Editorial The Island”
Many a true word is spoken in jest. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales we come across this: “A man may say full sooth [the truth] in game and play ….” We find something similar in Shakespeare’s King Lear: ‘Jesters do oft prove prophets.’ However, it is not only in comic utterances that the truth is found. One may argue that the truth is often spoken in vituperative outbursts as well. Here is a case in point.
Minister of Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Champika Ranawaka, who lost the plum power and energy portfolio in a recent mini Cabinet reshuffle, has taken a swipe at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), which, he says, reeks of corruption. In a response replete with vitriol and animosity to a query by a weekend newspaper, he has vowed to expose corruption in the debt-ridden CEB. The question, however, is why he didn’t do so while he was the Minister of Power and Energy. Is it that he did not want to open up a can of worms at that time?
Minister Ranawaka says he has neither left nor will leave any room for bribery and corruption and he was under pressure from many quarters. The power and energy sector is called the ‘gold plated industry’, he tells us, adding: “Costs for projects are inflated, sometimes by 300 percent or more. This shows provision is made by interested parties to meet illegal costs they incur at various tiers when they seek approval … there is a white collar Mafia at work …”
Minister Ranawaka’s diatribe against the CEB reminds us of John Perkins’ earth-shattering revelations in his widely read book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Of power projects, inter alia, in the developing countries, Perkins has this to say: “… I might be told [by his female handler while he was learning the ropes as an Economic Hit Man] that the country [targeted by ‘corporatocracy’] was being offered the opportunity to receive a modern electric utility system, and it would be up to me to demonstrate that such a system would result in sufficient economic growth to justify the loan …. If only one project was under consideration, I would need to demonstrate that developing it would bring superior benefits to the GNP. The unspoken aspect of every one of these projects was that they were intended to create large profits for the contractors, and to make a handful of wealthy and influential families in the receiving countries very happy, while assuring the long-term financial dependence and therefore the political loyalty of governments around the world. The larger the loan, the better. The fact that the debt burden placed on a country would deprive its poorest citizens of health, education and other social services for decades to come was not taken into consideration [emphasis added].” This may explain why the third-rate governments in the so-called Third World countries plunge feet first into mega development projects regardless of their economic viability and benefits to the masses who have to pay back huge loans with interest.
That the CEB is corrupt to the core is common knowledge and that fact needs no elaboration. It is hoped that Minister Ranawaka will not renege on his promise to carry out a crusade against corruption in the power and energy sector, albeit belatedly, in the public interest. He has talked the talk and now he has to walk the walk.
As for Minister Ranawaka’s acrimonious outpouring, what really takes the cake is his allegation that a journalist was paid as much as Rs. 5 million to carry out a vilification campaign against him. He says he has evidence to prove his claim. So, what prevents him from going public with the identity of the bribe taker?
The media treats the public to self-righteous moralizing ad nauseam and has taken upon itself the burden of ridding the country of bribery and corruption. But, who will guard the guards—quis custodiet ipsos custodes? That, we believe, is a task for the guards themselves. Therefore, the onus is on all journalists’ associations that vigorously campaign for democracy, good governance, transparency etc and even take to the streets for that purpose, to urge Minister Ranawaka to name the journalist concerned and clear doubts in the public mind. And fast
This is the text of the editorial, Lead has been inserted by SLB
February 5th 2013