Quest for uncorrupted politicians: Futile?

By Indrawansa de Silva
Professor Emeritus

It is fair to say that the fight against corruption is one of the drivers, if not the driver, of the current protest movement. We are all quite familiar with protesters’ claim that the present regime is corrupt to the core and the massive scale corruption and incompetency brought the country to a bankruptcy. Corruption charges, however, are not just directed at Rajapaksas and the governing party alone. As this newspaper reported recently, the JVP leadership gleefully announced that they are in possession of over 500 files containing corruption charges against politicians (including the Opposition leader), ministry secretaries and other government officers. The same news item named the corruption case against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cousin Jaliya Wickramasuriya, who reportedly pocketed US$3.32 million (at today’s rate a person making Rs.100,000 a month has to work more than 100 years to make that much money) on a US$ 6.25 million real estate deal, pertinent to the Sri Lankan Embassy, when he served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States. That is a commission exceeding 50 percent! Jaliya seems to put ‘Mr. Ten Percent’ to shame. As staggering as these numbers may, we all know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you dig a little deeper, the numbers are astounding. If you listen to the protesters, and read the banners and placards, no parliamentarian is exempted from corruption charges. Claims that the entire treasury has been looted seems not that exaggerated after all.

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