Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran who has caught the attention of the Sinhalese society by way of his various debatable statements, recently took a laudable decision. This involved issuing a warning to two Northern Provincial Ministers found guilty of corruption and fraud. On June 14, addressing the Northern Provincial Council, he called for two Ministers to resign from their posts. The emphasis to resign was directed towards Northern Province Education Minister T. Kurukularajah and Northern Province Agriculture Minister P. Ayngaranesan.
It was 10 months ago that these Ministers had allegations levelled against them. Afterwards, Chief Minister Wigneswaran appointed a three- member committee to look into the truth or false of these allegations. The members of the committee were retired Judge S. Thyagendran, retired Judge S. Paramaraja and retired administrative officer S. Pathmanathan.
The report of the three-member committee proved that the said two Ministers were guilty of the allegations against them. Of them, although certain reports stated that Agriculture Minister P. Ayngaranesan had expressed that he was willing to accept the request made by the Chief Minister, another report stated that the duo had stated that they were innocent. Due to the Northern Province Chief Minister’s anti-corruption policy, the majority of the Provincial Council has handed over a no-confidence motion with their signatures against him to Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray. Although that may be the case, undergraduates of the University of Jaffna along with the public can be seen rallying in support of the Chief Minister.
In reality, we can look at this in several ways. On one hand, there is the Northern Province Chief Minister’s rigid stance. On the other hand, the people of Jaffna have rallied to safeguard him. Not much time has elapsed since the establishment of the Northern Provincial Council. In this context, it is praiseworthy that the Chief Minister has taken firm action the moment corruption and fraud reared their heads. We laud the fact that he has had the character and backbone necessary and required in order to do so. The Northern Province Chief Minister is a former Supreme Court Judge. Therefore, one need not talk anew about his level of intelligence, knowledge and education. There was hope in us when someone like him was appointed as the Northern Province Chief Minister in that a healthy political culture would at least be created in the North. However, when he in certain instances became a victim of the political culture where the rope is pulled from both sides, our hopes faded to a certain degree and level. Yet, once again, we have fresh hope with regard to Wigneswaran. That is because he, in the aforementioned manner, has taken several steps forward against the corrupt political system. During the tenure as a Judge, he was someone who worked straightforwardly.
The challenge before the Northern Province Chief Minister at present is one of affirming his majority within the Provincial Council. He states that even though he feared the damage to his political future, he had taken these anti-corruption measures. What this proves is how he has opposed corruption, fraud and bribery without care for his political future. Regardless of whatever his political goals are, these actions of his must come to the attention of the public.
The souring of relations between the Chief Minister and the Tamil National Alliance at present, could adversely affect his fight against corruption. During Indian Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Sri Lanka, even though R. Sampanthan and Tamil National Alliance representatives met Modi at the Katunayake airport, an invitation for the meeting had not been extended to Chief Minister Wigneswaran. In such a context what we can see is that the Tamil National Alliance extending their support for the Northern Province Chief Minister’s fight is on shaky ground. There are differences in the international political relations of the Tamil National Alliance and the Northern Province Chief Minister. It is evident that these aforementioned differences too have played a role in causing a clash between the two factions.
It is not necessary to explain anew the social, political and economic situation in the North. For the Northern people who for over three decades suffered from a terrorist organization and the war operations which worked against such, they did not even have a lifeline to hang to from the lowest ebb. Therefore, in such a society corruption and fraud should not in any way be allowed to be made a victim or become a victim of terrorism. What the Northern people need and require is a leadership that works compassionately towards them and is without corruption, fraud and inefficiency. The North can only be built through such a leadership. Such a leadership has many problems of the people to solve from the ground level up. It must especially be noted that there has been no noteworthy development in the infrastructure facilities required for their economic activities. On the other hand, the casteism within the Tamil society has become a powerful obstacle with regard to building the North. These are challenges that the Tamil society of the North must emerge victorious over.
The people of the North selected such a knowledgeable, educated and mature individual entertaining much hope. In order to fulfill those expectations, it is essential that the Chief Minister have a rigid policy with regard to being against corruption and fraud. To fence such at the onset would be an extremely commendable step.
Now let us turn from the North to the South. (As we know well, the use of the terms, the North and the South, are merely traditional political ones and thus have no geographical meaning). What we must first state is that the Northern Province Chief Minister has touched on an aspect which no Southern leader can do. There is a probability that he may win this fight or be defeated. Yet, what we must admire is the healthy precedent and example he has set. Southern leaders come to power giving sweet talks and lectures against corruption, fraud, bribery and inefficiency. However, they have no ability of taking firm decisions against corrupt politicians and high officials. No matter what and which Government comes in to power, corrupt politicians jump from one side to another and save their hides. These corrupt politicians use Governmental power as a shield for their protection. In this regard, our aversion to Southern politics grows when political bigwigs provide those defeated by the people with various positions and embolden them.
Therefore, Southern politicians know well that no matter what or which Government comes to power, they have protection and will be safeguarded. That is why they engage in tons of corrupt and fraudulent activities. Government top brass use any pawn in the political game and in the moving of political pawns hither thither. It is not important to them as to whether the pawn is black or white. In actuality, the corrupt are protected and safeguarded by this political game.
It was only once he was removed from power that the former President gained wisdom. It is not once or twice that he expressed disappointment over the fact that he had failed to take action against the corrupt during his regime. Yet, by the time he closed the stable door, the horse had bolted.
The political leaders of the incumbent ruling Government too stated that they would take legal action against the corrupt, the fraudulent, those who took bribes and black money dealers, without regard for any consequence. Be that the case, there is no significant progress in this regard. Thus, the punishment of the corrupt has become just another game within the political game. Not only is this the case but those with allegations levelled against them got into the Government through the saloon door. Therefore, they received protection. There are MPs and Ministers of the Government who have various allegations leveled against them. There are such officers too. Many a powerful piece of evidence has been presented against the illicit activities and programme of the former Governor of the Central Bank. Just days earlier, the Auditor General, who is a good officer with a backbone, gave powerful testimony about the illicit bonds deal before the Presidential Commission appointed to look into the bonds deal. It is sufficient to understand what a deadly blow or coup de grace has been delivered to the country’s economy due to the bonds deal, merely through his, the Auditor General’s evidence. If action is not taken against those responsible for this corrupt deal even after the Commission, it would lead to the breakdown of the last hope regarding justice entertained by the right-thinking, knowledgeable and educated society of and in this country.