COPE’s many plus points | Sunday Observer

COPE’s many plus points

Our Parliament seems to have done its primary duty by the Constitution of the Republic: an important oversight body, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has successfully concluded its probe in the Central Bank bond issue and submitted a unanimous report to the House after months of division, bitter wrangling, and histrionics.

Most importantly, the report is not a cover-up or glossing over of the issue: surely the largest single case of maladministration and possible misappropriation in our State finance establishment to date. Rather, the COPE report attempts to clearly describe the problem, unambiguously point to accountability and firmly recommend remedial action that addresses multiple aspects of the case.

The unanimity of the Committee in drafting its final report is seen by many as being as great an achievement as the comprehensive scope and depth of its findings. After all, the COPE inquiry into the bond issue entertained Sri Lankans for months with the internal tussles among its members belonging to different parties – tussles sometimes ending in dramatic walkouts and verbal explosions, all indicating the intense divisions and differences on both procedure as well as the content of the probe.

And this COPE process on the Central Bank bond issue is but the second with a previous oversight inquiry losing its way in the vagaries of parliamentary schedules and electoral tenure. The whole matter took an almost surreal tinge with a public awed by the sheer enormity of the apparent financial scam and bemused by a web of seemingly interlocking business and political interests. The process dragged on for so long with such confusion that many Sri Lankans were reminded of the brazen cover-ups of similarly mighty – but yet to be proven – scams during the previous regime that was overthrown mainly on issues of corruption and authoritarianism.

Huge credit must go to the chairperson of COPE, Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti, for sticking to his arduous task of managing the proceedings and building consensus in the Committee when no one else thought it was possible. The fact that Mr. Handunnetti is a member of the Opposition perhaps helped in a situation where the two largest parliamentary parties, traditionally the competing rival power blocs, are both in government and subject to the ‘oversight’ of the Committee.

Adding to Mr. Handennetti’s historic role is that he represents a political movement that yet prides in its ‘revolutionary’ or social transformative mission and offers itself as a radical alternative to even the liberal democratic parliamentary system itself. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, however, does acknowledge that its current strategy is to establish its popular electoral credentials in the liberal parliamentary arena. Thus, Mr. Handunnetti’s accomplishment should be celebrated by citizens as a happy maturing of this once insurgent movement in its practice of the liberal democracy that it once rejected wholesale.

However, the COPE Chairperson’s management of the Committee process would not have succeeded if the bulk of the Committee’s membership, namely those parliamentarians of the SLFP and UNP coalition partners, had not negotiated hard among themselves to resolve party differences on this case in order to achieve consensus. But resolve the differences they did, much to the chagrin of those failed politicians and factions waiting in the wings to take advantage of coalition infighting.

Thus, ultimately, the Government, especially the Prime Minister as leader of the government parliamentary group, may also take major credit for the consensus finally achieved by COPE.

Proof of the pudding, however, is in its consumption and enjoyment. The COPE report now will be debated in the House and studied by the financial institutions as well as the law enforcement agencies. The whole world – including Sri Lankans voters, local business as well as foreign groups – will be watching to see how far the proposed investigations and prosecutions will go to bring about justice. And justice must be seen to have been done by a closely watching citizenry, ever ready through bitter experience, to believe the worst of the politicians whom they elect.

War on VAW

Can cricket heroism militate against real violence? We are about to learn as we watch two of our greatest cricketing legends bravely take up a burning social cause.

Violence Against Women is now a globally recognised social phenomenon which the United Nations is committed to curbing and, finally, ending. Perhaps the most significant dimension of this criminal phenomenon is that it is one which can be largely delineated according to gender in terms of perpetrator and victim. That is, by far, the vast number of cases of VAW is acts of violence perpetrated by men against women. Indeed, the reverse is so rare that the news media will seize on such an incident just as much as they would highlight ‘man eats dog’ over ‘dog eats man’.

Cricketing greats Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara need no introduction other than as the newly appointed brand ambassadors in the United Nations’. Both of them are recognised for their achievements as sportsmen and professionals. They are also known for their integrity in the face of the corrupting whirlwinds of the global sports industry.

Their fame as sports men will surely drive home the importance to other men to listen to their vital message against violence against women. May they be role models in their gentlemanly behaviour as much as they are emulated for their sporting endeavours.