Why cleanse the Augean stables | Daily News

Why cleanse the Augean stables

Whilst speaking to a gathering in Mahara, President Maithripala Sirisena had wanted to know how many politicians dare to come up on stage and say they are clean and that they do not plunder the wealth of the people and charged that such politicians were scarce these days.

President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the executive authority of this country, also stated that top officials in the government sector too were prone to following in the footsteps of politicians these days. He had further stated that graft was well entrenched in the political culture of Sri Lanka and people were voting for the same set of politicians at successive elections despite being aware that they were thieves.

Significantly, the President had also observed, “If we can prevent the loss of revenue due to corruption and fraudulent activities in this country bridging the budget deficit would not be a difficult task”.

The President in his wisdom has in this short assessment of the state of corruption in the country hit the nail on the head. He has succinctly summarized the core causes of the Nation’s woes:

• Clean politicians that do not plunder the wealth of the people are scarce.

• Top officials are following the footsteps of the politicians

• Graft is well entrenched in the political culture of Sri Lanka.

• People were voting for the same set of MPs over and over again.

We need to be thankful to the President for making this frank and forthright statement that in fact deserved a banner headline.

Gone are the days when people like Dudley Senanayake, H.B. Wanninayake, Pieter Keuneman, N.M. Perera, Phillip Gunawardena, Colvin R de Silva, Gamini Jayasuriya and Felix Dias Bandaranaike held the reins of power. Such men and many more of their times stamped their era with the golden seals of honour, integrity and dignity. The speeches they made in Parliament both by the sea and by the Diyawanna loaded with studied substance, wit and repartee always held the House and the galleries spellbound. An unparliamentary expression was on exceptional rarity.

The President is right. Looking for a clean politician today is akin to the search for a needle in a haystack!

In the days of honourable politics, top officials did not follow the ways of politicians Ministers were guided by their Secretaries, the AG, Government Agents and Heads of Departments. In matters involving finance Ministers invariably took the advice of their Secretaries who are the Chief Accounting Officers of Ministries. The breakdown in this Cardinal principle of Financial Administration has been the main reason for the galloping corruption in the State Sector.

Accountability and responsibility

Regrettably, politically appointed Ministry Secretaries today are no respecters of accountability and responsibility.

Within living memory, successful heads of state and Ministers had Secretaries and Senior State Officers of the calibre of Gunasena de Soyza, N.Q. Dias, W.T. Jayasinghe, G.V.P. Samarasinghe, Bradman Weerakoon, D.B.I.P. Siriwardena, M.D.D. Pieris, Eric de Silva, Jolly Somasundaram, Gen. Sepala Attygalle, Chandi Chanmugam, A.R.M. Jayewardene, David Loos, Francis Pietersz, Elmo de Silva, K. H. J. Wijedasa, Chula Unamboove and Asoka de Soyza to name a few all men of knowledge, experience, integrity and enviable rectitude to advice them.

Blinded by political power Ministers as well as officials care less for the laws, Statutes, Financial Regulations and the Establishments Code, the main pillars that prop up the country’s administrative structure.

Ministers the lesser Ministers, politically appointed top officials and half-baked officials even if clean, lacking in the required knowledge, training and experience cannot be expected to make unblemished vital decisions. Many are the heads of State Corporations and Statutory bodies today who have not read or even seen the Acts of Parliament that created such bodies. Such men and women can even unwittingly fall prey to corruption or make expensive blunders. The partially concluded and ongoing proceedings of Presidential Commissions of Inquiry reveal the extent to which senior officials have acted with gross irresponsibility.

To my knowledge, the President’s statement at Mahara has generated much discussion in discerning social circles. Many believe that this Presidential utterance is an understatement. For several decades this country had one politician who was often referred to as ‘Mr. Clean’. Regrettably, his crown appears to have been buried in a mountain of dung that rolled out of the Áloysian’s tables! Sri Lanka cannot even dream of a Hercules who found a way of cleaning the Augean stables.

I strongly believe that National leaders, as well as leaders of political parties who ignore the wrongdoings of their respective flocks, cannot claim to be clean. National leaders empowered by the electors are morally bound to ensure that officials and more importantly politicians holding office are clean and above corruption.

There are two recent cases of shameless corruption and unconscionable waste of public funds respectively; the former by three Parliamentarians and the latter by the Western Provincial Council.

Members of Parliament

In spite of the wide publicity and the impact on the public conscience the above two acts, it is lamentable that even the spiritual leaders of the country have not voiced their concerns. The first case referred to above is the instance where three Members of Parliament admitted having received cash cheques to the tune of millions from none other than the first suspect in the notorious CBSL bond scam. To make matters more heinous, assuming that the people were fools these MPs churned out the excuse that the filthy lucre was for election purposes.

Harping on the second case, the much publicized near million rupees super comfy chairs for the Western Provincial Councillors, the most unconscionable waste of public funds, fortunately, aborted by an honourable Governor is indeed nauseating. This Provincial Council is now hell-bent on making their abode smell sweet spending millions on perfumes. These upstarts who in their days of yore sat on mats and gunny sacks do not realize that all the perfumes of Arabia will not be able to overpower the horrible stench that emanates from their office on Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha.

Our leaders have not in anyway, publicly admonished, condemned and shamed these ‘somebodies and nobodies’ in the world of politics who by their obnoxious behaviour have established landmarks in the history of corruption in this country. The voter cannot be blamed. He or she has no choice, but compelled to vote for a thief among thieves nominated by party leaders.

Parties repeatedly nominate unsavoury characters because it is the latter that have black money to spend on elections without burdening the party coffers. Furthermore, they have “catchers” comprising thugs, rowdies, murderers, drug addicts, kasippu dealers and rapists who can be unleashed to scare and intimidate opponents and voters.


 

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