22nd April 2001
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Leaving stones unturned

Thoughts from LondonAn ancient Greek dramatist once said that under every stone there is a politician. If there are far too many politicians around we now know whom to blame. It is those who blithely promise to leave no stone unturned in their supreme efforts to get to the bottom of things and let loose on the world what was underneath.

Had they but turned the stone and then used it for a far more noble purpose like dropping it back on some sensitive part of the anatomy of that which was under it, there can be little doubt what the reaction of the populace would have been.

Do you think the citizenry would have cried in anguish? Or do you think it is more likely that the people would have broken into sustained applause and shouted "again, again".

It is not for me to decide such weighty issues on behalf of the people. There are too many people who are already doing so. Some are in cabinet rooms that can hardly accommodate their numbers. Still others are in parliament-and if one is to believe the media on the reactions of persons who have spent some hours studying the behaviour within-it must seem like a nadagama of old.

All you need, are the right connections, some regular thugs who can be employed for whatever nefarious purpose that immediately requires their attention and expertise, the ability to hoodwink the people and steal their vote one way or another, and a capacity to grow abundantly, particularly round the waist.

Other skills can be picked up on the way up the political ladder. Usually novices start by having the officer in charge of the police station, a head teacher of a school close by or some lowly official transferred out of the area for supposedly helping the opposing party.

As one climbs the ladder of experience, other skills such as stuffing ballot boxes, cadging free trips, selling car permits and other sundry habits are acquired. The speed at which the art is learnt depends very much on who one has as a teacher. 

Preferably, it should be a senior who by this time has learnt how to fiddle and I don't mean what Nero was doing while Rome burnt. A commission here and a small santhosam there would do nicely, thank you. And if you have a son or some relative who has got into business, preferably the arms business and has become a "commis kakka" as they are referred to in the dismissive political parlance of today, then it is all the more useful in your chosen career.

Because after five years, even if one is chased out of a constituency by an angry and deceived mob of voters, you have made enough to keep another three generations alive.

It sometimes does make one wonder how some politicians, senior officials and armed services personnel from impoverished Third World countries manage to send their siblings abroad to study at expensive universities in expensive countries. Surely they cannot all be on full scholarships. Admittedly some of these countries do offer scholarships to their universities and possibly polytechnics too. There are Commonwealth scholarships on offer.

But it would take a lot of convincing to make people believe that all these children of politicians and officials had sufficient brains to win scholarships. They can't all be having wealthy benefactors in the way of friends of relatives who will pay all the dues.

In some instances where there are benefactors, they have to be paid back in different ways. So they, who were pottering around previously struggling to make ends meet, become agents for one or more companies and those companies bid for tenders back home. What is the earthly use if one has powerful and influential politicians and friends if they lack the tender touch and cannot turn it around in one's favour.

Just take a glance round the world. Poor people are taxed at every turn. They are taxed if they eat, they are taxed when they sneeze. They have only to be taxed now at death because that is all that is left to tax.

But how do their leaders and their immediate families live? In hovels? Or in palatial residences which have become too small and too old so they need even bigger and better ones- perhaps to perpetuate their names? But if they only knew today how they will be remembered tomorrow.

In Zimbabwe, still another leader who has run down the country's economy despite the abundance of natural resources, is building an enormous new residence for himself. And his salary would not be enough to build two bathrooms.

So where do we go from here? Today's presidents and generals are tomorrow's criminals, dragged out of their residences, deprived of their ill-gotten gains and treated like common thugs and bully boys. Unfortunately the crimes for which these depraved megalomaniacs can be ignominiously taken before international courts are limited to those such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

Only if these crimes are redefined and broadened sufficiently to include economic crimes such as acquiring wealth illegally or at the expense of the nation, can crooks who masquerade as dutiful leaders be brought to justice.

Such economic crimes can be as bad or even worse than genocide for the victims are a whole nation. Should those who commit such crimes and their close associates be allowed to go unpunished? 

Today they can roam the world, as many of them do, because they have immunity. But once the immunity lapses they are without that thin veil with which they covered themselves against the people. If every nation has the jurisdiction to arrest former leaders and their henchmen under a criminal justice system that includes economic crimes, they will have few places they can fly off to as they do now.

The world requires such laws, if it is to be cleansed of political thugs and unscrupulous leaders. 

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