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Sri Lanka: Cows and broken shoes

| Prabhath SahaBandu 

( October 9, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet have revealed their assets as part of the BJP-led government’s Swachh Bharat (‘Clean India’) campaign. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jeyaram Jayalalithaa has been thrown behind bars for corruption. Several key politicians of the previous Congress-led government are also being tried for a telecom scam.

We are lucky that we have ministers who are not rich enough to buy even decent shoes. One of them found himself in an embarrassing position during a recent function attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping. He had his toes jutting out of his broken shoes! He has silenced those who unfairly question the honesty of our politicians. Now, the entire world knows that our government leaders are on an austerity drive!

A former executive president once produced her credit card to pay for some goods purchased at an airport duty free shop only to find that it had no credit left. Someone else had to settle the bill out of sympathy. In the run-up to the last Western Provincial Council polls, an Opposition politician was so broke that he feared he might not be able to serve the public without money for electioneering. So, he organised a hold-up at a pawning centre to raise funds.

There wasn’t a dry eye when Minister Basil Rajapaksa declared his assets at a recent dairy farmers’ event. Being a dairy farmer’s son, he had only some cows by way of assets though he was accused by his detractors of having amassed ill-gotten wealth, he said. He is no ordinary politician and his cows must also be extraordinary like the wish-granting cow of heaven known as Surabidena. On listening to Minister Rajapaksa we regretted that we had rejected Siddalepa Vedamahattaya at the 2005 presidential election. He had the wisdom to offer all families a dairy cow each. Had we been wise enough to elect him and get the promised cows we would also have been living off the fat of the land today.

Our Central Bank panjandrums got elderly pensioners’ goat the other day by asking them to wean themselves from their dependency on interest on bank deposits and invest their terminal benefits wisely and earn higher returns. But, why should they tax their not-so-young brains by engaging in speculative investment in their twilight years? They have all the time in the world in retirement and they should be asked to buy dairy cows of the same breed as Basil’s so that they can live happily ever after until they go the way of all flesh. If their cows stop giving them milk they can swap them for magic beans like Jack and become even richer.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) has outlived its purpose. Our political leaders have no assets to declare unlike their Indian counterparts who are crorepatis (multi-millionaires). They have only cows, broken shoes and credit cards sans credit and some of them even have to commit robberies so as to be able to serve the public. So, the CIABOC has had to chase peons and clerks and it should be abolished forthwith.

President J. R. Jayewardene created a righteous society and his successor President Ranasinghe Premadasa eliminated poverty and ensured that every Sri Lankan had a roof over his or her head. President Chandrika Kumaratunga rid the country of dooshanaya and bheeshanaya (corruption and terror) and thanks to the incumbent President we have become the Miracle of Asia; all we need to live comfortably is Rs. 2,500 a month!

The judicial process is so transparent that judgments are known even before they are delivered. Justice is meted out so swiftly that criminals are given the capital punishment by the police themselves who apparently don’t want to burden courts with more work. Our democracy is so vibrant that we have an election almost every month and the Polls Chief has no problem with results. Our public service is the epitome of prescience and efficiency. Even before you make a request, bureaucrats tell you why they cannot comply with it! Therefore, the independent commissions for the judiciary, police, elections and public service have been done away with. The CIABOC is an anachronism and disgrace to our honest, hardworking, pro-people public officials and politicians. It, too, has to go. And fast! Such mechanisms may be necessary in countries like India, where political leaders have assets to declare and get nabbed for corruption.

It looks as if we were enjoying the benefits of our good karma in previous births. Long live our leaders!

( The writer is the chief editor of the, The Island, where this piece was originally printed as the editorial of it's edition on October 9, 2014.)

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