The Three Musketeers of Corruption


The end of a hundred days of *Yaha Palanaya *or Good Governance has produced some interesting developments in the whirligig of Sri Lankan politics. What strikes one most is the acceleration of the battle against corruption - with a sharper focus on those once considered untouchable by the forces of law and order.

The eve of the 100-day climax became a celebratory event for some, with a new ritual of protest in parliament against the summoning of a mere citizen to the Bribery Commission. With the few weeks or months before the dissolution of this parliament, one wonders whether there will be any more such rituals performed to please the Rajapaksa Deities of Corruption.

It was more funny than strange to see elected (and appointed) representatives of the people, becoming players in what can be seen as a fast growing circus of corruption, abandoning the tightrope walk of politics to make a leap into an ugly heap of corruption.

The parliamentary circus players may pretend they have won a battle, with the Bribery Commission agreeing to visit the home of today’s plain citizen and former all powerful president, to record his statement on an allegation of bribery and corruption. They may have won an imaginary battle, but the war against corruption certainly goes on.

Their real victory of sorts, however, is in the statement made by the Speaker, requesting the Bribery Commission to inform him when any member of parliament is to be called for an inquiry. It was a request and not a ruling, because allegations of bribery and / or corruption are not covered by Parliamentary Privilege or by the Standing Orders of the House. Two cheers for the protestors at the most.

This could of course cause major problems for the Speaker if the Bribery Commission agrees to this, because the number of files about corruption among politicians is said to be on a rapid increase. This is in addition to the files that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa said were with him, but are now believed to be with the Bribery Commission.

What stands out in the midst of this brazen demonstration of corrupt politics is an historic event in the fight against bribery and corruption in any modern democracy.

The highlight of this 100-day exercise in *Yaha Palanaya* is the dirty reality of three brothers of what once was the family of unbridled power, being arraigned on matters of bribery and corruption at the same time, but at three different places.

Just look at these three stars in the cast of the corruption drama of today. One - or the Hero - is the brother of once big power now being questioned in his home. Two - a key support player - was serving as the Secretary, Ministry of Defence (headed by his brother of big power) answers questions at the Bribery Commission. Three - another big support player - the brother who controlled the huge finances of Economic Development and Samurdhi, second only in value to the finances controlled by the brother of big power, who was also Minister of Finance. This is a man who fled to his second domicile in the USA, just after the big brother was defeated at the poll on January 8, and is now in remand custody on allegations of bribery and corruption.

The forces against bribery and corruption have certainly gained much in the 100-day operation against these crimes against society. To put it very simply, they have hit three big birds with just one stone of bribery and corruption. The question arises whether it would be wrong to name these three brothers of the Rajapaksa Clan of Corrupt Politics and Governance, as the Three Musketeers of Corruption, which goes well with their unquestioned loyalty to the Crown of Corruption.

This reality aside, there are many new possibilities emerging from the pro-corruption circus in parliament this week. Just following up on the Speaker’s request to the Bribery Commission to inform him of any questioning of members of parliament, would it not be a good idea to have a branch of the Bribery Commission set up in Parliament? This would make the task of informing the Speaker much easier, and also ensure the questioning of MPs in what is considered their political home of power.

This also raises the question whether the Department of Excise Control should also not have a branch located in the parliament premises, learning what we now know of how the protestors of corrupt politics enjoyed themselves in that night circus of corrupt politics.

There appears to be a pressing need for an entire revision of the Parliamentary Privileges Act and the Standing Orders of the House, to meet the many situations that may arise in the future, if the battle against political corruption is to be carried out to its desired end. We can be sure that the Three Musketeers of Corruption, and their followers in politics, will fight every such effort at having a legislature that will not be a circus arena for the politics of corruption. Let’s keep the fight alive!

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