Action against corruption was a main promise given by the leaders of the ‘Yahapalanaya’ government during last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections to woo voters who had been frustrated by the daily reports on allegations of corruption and other vices committed by the former regime.
With the summoning of several politicians of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) becoming a sort of a ritual, people who elected this government are now complaining about the snail’s pace of those investigations and are beginning to lose faith in the government.
The leaders of civil society groups, who propogated the yahapalanaya slogan which helped the current regime to come to power, are now up in arms against several leaders of the past regime being accommodated in the government as Cabinet, State and Deputy Ministers with the investigations into fraud and corruption allegedly committed by them being swept under the carpet.
Against this backdrop many would appreciate the move by the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to appoint a special committee to investigate allegations of corruption, mismanagement, waste and lethargy on the part of the provincial ministers. Northern Province Chief Minister, the former Supreme Court Judge C.V. Wigneswaran had told the media that various complaints had been made against his ministers, who he said were appointed on a merit basis. He said that initially he ignored those allegations as he was not convinced of their merit, but later had found that some of the allegations had a strong footing prompting him to appoint this committee.
A motion on the setting up of the committee was to be presented in the NPC yesterday. The Chief Minister said the committee comprising two retired judges and a retired government agent would be appointed soon after the motion was approved by the council.
This move is unique in that it could not be expected from the Central Government, leave alone the other eight provincial councils in a context where politics has become a huge money maker for those engaged in it. It goes without saying that corruption is a national crime whether it is committed by politicians or public officials or by any other person in both public as well as private sectors. However, its gravity is doubled when it is committed by those who claim to represent the down trodden. Hence, one can surmise the weight that has to be given to an allegation of plundering funds of people who lost their loved ones, deprived of their hard earned property and the livelihood during the past three decades as a result of the armed conflict by their own leaders.
Although the move by Chief Minister Wigneswaran to appoint this special committee can be deemed as a manifestation of his commitment towards a clean provincial administration, one cannot but ask as to whether the existing mechanisms for the eradication of corruption had failed compelling him to look for something new.
Whatever the reason or reasons behind the Chief Minister’s move, it would help him to closely monitor the follow up judicial process against those provincial ministers who might be found guilty by the committee. It would also provide him with a file about each of his other four ministers which could be used to blackmail them as former president Mahinda Rajapaksa threatened to do during the presidential election. However, as a reputed former Supreme Court Judge it is the duty of the Chief Minister to set an example to the Central Government and the other eight provincial councils when it comes to dealing with corruption within his own ranks.