Dream: A country free of corruption

The civil society and anti-corruption activists called upon the government to setup special courts to deal exclusively with cases of high-level grand corruption involving politicians and high level public officials. It is justified to setup a special Anti-Corruption Tribunal in the country to try and provide punishments to corrupt political leaders and those who feed off corrupt practices and thus to minimise the crimes of corruption country wide.


by Raja Wickramasinghe

( December 11, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)  The United Nations Organization has declared December 9 anti-corruption day. It says corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. This year it has focused its campaign on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.

Corruption is found in all countries in the world, both rich and poor. It’s a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies, while hurting the poorer countries most. It contributes to instability and poverty in these countries.

Equal and fair justice for all and the rule of law are crucial elements for a country’s stability and growth. A transparent and open business community is a cornerstone of any strong democracy. Only by creating such an environment can we attract foreign investment to the country. Everyone is willing to invest in a country when they see that funds are not being siphoned off into the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials.

Corruption, if I may say, was the most talked about subject before and after the January 8, 2015 Presidential election campaign. The people have shown the government that they want a country free of corruption. We have reached almost a two year mark since then. It is time, on this day of International anti-corruption to look at where we are heading in our drive against corruption. It is now up to the Government to deliver.

Fighting corruption needs to be the priority of the government. The Government, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the media and the people need to join forces to fight this crime. The government however needs to be at the forefront of these efforts.

The civil society and anti-corruption activists in the country frequently criticize the government’s lax enforcement of its anti-corruption laws. Delays in concluding investigations into their complaints and bringing the culprits before the law were their main allegation leveled against the government.
The corrupt dealings undercut development, distorted national priorities, accentuated inequality, and enriched conniving elites.

Where governance is weak, corruption enables whole populations to be deprived of educational opportunities and access to health benefits. Corruption gives rise to civil conflicts and creates the environment for long internal unrest.

The cost of corruption in key sectors in the country, if estimated, would run into billions of rupees. The corrupt politicians and officials thrive on bribes, kickbacks, embezzlement and other forms of grand corruption. It’s not a secret that underworld groups often feed off political corruption at all levels.

The civil society and anti-corruption activists called upon the government to setup special courts to deal exclusively with cases of high-level grand corruption involving politicians and high level public officials. It is justified to setup a special Anti-Corruption Tribunal in the country to try and provide punishments to corrupt political leaders and those who feed off corrupt practices and thus to minimise the crimes of corruption country wide.

An anti-corruption tribunal with wide powers to try, and punish the corrupt politicians and government officials across the country helps to eliminate impunity and thus helps to deter grand corruption. It would bring increased attention and notoriety to the excess of corruption and to the politicians suffering from serious kleptomania more generally. It would also give a kind of legitimacy to anti-corruption efforts.

The anti-corruption tribunal would focus its energies and time on grand corruption – the large scale theft or conversion of public money to private riches. It would not focus on the insidious petty corruption that nevertheless bedevils citizens almost everywhere. The tribunal would be most concerned with prosecuting those who preside over rampant corrupt practices and reward their families, friends and henchmen.

Where executives are corrupt, and where they issue directives to law enforcement officials, public, court and law officials, anti-corruption initiatives are often stymied. That would have to be avoided. 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. To overcome such situations, a highly trained, specialised corruption investigative and prosecutorial staff is needed. They could expedite investigations. It would be necessary to provide 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, no doubt is a national priority. In the wake of the revelations, in the legislature and elsewhere, of grand corruption which has taken place in the country, such an initiative only would pave the way forward and give the people an opportunity to breathe in a corruption free country.

(The writer is a retired Deputy Postmaster-General)

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