Corruption is a dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery that has become a common practice in this country, more so after the open economy concept, that was introduced in the later part of the last century under the all-powerful executive presidency.
Well collectively Sri Lankans have failed to overcome this corruption nuisance that has been present for many decades. Why corruption is widely common in our land and where the actions to curb it? As per a Tamil proverb “the subjects follow the way of their rulers” and therefore action must come from the top in fact from the Head of State. With the present constitution once elected to power, the rulers have a free hand to do what they want; while the ruled people are only granted the right to vote in elections. Hence it is only possible by the President and he needs to do it.
The present government came to power in 2015, promising to rid of all corruption and the executive presidency; but lost its way after the Prime Minister and few ministers were called to appear before a presidential commission of inquiry into Rs.10 billion bond scandal. It shacked the government that lost its way damaging the economic prospects of the country. It was the same at every level of government, few years later the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister directed few ministers to step down until allegations of corruption, abuse of power and misuse of funds were fully probed. Unfortunately, in all cases nothing changed the situation on the ground, in fact it appears that the situation has gone out of control.
The other day, it was informed in the legislature that the Auditor General in his latest report had stated that this Director Board meeting was of Srilankan Airlines was held at the official residence of a former speaker of the house. An unusual place for such a meeting, where the final decision on the purchase of eight A350-900 Airbus aircraft was taken. Usually the Srilankan Airlines board meetings were held at the World Trade Centre in the board room of the Airlines. At the parliament it was further disclosed that a consultancy firm whose selection was questionable had been paid for its services Rs.144 million, who made an outlook presentation during this meeting, in the presence of former President as then Finance Minister. There had been no cabinet approval for this airbus deal and it was highlighted that the ordering of the aircrafts at a time when Srilankan Airlines had minus equities as well as their cancellation were highly questionable. The total sum of compensation paid to cancel the lease of four aircrafts was over Rs.17 million and the cancellation of outright purchase of the rest of four aircrafts is yet to be done. Further referring to the AG’s report, it was disclosed that there were 38 individuals at Airlines who earned salaries over Rs.2 million as at the end of 2018, with another 209 individuals who earned salaries of over Rs.1 million. Most of them are pilots and it is indisputable that they should be paid market salaries, while seven individuals in the higher management too had received salaries over Rs.2 million with former CEO had obtained Rs.3 million salary at a time when the institution was making loss.
Then it was reported in the newspaper of a corruption case filed against former Sports Minister for allegedly committing over Rs.53 million fraud while importing sports equipment was fixed for April 30 by Colombo Chief Magistrate. In another case the Colombo Permanent High Court-at-Bar overruled preliminary objections raised by former Defence Secretary and six others for allegedly misappropriating state funds amounting to Rs.33.9 million in the Museum case.
While four years were wasted by the present members of the legislature to draft a new constitution that would have only produced another biased constitution not fit for the whole country and now they are getting prepared with the present outdated draconian republican constitution that was amended nineteen times to face the General Elections due in 2020. The civil minded people who care for their motherland consider the main constraint for a corruption free rule is the present constitution and that it needs to be replaced. As it is inadequate to solve all ills in governing the country well and have concluded a new constitution prepared with the wider participation of the people put in place to enable the people to participate in the decision making process in regard to the issues of public importance rather than restricting it only to the members of the legislature. All is not lost and the people needs to work towards a corruption free one nation and the civil minded people must be encouraged to produce that new constitution involving more people organisation immediately, which in itself will encourage all political parties to field corruption free candidates at the 2020 General Election.