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Editorial


The other Rajapakse

‘Rajapakse’ might not be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of an anti- corruption tsar, In fact that name has now come to be synonymous with the opposite. However among the much tarnished ‘Rajapaksas’ there stands one who might not be bracketed with the rest. The mild mannered Wijedasa Rajapakse does not come across so much as hero or saviour. Yet in times when the people of this land have lost all hope in the Rajapaksa administration to fight corruption, it is ironical that another Rajapakse, and one from the government camp at that, has taken the fight to the government on matters of corruption.
As Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Wijedasa Rajapakse made headlines in January this year with his damning report to parliament citing many a malpractice in the public sector. Although the Sri Lankan people were well aware of the rampant corruption, the sheer scale of it shocked even the most cynical of critics. Even more troubling was that most of the political and bureaucratic figures named in the first COPE report were holding high positions in the government and in the public service.
The inaction of the government after the release of the COPE report can only be called appalling. Politicians and public officials accused of blatant corruption and malpractice continue to hold high office, while the COPE report languishes in some dustbin at the parliament.
In the recent days, the government has added more humour to this farce by proposing that new select committees be appointed to look into the findings of COPE. Therefore 26 new select committees are to be appointed to investigate the 26 enterprises already investigated by COPE. It is time for this farce to end. The people who are suffering on a daily basis to keep the politicians and the public servants in the lap of luxury are demanding answers. Instead of answering the accusations made by the COPE, the government has decided instead to ignore its findings and even question the investigations carried out by COPE.
It is in this backdrop of intimidation that Wijedasa Rajapaksa made another startling revelation to parliament on Friday, disclosing malpractices in 20 other state owned enterprises. According the latest report, over Rs. 6 billion has been misappropriated by these institutions which include the non-payment of compensation by the Foreign Employment Bureau to the victims of the first Gulf war. If the COPE had a mandate to query the many defence deals and public funded institutions of the likes of Mihin Lanka, this report would have no doubt been even more shocking and ruffled many more feathers along the way.
Instead of addressing the burning issue of corruption, the government seems happy to remain in its state of slumber. The Defence Ministry in reply to the controversial Mig 27 deal, as revealed by the mainstream media, made an attempt to try its talents at journalism recently with an article “Fighter Pilots reveal what the defence analysts forgot to tell” published on their website. In their own warped logic, the Defence Ministry argues that “some political scum and barrack room defence analysts have been engaged in an absurd campaign against the Defence Ministry” by exposing the controversial deal. If the pilots say that the Mig’s are a good aircraft, that somehow justifies all the corruption in accruing them, according to the Ministry. If this is the answer we can expect from the government which stands accused of wasting public funds, we wonder how many more creative stories will be told to justify the COPE report.
There may not be eighty foot hoardings of Wijedasa Rajapakse in Colombo city. Nor would anyone compare him to a modern day King Dutugamunu for saving the country from separation. Yet this man today, stands as a true hero fighting the cancer of corruption that is destroying the fabric of our society. We the silent nation, with little representation and much less hope, stand together to salute a hero of our times and hope for the sake of the country, that he will not waiver in his resolve. A nation wills that Wijedasa Rajapakse and his committee stand strong against adverse winds and be not swayed by short-term political privileges or intimidation.

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“God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie”

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