Transport Minister Dulles Alahapperuma's
recent statement about politicians and state
institutions being corrupt is not news. Sri
Lankan politicians being corrupt is now
accepted as a fact of life as sex and what
the birds and the bees do. But this comment
coming from an aspiring politician is quite
Of course the Minister has stressed that all
politicians and state institutions are not
corrupt. Had he not qualified the statement
he would have been as foolish as Ruhuna
dancer performing on landmines because it
would have been tantamount to his political
bosses and patrons too falling into the
category of rogues.
But this southern politician is smart. By
saying 'not all are rogues' he has excluded
not only his bosses but himself as well and
placed himself alongside the good guys.
What's the product?
The Minister has been inspired to make this
statement at a ceremony held to felicitate
the Motor Traffic Department coming under
his Ministry being declared the winner in
the Western Province National Productivity
Award competition. The Motor Traffic
Department (MTD) has been notorious for its
inefficiency and corruption since living
But the award and the Minister's voyage of
discovery following inspections of the
various departments of the MTD, had inspired
him to say that this department is an
example to be followed.
We don't know the specific achievement for
which the award has been made. But if the
'product' is considered to be the riders and
drivers of vehicles on our roads, the award
should have been made for Production of
Outstanding Highway Terrorists.
It is this award winning department that
gives certificates of competence to those
scoundrels behind the wheels of all
categories of vehicles - from heavy
trailers, buses, three wheelers and
It is also this department that also
certifies the jalopies emitting clouds of
diesel fumes as well as ramshackle buses,
state and private owned. It could be that
the award has been made for production of
computerised driving licences which we are
told is still slow in being issued.
Whatever it is, the two main products of the
MTD should be the quality of drivers
produced and the quality of vehicles
certified to be on the highways. We would
advise Minister Alahapperuma, who can still
be considered new in office, to judge the
performance of the MTD on the quality of
drivers and vehicles on our roads.
Rogues and politicians
The statement about politicians being rogues
- be it all politicians, some of them or
only a few - raises the dialectical question
of whether politicians are rogues or that
rogues are becoming politicians.
This is the trend of evolutionary politics
in this happy isle. Some politicians even in
those halcyon days were rogues but most of
them were not. There are two politicians, at
least, unscathed of any accusations of
roguery being made against them. One was
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who lost most of his
wealth in politics and did not earn a cent
from it. The other was Dudley Senanayake,
also the scion of a wealthy family who had
at the time of his death only a few hundred
rupees in his bank account.
Perhaps most of the former politicians had
enough of what they desired and need not
have descended into roguery. But now enough
and more rogues have become politicians and
it is hard to tell a politician from a rogue
and perhaps professional rogues in time to
come may object to being described as
But right now there is the symbiotic
relationship and it does appear that the
line of separation is fast disappearing.
Robbing, particularly the state is now
considered the done thing and those who have
made illegal piles are society's lions.
Sex and roguery
Two main topics among the chattering classes
of Colombo today are sex and massive illegal
deals. Sexual escapades are comparatively
few and far between. There are rumours of
young bucks - gays as they are called -
being caught in compromising positions and
among bi-sexuals business trips to Singapore
or Bangkok, when the legal wife finds out
that the hubby's secretary is answering his
phone from the bedroom.
Juicy gossip no doubt but the shady deals,
the billions of bucks made and purchase of
magnificent buildings including embassies
through dummies by newly arrived politicos
who two to three years ago did not even
have a red cent, is the talk that draws the
oohs, aahs and aney true? Ah!
The amnesia of Sri Lankans contributes much
to the benefit of politicians turned rogues
and vice versa. Today there is a rich and
affluent young generation of politicians who
have inherited fabulous wealth from their
The public however have forgotten that these
political fathers commenced their political
careers from the bottom rung and had very
modest beginnings. They had not done an
honest day's work in their lives to earn a
living nor did they have any businesses to
speak of. Yet these fortunate young bucks
are the top dogs with their papas'
ill-gotten gains, now taking their straight
and narrow path. Corruption pays, if not for
one generation, in the next.
Collective amnesia of the nation is such
that roguery on a massive scale even in one
generation is conveniently forgotten.
Businessmen making money is to be expected
but what happens when businessmen become
powerful bureaucrats or have powerful
politicians in their pockets to make more
money? Some have turned out to be rapacious
corporate raiders under state patronage.
To conclude if a young man asks us what
profession he should choose, our advice
would be: be a politician. You can't advise
him to be a rogue, but with luck and courage
he could become a successful rogue.