SLFP dissident, ex-MP and former Sri Lanka Cricket skipper Arjuna Ranatunge has said he is watching whether the politicians responsible for corrupt deals exposed in Wijedasa Rajapakshe's COPE reports will get nominations for the April election. Most of those politicians are now with the UPFA. Arjuna seems to believe that they are not eligible to hold public office. Many a right thinking person will agree with him on that score.
But, crooked deals revealed in the COPE reports took place during the UNF government (2001-2004). The SLFP-led governments, too, have plundered public wealth as is only too well known but the blame for the instances of corruption at issue should be laid fairly and squarely at the doorstep of the UNP and its coalition partners. The UPFA deserves the blame for having most of the individual MPs concerned in its ranks at present.
All the deals listed in the COPE reports were approved by a Cabinet Sub Committee and therefore the UNP and all other members of the UNF were bound by the collective Cabinet responsibility. They cannot make scapegoats of UNP dissidents and wash their hands of corruption. Therefore, if those former UNP MPs named in the COPE reports have no moral right to contest elections, as Arjuna argues, all former UNF Cabinet members, too, should be considered unfit to do so.
Wanton destruction of public property is, we believe, as bad as the plunder thereof. The SLFP and the UNP stand accused of having helped themselves alternately to the national wealth to the tune of billions of rupees; the JVP destroyed the country's valuable assets such as hundreds of CTB buses and State institutions during its second uprising; the outfit also robbed the people of their valuables, especially tons and tons of gold jewellery.
The Supreme Court cancelled the Waters Edge land deal and fined former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who had, the Court said, abused her executive powers to facilitate it.
How can Arjuna justify his alliance with the JVP and Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who was backed by the UNP and Chandrika to the hilt in the presidential race? Arjuna has also been a trusted lieutenant of Chandrika. A man is, it is said, known by the company he keeps.
Gen. Fonseka and his son-in-law are accused of involvement in corrupt military deals and the latter is absconding. So, the question is whether Arjuna, who had no qualms about making common cause with the UNP in a bid to help Gen. Fonseka win the presidency, could claim to be holier than his political rivals.
Meanwhile, National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa has urged the public not to vote for the corrupt. We have another paragon of virtue! He has never done a job and wasted half of his life blindly following the JVP leaders responsible for killing thousands of people, destroying public property worth billions of rupees and robbing people's cash and gold. His salary as a parliamentarian was also donated to the JVP's war chest. But, he has already launched what looks like an expensive election campaign. Where on earth has he got all the money for that? On the other hand, the SLFP-led UPFA he defends so passionately has come under heavy criticism for waste and corruption.
What if the people take Arjuna's and Wimal's exhortations seriously and desist from voting for the corrupt in the fray? We will be left with only a handful of politicians or none at all to rule this blessed land of ours!
Beggars, it is said, are no choosers. The voting public is in a similar predicament. They are without much of a choice in electing their representatives. They have no alternative but to hold their noses and vote for someone they consider less corrupt, hoping against hope.