A welcome move | Daily News

A welcome move

President Maithripala Sirisena’s declaration that he would appoint a special Presidential Commission to investigate into all the corrupt acts under the deposed Yahapalanaya administration is most welcome. Meeting with Colombo based foreign correspondents at his official residence in Colombo on Sunday, President Sirisena said he would appoint another commission to probe corruption and fraud of the last three and half years under the UNP led Government as he did with regard to the Central Bank Bond scam.

The President said he was keen to lead a corrupt free administration after January 08, 2015, but the bond scam put paid to all such efforts. Beginning with that sorry episode there were a string of other corrupt activities which ballooned with time forcing his hand to replace the administration. He said the appointment of a special Presidential Commission would expose new cases of corruption and fraud during the last three and half years. The full report of the Bond Commission findings is yet to be released and only selected parts of it were tabled in Parliament. The public have a right to know the full extent of the biggest financial scam in the post independence history of this country since it is public funds that were involved. The President, it is certain, would take steps to ensure the full findings will be in the public domain before long.

It is also hoped that the President’s move would signal the start of a process where acts of corruption in Government would be dealt with in all seriousness. We say this because in the past only lip service was paid by political leaders in dealing with corruption. No commitment was shown to firmly deal with the corrupt who skimmed off the national wealth. The underlining theme of Chandrika’s 1994 election campaign was to bring all the corrupt elements of the 17 year UNP rule and try them at Galle Face. As is only too well known, nothing of the sort happened. Instead the new Government that took over the reins started from the point where the old one left off as far as corruption was concerned.

However, in this instance there are positive signs to indicate that the President means business. In answer to one of the foreign correspondents, he unequivocally stated that all Rajapaksa era cases that are pending in courts will proceed as before without interruption. He is already on record as having vouched for the independence of the judiciary as demonstrated by the Supreme Court ruling circumscribing his own tenure in office and also by staying the promulgation that dissolved Parliament. Hence there is little doubt that justice would be dispensed to all wrongdoers from either side of the political divide.

The President had also reiterated that he would under no circumstance reappoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister even if the UNP prevailed at a no confidence motion. Some may consider this harsh considering that President Sirisena was elected through the vast bulk of the UNP vote at the instance of Wickremesinghe. But he (the President) had set out valuable points as to why he had to act this way. He was also magnanimous in acknowledging the fact and offered a way out of the impasse by expressing his readiness to appoint Karu Jayasuriya or Sajith Premadasa as a replacement. This alone showed that the President is not without gratitude. Far from it, he is ready to appoint an alternative from within the Greens, as already indicated.

The President, no doubt, would have come to the end of his tether to have taken this unprecedented move. As President, he could not turn a blind eye to the shenanigans that went around him. It is not that he did not give Ranil a chance to mend his ways as he declared in his first address to the nation soon after the regime change. No doubt the plot to assassinate him was the last straw.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa making a special statement on Sunday said what was in place was a caretaker Government installed for the specific purpose of overseeing the General Election and the skeleton Cabinet was evidence of this. Of course, all actors in the ongoing drama, will have their fingers crossed for the Supreme Court verdict on December 07. Whichever way the ruling goes stormy times are ahead, with a lengthy period of uncertainty and unrest bound to affect the economy in a serious way.

It is therefore incumbent that all parties to the conflict take steps to resolve the crisis without allowing it to drag on indefinitely. Besides, the current situation can only lead to those bent on harming the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to fish in troubled waters. This is also the time for all religious leaders, irrespective of their political persuasions, to throw cold water to douse the fires of hatred and conflict. Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has condemned the behaviour of MPs in Parliament saying they are setting a bad example where future generations are concerned. That is a warning that all politicians should heed. 

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