April 19, 2012, 7:13 pmPolls Chief Mahinda Deshapriya has set the cat among the pigeons. He has given the office bearers of political parties a choice between declaring their assets and being hauled up before the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). Why didn't any of his predecessors put his foot down in this manner?
The SLFP and the UNP have said they will comply with the Elections Commissioner's directive and meet the June 30 deadline. What else could they do? They have been given Hobson's choice. They must explain why they waited till the Polls Chief cracked the whip to meet that legal requirement.
Only the JVP has so far submitted asset declarations in keeping with the law, the Election Commissioner says. It deserves praise; shame on the SLFP and the UNP!
Why politicians are wary of declaring their assets to the Elections Commissioner is only too well known. They have never had it so good! Having amassed ill-gotten wealth, they are not in a position to account for it. Some of them who wore 'rubber slippers', rode bicycles and slept on tables in their party offices when they began life as politicians are today living in clover with palatial houses in foreign capitals and offshore accounts. They must be made to submit asset declarations from time to time. However, one should not dupe oneself into thinking that even if they were made to comply with the Polls Chief's directive, they would reveal all their wealth. They have stashed away their money in foreign banks and acquired property overseas with kickbacks. It is only wishful thinking that even if the Elections Commissioner were to report them to the CIABOC in case of non-compliance, they would have to face prosecution for plundering public wealth and/or bribery and corruption. For, CIABOC, in our book, is a rickety catamaran tasked with a job meant for a modern multi-day deep-sea fishing craft; it is not equipped to hunt sharks and therefore its catch always consists of small fish. It has been systematically reduced, over the years, to an emaciated watchdog long in the tooth.
Politicians of the two main parties receive billions of rupees for their election campaigns besides bribery and public funds they help themselves to while in power. What happens to the leftover campaign funds is known to one and all. They either find their way into foreign accounts or get invested through various fronts as evident from the meteoric rise of some businessmen with humble origins thanks to their political connections. That's the name of the game in politics.
UNP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC has suggested that politicians be made to declare their assets when they are nominated for elections. One cannot but agree with him. However, it is not only politicians' assets that matter; their track records must also be taken into consideration before they are fielded as candidates. A party is known by the candidates it nominates and the leaders of both the SLFP and the UNP must be held responsible for having turned politics into a criminals' paradise. It is they who have enabled cattle rustlers, chain snatchers, murderers, extortionists, rapists, pickpockets and crooks of all sorts to go places as elected people's representatives. It is only natural that they have become a public nuisance causing political institutions to stink to high heaven.
It is heartening that the public service is not completely without officers capable of standing up to politicians. The Polls Chief is sure to incur the wrath of many a political high-muck-a-muck. But, he can rest assured that his directive has struck a responsive chord with the ordinary public. Let him be given three hearty cheers!