Sri Lanka: Pelisge Harrision and Paddy Racket

Of that offer to resign

by Prabath Sahabandu

( February 3, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Rural Economic Affairs Minister P. Harrison has offered to resign from Parliament if the Joint Opposition’s allegation that he has caused a Rs. 10 bn loss to the country through a paddy racket is proved. His critics including President Maithripala Sirisena’s brother, Dudley, who himself is a rice mill owner, insist that the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) stocks have been sold below the market prices and middlemen have made a killing.

The Joint Opposition (JO) has made complaints against Harrison to the Committee to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and the CID. But, it is doubtful whether they will ever conduct investigations against a government minister. Harrison has also threatened to sue the JO for defaming him.

It may not be fair for anyone to prejudge Minister Harrison or subject him to a media trial. Allegations against him have not yet been substantiated and the JO cannot be expected to tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But, there is no way Minister Harrison can prove his innocence by offering to resign if his rivals could substantiate their claims. For, even the allegations against the JO members who have not been out of power for more than two years have yet been proved. The government hasn’t left any stone unturned in its efforts to have its opponents thrown behind bars, but it has failed in its endeavour. Its failure, however, does not mean that the big guns of the former government are innocent; most of them abused their power to cover their tracks. That is the name of the game in politics. If allegations against Opposition politicians cannot be substantiated, how can those against incumbent ministers be proved?

President Sirisena has appointed a commission to probe the bond scams. That is a step in the right direction. It is hoped that the high-level investigation will help make the culprits pay for their crime. He should also have allegations of bribery and corruption against government politicians probed in a similar manner. The alleged PMB racket if allowed to go uninvestigated will damage what remains of the image of the yahapalana government, which promised to rid the country of abuse of power, cronyism, bribery and corruption.

Meanwhile, it behoves the self-appointed champions of good governance in the present administration to be above suspicion like Caesar’s wife. After all, that is what they promised before the last presidential and parliamentary elections.

( Prabath Sahabandu is the editor of the Island, a Colombo based daily newspaper, where this piece was originally appeared ) 



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