The words of the once Australian opposition leader Andrew Peacock, ‘’Dracula in charge of the blood bank’’ were occasioned by the appointment of Mic Young, a former minister who had been exposed as having sold state secrets to Soviet Spies, as a member of the Government Security Commission. The disbelief and indignation at this dubious appointment was obvious. It is needless to say what happens when Dracula is appointed in charge of the blood bank. But hasn’t Sri Lanka’s modern day politics after independence, the last four decades in particular, been a vivid personification of the dubious Dracula in action at the blood bank?
From Central Bank governors, conniving with fraudsters to siphon off national wealth to the tune of billions, to Presidents admitting in public of playing mum over ministers and henchmen who were or are corrupt to the core. From finance ministers accused of corrupt deals of a dubious nature, to top-brass officers helping themselves at the expense of the public. Even the cricket team seems to be under a cloud as to the underhand deals unseen by the credulous public eye, going by the recent revelations. In short, we have a pantheon of politicians, officers, and other individuals in public office and in places of national importance, not only without the integrity and calibre expected of such office, but engaged in activities bent on personal gain using the privileges and powers attributed to such office or designation. Typical Dracula figures entrusted with the blood bank!
We blame the corrupt political culture that permeates each and every aspect of social life. Yet once again isn’t there a general atmosphere of indifference towards malpractice, graft and corruption among the public themselves? How many of our representatives from the parliamentary to the local government level carry the stigma of corruption upon themselves, yet manage to get elected by public vote? As much as we cry foul about corruption, it does not chill our spines the way it should in a just and moral society. In the abstract, the ordinary citizen feigns utter dismay and shock at corrupt deals, scams, bribes and malpractices of the high and the mighty; yet is willing to get their petty thing done through such individuals and their means when it comes to matters of their personal needs.
The level of integrity that is expected of all public officers including those elected by vote hardly seem to constitute a major denominator in such selections. In fact, may I venture to say it does not figure at all? Hence the presence of some individuals with dubious credentials in places of importance at national level. Example, at a time when all world sport bodies are grappling with the issue of match fixing facilitated by gambling dons and trying to rid the sports from their malevolent influence, we have no issue at all with having bookie owners at the helm of our most treasured sport, cricket. Add to it pick pockets, rapists, drug and illicit liquor dealers, white collar criminals to boot and you get a pretty good picture of the reality.
The screening process that is essential in electing persons to public office is simply non existent. Specially when it comes to bureaucrats and state officials, isn’t it imperative that they should be persons with impeccable track records in terms of integrity and character?
Remember the Chief Justice accused of serious misconduct including interference with court cases while being the Attorney General? Yet the political authority, in the form of the Executive President did not consider it a serious disqualification to appoint him to the sacrosanct position of Chief Justice; the damage caused not only to the judiciary under him but to the credibility of the whole judicial system was unprecedented and would take decades to recover. A Dracula par excellence!
The screening process that is essential in electing persons to public office is simply non existent. Specially when it comes to bureaucrats and state officials, isn’t it imperative that they should be persons with impeccable track records in terms of integrity and character? The manner in which countries like Canada appoint Governors to their Central Bank is a case in point. The selection process starts roughly around 2 years before the incumbent is to retire and nominations are taken from civil society organizations as well as political parties. Then each and every name goes through a rigid screening process which eliminates those with dubious, murky and questionable credentials leaving only those with spotless records.
The absence of such mechanisms reliant on the system instead of the individual is a result of two things; the absence of a political will to have a set up where accountability and transparency is imperative in every public officer, on the one hand and a general lukewarm attitude towards integrity permeating all strata of society, on the other. Take a look at the typical voter; isn’t he more interested in the candidate who comes up with immediate goodies, even if his or her character is riddled with accusations of corruption and misdemeanour viz a viz one with a clean record yet promising little benefit immediately? The political will is obviously absent as politicians hitherto have been either comfortable with lack of accountability or worse, direct beneficiaries of such a culture of unaccountability. More disturbing is the public indifference to the integrity issue of their representatives and officials, suggesting a deep rot in terms of morality. The two go hand-in-hand and feeds the other creating more opportunities for Dracula to become in charge of blood bank.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution positively addresses the issue of appointments to public office based on merit rather than political expediency and influence. Yet it too should not be used as a mere stamp confirming political authority which would negate the lofty ideals that let to its creation in the first place. Independent and impartial decision making based on consensus instead of arbitrary decisions would go a long way in remedying the situation which leads to Dracula types in the Blood Bank.
When the constitution says the sovereignty of the Republic is with the people and lays down how it could be exercised through the legislative, executive and judicial arms of the state, it is implied that those personnel who man these institutions hold them in trust and not as owners or worse, predators.
The long list of Draculas holding the high seat of the figurative blood bank is an ever elongating one and does not seem to be exhausted. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Central Bank bond scam has heard some shocking yet eye-opening evidence as to the extent that governance in this country has been handed over to Draculas
The long list of Draculas holding the high seat of the figurative blood bank is an ever elongating one and does not seem to be exhausted. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Central Bank bond scam has heard some shocking yet eye-opening evidence as to the extent that governance in this country has been handed over to Draculas. Until and unless civil society presses for action against these bloodsucking entities in the swiftest and harshest manner as well as introducing far-reaching reforms in structures and systems to screen the individuals vying for public offices, the lifeblood of the nation in the form of its wealth and resources will be at the mercy of these vicious Draculas.The entire national wealth will be impaled by these bloodsucking types until nothing is left for future generations.
In that sense Bram Stoker’s celebrated fictional Dracula cuts a puny figure and fades into oblivion in comparison to these greedy, relentless and shameless bloodsuckers!