Descent politics was an indivisible concept that had been incorporated into the concept of “yahapalanaya”, the main slogan of the present government. The very struggle by the pioneers of the Maithri Palanaya against the corruption committed by the leaders and the officials of the previous government had asserted the need of a set of corrupt-free politicians especially at the helm.
Hence the hundred day programme put forward by the then common opposition as the manifesto of its Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena included an item that envisaged a code of conduct for the politicians in the country to be promulgated into a law by February 2, this year. However, like many items in the same programme this promise is also yet to see the light of the day.
Weeks ago the National Executive Committee tasked JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake with formulating a code of conduct for Parliamentarians instead of one for all politicians. That too is long overdue now. Meanwhile the Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), one of the leading elections monitoring bodies in the country had put forward a code of conduct for candidates to be fielded by the political parties at the future elections and almost all major political parties including the UNP, SLFP and JVP had signed and gave their consent to it at a recent function held in Colombo. However, the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya who was also present at the occasion had later said that he was not guided by the PAFFREL code since it was not incorporated into the Constitution or any other law.
There cannot be a debate on the need of the code of conduct for politicians, especially after the tenure of the last regime during which corruption seems to have been the order of the day and rule of law had been ruled out from many important areas. However, any future code of conduct should not be confined only to Parliamentarians or candidates contesting elections alone.
Politicians are no different than any other men or women in the country. They are not born corrupt, but the vast opportunities the politicians are associated with entice them into corruption and immorality.Thus politics has become the best avenue for big-time money-making. Some Parliamentarians who had first travelled to the Parliament by motor bikes or rented vehicles are now among the wealthiest in their respective areas. The irony is that they draw a salary that is meagre compared to that of many professionals in the country and even declare assets.
Politics has become so attractive and thereby lead to misdemeanours due to the power politicians wield and the unimaginable wealth they amass. Hence a code of conduct should look into this aspect of amassing wealth first.The tax-payers must know what their perks are, since their salary is invariably deceptive or misleading. They must be prevented by law from issuing letters to any official to discharge or not to discharge any duty assigned to the latter. Opportunities offered to politicians to influence the tender boards and contract awarding officials should be minimized.
But on the other hand this might lead to a situation where the bureaucracy which is also equally or more corrupt to have a field day, as pointed out by Minister Champika Ranawaka, citing examples from the CEB. As he had suggested during the last election, a technical audit mechanism should also be set in motion in order to minimize the corrupt practices by the bureaucracy as well. However, so long as politicians could plunder with the help of this corrupt officialdom nothing tangible would take place in respect of corruption by the officials. Therefore the first step towards this direction should be to bring in the code of ethics for the politicians as a law, as the Elections Commissioner had suggested. It should also include provisions to prevent politicians from benefitting from communal strives. Given the apparent goings on in the political sphere even during this yahapalana era, this may be wishful thinking, but this is the essence of what people have been longing for.