THE BIG PICTURE
TICKING BOMB “The ongoing efforts to tackle corruption should continue, including revamping anti-corruption legislation. A more comprehensive anti-corruption reform agenda should be guided by the ongoing IMF governance diagnostic mission that conducts an assessment of Sri Lanka’s anti-corruption and governance framework,” the IMF said, upon confirming its US$ 3 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) on 20 March.
It added: “The authorities should step up growth enhancing structural reforms with technical assistance support from development partners.”
Music to the ears of those of us who have campaigned for measures to be taken to bring the corrupt to book – and that includes the very men and women whom we call ‘lawmakers,’ despite many of them being widely believed to be lawbreakers!
So thankfully, there are moves to enact a new Anti-Corruption Bill, which we’re told would mean that the president (and MPs, one presumes), provincial governors and members, ambassadors and high commissioners – along with members of independent commissions – will be obliged to declare their assets to a proposed three member independent commission to be established to investigate bribery and corruption.
The commission would have the authority to prosecute anyone who is accused of bribery and corruption. Moreover, special provisions to protect whistleblowers – for example, government officials who are reluctant to report any misconduct of their superiors, fearing reprisals – will also be enacted.
At a meeting with mainstream media personnel not long ago, President Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly stated that “they accused me of coming to protect thieves. But we are bringing the best anti-corruption bill in South Asia in consultation with the IMF.”
So far so good…
If one were to beg a question (or two) however, it is left to be seen whether the promised ‘independence’ of the proposed commission will come to fruition – because if the past is anything to go by, Sri Lanka has made a habit of appointing corrupt officials to catch their fellow crooks!
Whether the IMF’s involvement in this long overdue process to net the dirty money that’s in circulation will make a difference is a matter of conjecture – as is whether our bungling politicians and their accomplices risk the programme’s continuity in their quest to pocket even more than they have already.
If on the other hand, we see real action to stem the spread of corruption, Sri Lanka may no longer need help from the international community – such has been the impact of a cancer that has spread like wildfire over the decades.