of his character. Anything else would mean hypocrisy.

There is a popular belief that one could lie to anybody but not to one’s own conscience. So we set on a journey in search of conscience and immediately came up with a roadblock. Conscience is individual and others can’t reach it or unlock it.

The only way to gauge it is through observation of the relevant person’s words and deeds. In such instances circumstantial evidence such as the ash marks on the shoulder of the proverbial pumpkin thief becomes useful in pinning guilt. That is why investigating authorities search evidence among telephone conversations, Short Messages, correspondence and bank accounts of the accused persons.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

It must also be noted that voters too elect the same law-makers despite their drawbacks such as proven criminal past. That is how known rapists, murderers get elected, at times with enhanced votes too. It seems that voters have also lost their conscience.

Mark Twain wrote that there are three types of lies according to their intensity –lies, damn lies and statistics. Our politicians use all of them so liberally that their conscience would have fled. Look at some of the beautiful ones that have flowed down their sacred mouths.

There was another reason for our failure to find conscience among politicians. The majority of them seem to suffer from dementia, even from a relatively young age. For example we lost our “World’s Best Finance Minister” because he forgot how he came into possession of the house he was living with his family.

Another Minister who resigned from the Cabinet saying it was a shame to be a member of it stealthily returned to it after a period of time either because he lost his memory or because he lost his shame. Dayasiri Jayasekera MP forgot who had signed the cheque for Rs. 1 million he received from the Perpetual friends. Until the investigating officers told him Minister Sujeeva Senasinghe had forgotten the entire transaction with Aloysius.

The biggest tragedy at the moment is the crisis in the SLFP. It is split into three with one forming a rival party and yet claiming to be SLFP too. The latest faction – Sweet 16 – also claims to be in the SLFP and even its members have high designations in the SLFP. President Sirisena claims to be the Leader of the entire party comprising all three factions. All (except perhaps good old Professor G L Peiris) say they abide by the Constitution of the SLFP. That means all are in the Government with the UNP officially. Hence their claim to be in the opposition is illegitimate. As far as conscience is considered it seems to be split into three!

So our search drew a blank. Perhaps there is no heart in the body politic, at least any sensitive one that would melt at popular grief. The task is then to build up an entire generation with humane characteristics, humanist humans, so to say. 

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