Towards A Sustainable Corrupt Government

l by Gamini Weerakoon

Dr Loka Underpala was delivering the keynote address at the Seminar on ‘Sustainable Corruption’ to the Sri Lanka Association for International Confusion.

Dr Underpala: ‘Sustainability is a Western invention, as always. But as you are well aware, for Third World advancement we must beat the West at their own game.

Great thinkers of contemporary times such as Jean Paul Sartre, Franz Fanon, Gunadasa Amarasekera and Wimal Weerawansa have maintained that we must get rid of the inferiority suffered by our colonised ancestors. Dependency Complex of the colonialised people, Fanon said.

Dr Underpala continuing: The best demonstration of how the colonialists were defeated at their own game was given by Sri Lanka. When in cricket they organised One Day Internationals (ODIs), the Western formula was batsmen to go in and play carefully and only in the last ten overs have a bash.

But our Kalu and Sanath went in and put ‘pol addi’ from the start to finish and changed the entire game and our former colonisers are now playing like us. Like that, we of the Third World must set the rules.

Marcus Agius, chairman of Barclays, one of Britain's biggest retail and investment banks, resigned Monday after a week of turmoil in which Barclays and other leading banks were revealed to be involved in deceptively fixing the interest rate for interbank lending.


Distinguished members. You are well aware that today’s buzz word is ‘sustainability’.

Be it economic development, scientific advancement, nationalism, feudalism or nepotism the prime requirement of our time and age is sustainability. What did the recent G-20+ Summit recommend? Sustainability? Yes I say, but according to our own rules.

Westerners show a great revulsion to what they call ‘Corruption’. This is Judeo-Christian moral hypocrisy. What is corruption? Just earning some money ‘on the side’.

Why did great American Banks Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and the like topple? Corruption of course, but they won’t say it.

Last week Britain’s greatest bank Barclays was said to have played out billions of dollars. But what happened? The Chairman and CEO resigned.

No prosecutions, no fines. But in Sri Lanka if a poor or rich finance company goes broke we demand the heads of the owners and top people.

Voice from the audience: But I lost my lifetime’s savings.

Dr Loka Underpala: Look at the macro picture. We are looking at Third World Development, not individual savings.

Dr Underpala continuing: Corruption is essential. It is the Engine of Growth in Third World. So is nepotism. What’s wrong in giving jobs to family members and close relations? Take Egypt: Hosni Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaal have 340 million dollars in Swiss Banks, former Tunisia President Zine Al Abidine’s wife, Leila Trabels fled the country with 1.5 tonnes of gold from the Central Bank.

All this shows corruption and nepotism work and make money.

Varsha Silva from the audience: If Nepotism is good, why has the SLFP decided against giving nominations to wives, children of ministers and MPs at the forthcoming provincial council elections?


Dr Underpala: That’s because they have accepted the principle of Development through Sustainable Corruption. Corruption has to be sustainable. It’s like this: The Centre is packed with brothers, sons and top appointments given to in-laws, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and hangers on. Provincial councils cannot be packed with any more of such people.

Provincial Councillors are bound to ask: What about our brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts? It is bound to create political instability.

It will not be Sustainable Corruption. What has happened in the Middle East, Africa, and even in India is corruption gone beyond limits – become unsustainable.

Varsha Silva: In Sri Lanka corruption has not only become unsustainable but insufferable. We have gone over and above Sustainable Corruption.

Dr Underpala: No, the thinking is that corruption has to be distributed equitably and devolved to the provinces.

There is too much corruption concentrated in the Western Province.

That’s why there is so much economic growth in the province. Corruption has to be devolved at all levels, if there is to be growth and development. Consider school principals taking bribes for admission of kids to schools even though they are continuously warned against it. Principals, as we know, are the most poorly paid in the education sector. Teachers are now private tuition tycoons and can even become ministers. But principals as heads of schools have to maintain their status. So principals should be permitted to pocket admission fees.

Varsha Silva: Like cops taking bribes? Nothing wrong if you give your driving licence with a folded Rs.1,000 note in it when copped for speeding or drunk driving?

Dr Underpala: Nothing wrong at all. Motorists are very much better off than cops. So why not distribute wealth through corruption. Call it Poverty Alleviation. We are carrying on this crusade against corruption foolishly against our Engine of Growth. What’s wrong if your son gives you a bundle of foreign currency or a diamond studded watch without declaring it to the Customs? If Customs or the Cops can’t get at you what’s wrong? No questions are asked about politicians donating thousands of buckshee to places of worship even though their fathers or they had not done an honest day’s work in all their lives. Corruption should be made legal in every sphere of activity.

Horapart Punchikawatte: There should be a National Policy on Sustainable Corruption like a National Education Policy, National Science Policy, etc.

Dr Underpala: Such public pronouncements would be counter productive particularly with elections round the corner.

A de facto Sustainable Corruption System exists and ramifies through all sections of public life. What needs to be done is to make it more effective to move fast towards the goal: Miracle of Asia.