Can candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa name
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
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.
Inner party democracy
When Maithripala Sirisena stood for the Presidency, his principal
electioneering slogan was to bring about good governance in the country.
Hence, yaha paalanaya (good governance) became synonymous with Maithree
paalanaya (Maithree rule).
But, in the aftermath of the huge crisis inside the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party and the role perceived to have been played in this crisis by the
President himself, many may ask whether Mr. Sirisena has been as
successful in his governance of his own political party.
Running a country according to a specific political mandate received
from voters is not necessarily the same as running a political party,
especially in politically under-developed Sri Lanka. Running the country
is a matter of direct public interest and public accountability. The
internal matters of a political party - or any other citizens' voluntary
association - are not directly a matter of public interest or public
The membership of a political party has the right to decide the
nature of governance and administration of their organisation. Thus,
whether or not their organisation's internal governance conforms to
liberal democratic norms or fascist or authoritarian or cultic styles is
entirely the choice of that organisation's membership.
Certainly, any political party that vies for the vote of the
citizenry and does so on the basis of ensuring national governance in
accordance with the national democratic norm, will probably find it
easier to win the popular vote if it is seen to practise what it
preaches inside its own organisation. More importantly, the political
performance of that party, in gaining representation of various interest
groups and communities of the citizenry becomes all the more effective
if internal democracy enables such representation in a transparent and
fair manner. Leadership building inside the party is also likely to be
more successful if leaders are popularly elected via a transparent
process inside the organisation.
Today, the liberal-style 'democracy' that frames the Sri Lankan
polity certainly does not apply to the organisational structure of most,
if not all, Sri Lankan political parties. In most politically and
economically developed countries, it is not only the State structure
that is democratic in nature. The political parties in those countries
are also governed by certain minimum standards of democracy. It is time
that Sri Lankan parties learnt from the more mature democracies and move
towards similar structures. It is likely that the cabals, conspiracies
and factionalism that dominate our parties will disappear as they reform
and modernise internally.