The breakdown of the rule of law, the apparent end of constitutional democracy and the lack of checks and balances after the independence of the Judiciary was subverted, have produced unprecedented corruption. Top government leaders and powerful officials are alleged to be involved in a multitude of frauds and the plunder of public money with their deception and double dealing being covered up largely because they are close to the ruling family.
In the latest case, the Daily Mirror disclosed last Wednesday some shocking details about the multi-million dollar Golden Key investment fraud which brought down the empire of business tycoon Lalith Kotelawala.
The Government in its controversial impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake alleged that she had taken control of the cases filed by Golden Key depositors because her sister had obtained a luxury Ceylinco apartment on an instalment basis. Chief Justice Bandaranayake denied any wrong-doing or unethical behaviour on her part.
Another Supreme Court Judge Shiranee Tillakawardene testified before the Parliamentary Select Committee which probed the impeachment motion. According to the P.S.C. report, Justice Tillakawardene had testified that a Central Bank probe committee had been set up in 2005 to probe complaints by Golden Key depositors. But in 2006 the Central Bank which then had a new governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, held talks with Ceylinco Conglomerate Chairman Lalith Kotelawala, and the probe committee was disbanded. How and why this happened must be probed, but probe committees have a notorious reputation for wasting time and money and then locking things up with golden keys.
Corruption has always prevailed in the political field, so much so that many independent analysts have said that at general elections the people only have the option of choosing between the lesser of two rogues. But corruption reached crisis proportions especially after the imposition of the 18th Amendment and the resultant abolition of the independent Police Commission and the independent Judicial Services Commission. Corruption and fraud have been widespread especially in vital State institutions like the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation where last year sub-standard oil was imported and thousands of vehicles were damaged. Hundreds of millions of rupees were plundered in these frauds. As usual, a high-level probe committee was appointed and two officials are facing corruption charges. but who else plundered millions in public funds will probably never be known. We now have a new Minister of Petroleum Industries and he has promised to clean up the institution, but often these promises turn out to be mere words if not lies.
The racket continues with the Lanka Indian Oil Company last week importing 5000 metric tonnes of diesel adding diesel to the fire of corruption.