Sri Lanka: Breathing in a Country Free of Corruption

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 Sri Lanka is a signatory to the “United Nations Convention against Corruption.” By end of 2021, the number of countries in the UN signed this convention was 140.

by Raja Wickramasinghe

The “GotaGoGama” and protesters around the country claim, the past and the present corrupt politicians and Bureaucrats are responsible for the country’s present chaotic situation and drying country’s Foreign Exchange reserves. They call for action against corrupt politicians and Bureaucrats, punishing them and bringing back the money belong to the people. The slogan is frequently heard at “GotaGoGama” and around the country. Yet, I am puzzled – is it because it’s true they are using “corruption” claim, or is it to attract public attention?   

To refresh my memory, I read the Forward in the “UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION AGAINST CORRUPTION” written by former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan. The first two paragraphs states; (quote) paragraphs (1) “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish”.

Paragraph (2)“This evil phenomenon is found in all countries—big and small, rich and poor—but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic under performance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development”. (End of quote)

This well-thought-of description fits to this situation; aptly and precisely explains the current chaotic situation of Sri Lanka. It has cleared all my doubts. There is no doubt Sri Lanka is experiencing the harmful corrosive effects of corrupt deals of the past and the present politicians and the Bureaucrats.. It has contributed to long internal unrest and instability in the country and halting the country’s development projects.

The Prime Minister; also the Finance Minister announced in Parliament the country’s economy has collapsed and there was no foreign exchange to purchase Fuel and other essential commodities. We witness people are suffering around the country in Petrol, Diesel, kerosene and cooking Gas queues. Generation of Power is disrupted cutting off power for long hours daily. Essential drugs, food and other essentials are hard to find; shelves in shops are mostly empty. Prices have skyrocketed beyond reach of the people. Poor and the vulnerable are the most suffering; unable to feed their families. Government is unable to provide services to the people; schools are closed. Government offices are providing limited services for few days a week.

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the “United Nations Convention against Corruption.” By end of 2021, the number of countries in the UN signed this convention was 140. Sri Lanka must explore all possible ways to seek assistance and corporation of all countries to investigate and bring these corrupt swindler of public money before the law and bring back the loot; money belong to the people of this country. Billion of U.S. dollars, in bribes and corrupt deals from dubious sources they would launder through web of easily set up companies in tax havens and funnel into properties in other countries. They are stored in most expensive real estates in the world.

It’s well known these corrupt politicians, their sons, daughters and their other family members purchase properties in other countries in the name of companies linked to them. This enabled a glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle for them while people in the country are suffering without food and medicine, without education to their children and employment to earn a living due to their rampant corruption and corrupt deals.

Only by re-establishing stability we can move forward as a nation. Equal and fair justice for all, rule of law and freedom are crucial for country’s stability; the cornerstone of democracy. By creating such an environment only can we attract foreign investment to the country. Until that environment is created all discussions and negotiations with World Bank, IMF, lenders, donors and any other organizations is likely end in stalemate. No country is willing to help and invest in a country when they see that funds are being siphoned off into the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials. This is a major obstacle currently discussed in all meetings and forums.

Fighting corruption has to be government’s priority. Legislating strong anti corruption laws, strict enforcement, expeditious conclusion of investigations into cases of bribery, embezzlement and other mega corruption and bringing culprits before the law should be an urgent task of the government.

It is justified to set up special Anti-Corruption Tribunals in the country, to exclusively deal with cases of grand corruption involving politicians and public officials. To try and punish politicians and officials, thrive on bribes, kickbacks, embezzlement and other forms of grand corruption and those who feed off corrupt practices.  Tribunals would be concerned to prosecute those preside over rampant corrupt practices and would focus its energies and time on grand corruption; the large scale theft or conversion of public money to private riches.

Nothing seems to have been able to stop movement of such wealth. Investigation and Prosecution in multiple countries is not easy. The most high-profile cases escape justice. It was often found difficult forensically to pursue the tortuous and hard trails of corrupt politicians, especially those with high-placed friends, and corruption committed with overseas connections. Where executives are corrupt and when they issue directives to law enforcement officials, public and law officials, anti-corruption initiatives are often stymied.

To overcome such situations, a highly trained, specialized corruption investigative and prosecuting staff is needed. They could expedite investigations, having provided all the resources, expertise and assistance of other government agencies to facilitate investigations within the country and also beyond its borders.

A successful anti-corruption drive with the aim of achieving more forceful enforcement, speedier prosecution and stringent punishment for grand corruption would pave the way forward and give the people an opportunity to breathe in a country free of corruption.




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