Change mindset to stop smart thieves robbing Sri Lanka


While the rural poor Sri Lankans devastated by war are struggling to make a living, the President as consequential coalition leader must ferret out the professional smart thieves who continue to rob the country. The people instead of blindly supporting their legislators, must begin as they would pick rotten mangoes from a basket identify these thieves in the legislature first and deny them nominations at the next general election due in 2020. Thereafter help the President to continue the operation into the nationwide government structure to rid of all thieves at the highest level. For this President need people support as liberal critics within the government and previous colleagues as joint opposition and many from outside the legislature are doing just that in addition to the minority diaspora continuing with their cold war for failing to meet their expectations. While all stakeholders have their own reasons for their course of actions; they must accept the bitter truth that the failure by the government to deliver any of the election promises in the past three years was due to the stiff resistance given by these smart thieves who have since 2009 influential control on most government structure and beyond that leaves no choice for the President but as top priority embark on the cleaning up operations.

In Sri Lanka after the end of the civil war in 2009, the people at large in particular the rural poor countrywide struggled to rebuild their life with those living in northeast devastated by war had the additional agony with negative peace under full military control. The people live in a society where they need to be on the constant lookout for petty thieves who would on daily basis steal to get food to feed themselves and their family. This made ordinary people to live in fear and as a normal routine kept a close watch to prevent them getting robbed again. The biggest post war impact, however was caused by big time professional smart thieves at work at the highest level throughout the country bribing their legislators and many others in high position in the government structure to rob the whole country making big profits with tax free black money. Thus by accepting these bribes the legislators and many in high positions in the government structure have become party to the crime. This state of affairs flourished while the rulers camouflaged it with ambitious development activities to ruin the country and after years of misrule and having accumulated debts eventually the government of the day began selling land outright to foreign investors to the benefit their inner circle of ruling class.

Fortunately turning point came in 2015 to put an end to this sad state of affairs, when the civil society persuaded and gave the opportunity to the current president to be the common candidate to oppose the incumbent president who was seeking re-election. The once unlikely candidate faced the presidential election with courage and won it, while the ex-president with his inner circle of men and beneficiaries turned to oppose him. The people of all ethnicity voted for the new President, presenting him with some bitter pills to digest for these various sections of society countrywide had their own reasons for the change expected immediate resolution of their problems, that has made the job more difficult for the new President, when a new unity government was formed with a coalition of the two main political parties, with the unwavering support of the main Tamil party in opposition, who like other supporters were hoping to get their old complex grievances resolved for harmony even though it is not easy for any government. Three years on the Tamil leadership that supported the government is left helpless with the unity government keeping in line with its predecessors chose not to demilitarise for fear to confront the state structures that continue with Tamil oppression by retaining the armed forces. Further the government has made no progress on transitional justice, accountability and other many urgent reforms including land release, while little progress was seen in getting a new constitution drafted and all were promises made to the Tamil speaking people. But the President has many irons in the fire and it would help if the many disintegrated Tamil groups get under one umbrella and help the head of state to help solve their problems. Perhaps it explains why the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in 2017 didn’t object to giving extra time to the government but insisted it must implement the UNHRC resolution in full within the extended time.

On fighting corruption the progress was even slower, while the professional smart thieves at the highest level continued with their activities to rob the whole country that went unchecked. Then came the Central Bank bond scam surfaced to light after almost a year of dilly dallying by the government to catch the thieves; then committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) report on the controversial treasury bond issue found former Governor of the Central Bank accountable of the bond scam. Thereafter, the President who had earlier during his inauguration made a promise of hope to clean the country of corruption appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the Bond Scam, who made their submission to him at the dawn of this year. The former finance minister was discharged from his duties earlier and is now expected to face charges has asked for a copy of the commission report under the Right to Information Act made possible by a positive act on the part of the present government. The former minister has said that that some stooges of political party leaders in the government and the opposition were conspiring to destroy him merely for their political survival and said many tens of reports handed over to the president should also be revealed and as to who is responsible for the hedging deal and the Greek Bonds which have all caused billions loss to the government. He has said while those responsible for these scandals have not been uncovered though people are shouting about the central bank bond issue deal and that was most unfair. True those responsible for other scandals have not yet been uncovered, but by his own words the former minister is a proof of what has been going on in the country and is only concerned about being most unfair to him with this scandal.

During a special session convened to debate the commission of an inquiry report on the alleged bond scam opposition members trooped into the well of the chamber to protest when the Prime Minister said that the alleged corruption has dented the government’s reputation. It was therefore not surprising to hear the President say that even though two factions accused each other of being thieves, people know who the real thieves were, it only brings home the message how low morality has deteriorated among the legislators, even after a change of government. Therefore the former minister is ethically obliged as best person to trap those responsible for other scandals, to come forward and assist the President, knowing more of their fraudulent practices to entrap them with the investigations to charge those responsible for the hedging deal, the Greek Bonds, and to rid of the debt trap faced by the government.

Only such all-inclusive understanding would explain why the government require more time to deliver their election promises and it will be futile for people to find fault earlier. The President will no doubt bring to light those responsible for other scandals to serve as a proof that he has delivered the hope and the change promised three years before, provided of course and the heart of the problem is those on either side of the divide in the legislature appreciating the gravity of the situation against much odds reform themselves to support the President with his efforts.