EDITORIAL - Nexus between corruption and politics

ormer Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram’s bail application, which she had submitted last week after she was given a four-year prison sentence in the disproportionate assets case, was taken up at the Karnataka High Court yesterday.
Many Sri Lankans especially those who support the incumbent government were seen upbeat when she was convicted and given a four-year prison term, but not because they are against corruption, but because Jayalalithaa has been a die-hard anti-Sri Lankan Tamil Nadu politician and has always been accusing the Sri Lankan Government of various things.
One has to be joyous with the news that Jayalalithaa was convicted for amassing wealth disproportionate to her declared income sources, not because she has always been pestering her southern neighbour with the problems facing fishermen in the Palk Strait, devolution of power in Sri Lanka and the ceding of the small island of Kachchativu to Sri Lanka but because one has to thank Jayalalithaa for revealing once again the nexus between big-time corruption and politics.

Jayalalithaa who once during her first tenure claimed that she accepted only a symbolic one rupee as her salary as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu since a large majority of the people in the state are below the poverty line was caught by the authorities with  wealth ranging from huge swaths of land to more than 30 kilos of jewellery and 12,000 sarees worth Rs.660 million (in Indian currency). After an 18-year-long legal battle she was convicted last month and was imposed a fine of Rs.1 billion apart from the four-year prison term.

“Amma” as Jayalalithaa is called by her loyalists is a baby when compared to the corruption that takes place in Sri Lanka. She was accused of plundering Rs.660 million, an amount below Rs.2 billion in Sri Lankan money. But the money that was plundered through the famous VAT fraud in Sri Lanka was a whopping Rs.4 billion. The Rs.1 billion (around Rs.2.5 billion in Sri Lankan money) fine that was imposed on “Amma” was a small amount compared to that imposed on the convicts of the VAT case. One former official of the Inland Revenue Department was imposed a massive fine of Rs.12 billion. It was anybody’s guess as to what would have happened if he had the backing of the all-powerful politicians.

Recently the JVP’s Voice against corruption had exposed another case of massive corruption that had taken place in the health sector. It said that out of  Rs.770 million donated by Japan for the purchase of C.T. scanners and dialysis equipment for the hospitals in the North-Central Province only Rs.300 million had been used to buy six C.T. scanners and 50 dialysis machines and accused that the balance Rs.470 million had apparently gone into the pockets of politicians and officials.
The best evidence that proved the nexus between the corruption and politics is the revelation by the COPE report prepared by MP Wijedasa Rajapakshe some years ago when he was the COPE Chairman.  The amount of corruption that had been taken place in 22 institutions alone was Rs.160 billion, an amount even Jayalalithaa cannot think of. Surprisingly not even a single person was at least charge-sheeted, leave alone punished, in any of these institutions.

Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila who did not spend on posters and liquor during his election campaign recently declared his election expenses, which too had reached Rs.10 million. This gives a picture of the massive amounts the other politicians spend on their election campaigns. The natural question that would arise in any ordinary person’s mind is why these politicians spend such a huge amount on their election campaigns when even the President does not get a salary of hundred thousand rupees.
But people never take pains to find answers to this question as they invariably know how the successful politicians are rewarded by the
existing system.

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