The issue of massive corruption in government has never before been raised as it has been during and after the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. Very early in the first Rajapaksa presidency, a very powerful government minister became known as ‘Mr. Ten Per Cent’ for his predilection for commissions on the side for various projects approved by him, or, even initiated by him.
A whole new class of capitalist cronies grew around the regime making the country’s big business community worried that it would be shut out of the economic development programs by these cronies. How the cronies got around the regime is, surely, a story waiting to be written in safer times. How the business elite got around the barriers of the cronies is also a story waiting to be written one day. Equally interesting might be the role those cronies played in encouraging and supporting that snap presidential poll in January which went awry for the incumbent.
Right now, it is the many cases of corruption by the politicians and bureaucrats and sundry hangers-on that are being written and are making headlines. The sheer volume of corruption is so great that there is a doubt whether everything will ever get fully revealed and accounted for. Certainly, the corruption probes, being done strictly according to proper procedure, should continue far into the next government after August 17 – unless political expediency and opportunism gets in the way.
The sheer scale of the corruption and mis-governance surrounding it became so obvious in recent months. Especially since the news media dynamism enabled by the freer conditions post January 8 has begun revealing the vast scale of the plunder, the former President himself, could not ignore it.
Ultimately, even as the hue and cry grew louder and louder, former President Rajapaksa himself actually dared to acknowledge that corruption. The acknowledgment has come in public speeches made by the former President in which he admits to have refrained from prosecuting those whom he describes as ‘wrong-doers’ and ‘corrupt persons’. The tenor of his pronouncements in this regard leave no room for any interpretation other than that the wrong-doing was committed by people he knew although he now seems to regret that he did not act against them.
When a former head of state makes any pronouncement about such a serious matter as corruption in government, it has to be taken very seriously by the country as a whole. Indeed, there is a general expectation that the government of the day will take up the former President’s contentions for investigation.
To date, the current government has not moved to ask the former President to provide details about these cases of wrong doing that he has public talked about. Even if the government has failed to take the inititiative, the citizens would expect the former President who made the initial pronouncements to help out by volunteering this information to the authorities.
As someone who has always claimed to be ‘tough’ on issues, it would be expected of Mr. Rajapaksa that he would be most active in pursuing those wrong-doers he has talked about.
The forthcoming parliamentary elections will certainly provide former President Rajapaksa with the best platform to not only disclose these wrongs and wrong-doers but also to lead the way in bringing them to book and thereby prove his own credentials as a one-time un-corrupt President. Over to you, Mr. Rajapaksa.