Mission impossible | Daily News


Mission impossible

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, no doubt, is the toast of all Sri Lankans for the role he played in ensuring peace in the wake of the horrendous fate that befell the Catholic community in this country by the Easter Sunday terror attack. The composure he maintained amidst the grave provocation of the Catholics, his injunction to them not to harm even a single Muslim brethren and the leadership he gave to his stricken flock came in for much praise from members of the Sangha and the other religious leaders, so much so, there is a growing campaign in the country for nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

However His Eminence is certainly not going to win a popularity contest among the country’s political fraternity, especially those who have amassed ill gotten wealth through abuse of state power.

His Eminence has called upon the Government to conduct a check on all politicians who have suddenly got rich, both within the ranks of the Government and the Opposition. No doubt, His Eminence’s curiosity has been prompted by the alleged collusion by certain politicians with the terrorists responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks and disclosures of assets running into billions of rupees in the possession of terrorists and a separate sum of Rs. 140 million in bank accounts.

However, politicians in this country do not have to rely on terrorists to provide them with riches. In fact the system itself has opened the avenues for this. There are numerous ways that a Member of Parliament can become rich overnight. Each MP is entitled to a liquor permit by which he can open a liquor outlet under his own name or that of his spouse or sibling. He is also entitled to a duty free vehicle permit which he can liberally dispose of at astronomical gain. Government MPs usually have their fingers in each and every contract in their constituencies. Their more than generous salaries are supplemented by numerous allowances including being paid to attend Parliament sittings even though it is for this purpose that they had been elected. There are other ways in which Government ministers can fatten their bank balances for instance through the doling of Government contracts to favourites and by the manipulation of tenders to earn kickbacks. Hence, Government ministers and MPs do not have to look far to amass wealth. Besides, locating the sources of wealth of politicians, His Eminence would soon discover, is next to impossible. Most of the loot is stashed away in foreign banks which would not cooperate with any investigations, as found out by some of our local sleuths who were practically snubbed when on a mission abroad to trace the alleged billions of a deposed leader.

Not just abroad, even on Lankan soil, the ill-gotten wealth of politicians, particularly the leaders, are often held by third parties or concealed in front organisations such as private television channels so that any investigation is bound to draw a blank.

But indeed, there is a Commission appointed by the President that is currently investigating irregularities under the Yahapalanaya Government from January 2015. Similar Commissions have been in existence in the past as well. But these were only exercises of political revenge or witch-hunts, so to speak. How the present one will pan out is anyone’s guess. But His Eminence will do well not to entertain much hopes.

Also, the probe on ministers, who have suddenly become rich, as proposed by His Eminence, should also include those currently in the Opposition but held ministerial office, while in power, not long ago. This is because names have transpired of key figures, now in the Opposition, who had close links to drug lord Makandure Madush. Also, some of the ministers who the Opposition accuses of aiding and abetting Islamist terrorists were prominent ministers while in the other camp. Also the origins of the Jihadist movement in this country stretches back to the time the ministers currently being accused were on the other side, holding portfolios. Amassing wealth is a continuous process and should be traced to their roots, to the time of the former regime. All MPs are required to declare their assets to Parliament when they are sworn in. It is not known how many MPs have confirmed to this requirement. In any event this too cannot be termed a fool proof method since assets of politicians, as already mentioned, are in the name of third parties.

Not just the politicians. Bureaucrats, Government officials too should be probed for their sources of wealth. In most instances it has been found that living styles of some of our top bureaucrats undergo a sudden transformation. These also included members of the services and some top cops. How a former IGP attended a party thrown by the leading drugs dealer at a five-star hotel only goes to confirm this. No less a person than the Secretary to the President was nabbed accepting a massive bribe at a hotel car park. Corruption is deeply entrenched in our body politic. Hence, His Eminence’s call, as worthy as it sounds, is not going to win him many friends on the political front. 

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