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8th, March 1998

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So much, by so few, in such short time!

By Viruddha Paakshikaya

The comments of “Paakshikaya” last week, trying to poke fun at UNP’s attempts to fight the corruption in this government were so funny, and one could have had a good laugh over it all had it not been so tragic for our country.

“Paakshikaya”, is of course, in familiar territory, trying to blame the UNP. “The UNP did it, so we can do it too” must be the slogan of the government now. But Paakshikaya must realise it might not work where the rampant, naked corruption of this government is concerned.

Let us start at the beginning. One of the first acts of this government was to loftily proclaim an Act of Parliament, setting up the “Permanent” Commission on Bribery and Corruption. And did we in the UNP scuttle the move? No, we gave our full support to the process, handing the government a two-thirds majority, under the instructions of the man you love to hate - Ranil Wickremesinghe.

But, what have you done with that Commission? In all of three years, and after millions of rupees in expenditure, the Commission has indicted a School Principal in the “only” case of corruption in the country since 1995! And that too for accepting cups and saucers worth nine hundred rupees! And, better still, even this solitary case was withdrawn halfway because it was collapsing without evidence!

When one of the three Commissioners in the Commission died, no replacement was named, and now it functions with only two Commissioners. Surely, Paakshikaya, couldn’t your President find one man or woman from among your rank who could be trusted with the job of fighting corruption?

Then, when the Commission launched a probe into the Private Secretary of your Justice Minister there were threats to have the Commissioners removed by Parliament, the Attorney General that versatile gentleman, withdraws his lawyers from the Commission and your government threatens to form another Commission!

Therefore, it only appears as if the “Permanent Commission on Bribery and Corruption” is itself impermanent but bribery and corruption is permanent, under Paakshikaya’s beloved government!

The ultimate arbiters of all this are the people of this country, Paakshikaya, and your leaders will be hung by the people of this country not only for your Commissions but also for your omissions. That is why, Paakshikaya, we in the UNP have taken this issue to the Court of the People through an “Impeachment by the People” movement.

Remember, Paakshikaya, our first meeting in Galle for this purpose attracted over 10,000 people. They were not all UNPers. There were also people - who most probably voted for Her Excellency in 1994 - who came to listen to the misdeeds of your government.

And, that is why the goons in your government have panicked and tried to disrupt our protest at Eppawala - another deal that stinks more than the phosphate there, involving your ministers and their relatives.

I can tell you, Paakshikaya, as far as the people are concerned, “Epawela” about sums up their sentiments about your government, not only in Eppawala, but almost everywhere else too!

Now, I have been told I can respond to “Paakshikaya” but that only an equal amount of space will be allocated to me. So, it would mean I cannot illustrate every corrupt deed of this government. But I will try, even though it is difficult to find a beginning.

Paakshikaya talks much about our Airbus deal, which I presume was what you meant when you said about our dealing with the “rajah”s. You didn’t have the guts to even name the company. Why? Because you had dealings with them too in the early days; your leaders went in their Benz cars, their agents had access to the bedrooms of your leaders and much more. So, what happens to all those Airbus accusations? You appoint a one-man-committee and it is swept under the carpet. So, either your leaders men and women, were talking, through their hats - Parliamentary language prohibits us from saying where else they may have been talking through - or you and your leaders have been effectively silenced. Now you have got angry with these rajahs and branded them evil and crooked - loyalties are so fickle, aren’t they, Paakshikaya?

However, now the wheel has turned full circle - or is it the worm has turned? In the French rail locomotives (with ship engines) deal, your leaders talk of level playing fields. I guess only the players are of different sizes there. You have the cheek to say that we were corrupt but we never ever had Ministers sitting on tender boards, nor did a UNP President lecture respected public servants and tell them how ship engines are good for locomotives! So, this is probably why you say your “transparency” is not “nakedness” because you have something vital to hide! How you remind me of a “katussa” Paakshikaya, because you turn from blue to purple - but beware you will eventually be marooned! You say you and your leaders are socialists, then capitalists but you become neither, only opportunists.

Then Paakshikaya, you have the nerve to mock at the UNP’s attempts to protest against corruption because, as you say, we have no right to talk about the issue as we did nothing against it while in power. Now, Paakshikaya, if you have a short memory, that is not our problem, is it? But, just for the record, and for the benefit of readers who might otherwise be misled, let me remind you of some salient facts.

It was the UNP under J.R. Jayewardene that dismissed both the Minister (E.L. Senanayake) and his Secretary (Ranjan Wijeratne) when there was a stink over a fertilizer tender. (Tell that to Mr. Ashraff, Paakshikaya).

Then, it was the UNP that dismissed a young and popular MP Anura Daniel when Mudalalis used that innocent boy to smuggle gold bars.

One of our MPs from the East, M. Jalaldeen lost his civic rights for accepting a fridge as a bribe.

Why don’t you write about these acts, Paakshikaya. Are you trying to pretend that ignorance is bliss?

In comparison, have you initiated action against a single politician under your government? Or is it that we are living in a land that was suddenly freed from corruption, the moment Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga took her oaths, signing on the dotted line.

Let’s look a little further. When your financial backers - it’s not every Tom and Dick, Paakshikaya, but now you know who it is - get caught red handed smuggling food stuffs “happily”, cheating the government of millions in taxes and the biggest cover-up in modern history is enacted the bland explanation is “ why don’t yoy catch the others instead.”

And you, my dear friend Paakshikaya can only turn around and meekly say like a cowardly rat, “We are watching Mr. Clean”!

Turn the searchlight inward, my friend, have a look instead at your own so-called Mr. Clean’s and Mrs. Clean’s and see whether all the washing powder in the country is sufficient to wash their soiled hands.

All we in the UNP can say, Paakshikaya, with apologies to Churchill is that, “never in the history of mankind has a government allowed so much of corruption in so short a time by so few a coterie at the expense of so many.”

Remember, Paakshikaya, your favourite theme is the “UNP did it, so the PA can do it too.” At the next elections, the people can equally say , “We threw out the UNP, so we can throw out the PA too...”

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