THE BIG PICTURE
WHY ON EARTH DO WE ACCEPT GRAFT?
Sri Lanka will fail as a state if the people continue to vote for corrupt politicians
“When corruption becomes a way of life, people consider robbery to be the new normal,” writes this magazine’s longstanding contributor Rajika Jayatilake in her column titled Graft in Government. And she quotes the famed French author Claude-Frédéric Bastiat who once pointed out that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Sounds familiar… and close to home?
In our ‘land like no other,’ bribery has become a way of life for both givers and takers. Likewise, corruption especially among the upper echelons of power – and one dares say, in some corridors of our corporate world – has led to an ever widening gap between the haves (of mostly black money) and have-nots (a large chunk of the voting public who ironically, are bribed into voting for misfits and miscreants who habitually make false promises – or promises they know can’t be kept).
And there’s the rest who occupy the middle ground and find themselves living in limbo land while paying for the upkeep of crooked politicians who in all honesty, should be able to fend for themselves with the millions of rupees they’ve plundered from the state.
Not only do taxpayers cough up a fair share of their hard-earned money through taxes of various sorts, they’re then asked to submit tax returns and numerous other forms to prove that they are aboveboard… and perhaps, to decipher whether they can fund the crooks!
In the meantime, the lawmakers break the law willy-nilly while expecting the people not to do so. They also refuse to declare their assets as required by law. And they make a fortune out of commissions on this, that and the other – and extend this ‘right’ to their associates, and kith and kin too!
We Sri Lankans are apathetic to the core; we choose not to protest or take to the streets; and worse still, we vote for errant politicians at election time – the rationale for this being that the ‘democratic franchise’ we’ve been bestowed with makes it obligatory to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’
So we end up with one evil force rather than the other!
What’s more, the two evils are in fact one! It’s not unlike a mafia that breaks up into two (and even three!) at election time, then bands together to protect one another until the next poll comes around. How else can one explain the insidious fact that not one criminal or murderer is behind bars nearly five years after we were promised swift action?
And to add insult to injury, the two (or three, if one were to count the persona non grata) arms of the mafia are often seen together not long after slinging mud at each other – they’re seen chatting, laughing and all else at parties, weddings and even concerts, would you believe! A somewhat recent case in point was when photos of the three stooges watching a concert together soon after the infamous constitutional crisis late last year went viral on social media… and all of us had fun captioning them!
If this isn’t the moment to agitate for change, there will never be a time. And if the next election isn’t one where there’s a peaceful revolution to replace the incumbents of the house by the lake, there will come a time when our precious land will fall into the pit of failed states… if that is, we’re not in there already.