With less than a month to go for the next presidential election, we have politicians trading mud with a generous hand. Leading the `mud battle` from the front are the jumped up jumpy jumpers, who have taken on their former bosses and parties with the so-called enthusiasm of the new convert. They are going hell for leather to inflict the maximum possible damage on their erstwhile leaders in the run-up to the polls and prove their worth to their new masters.
Ex-UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrama is expected to take legal action against former UNP National Organiser S. B. Dissanayake over an allegation the latter has made. SB is venting his spleen on the UNP leadership in public. He claims that some UNP leaders have been helping themselves to party funds to such an extent that the GOP is now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy!
Johnston Fernando, MP, who pole-vaulted to the government the other day and became a minister upon `landing`, has levelled the same allegation against the UNP and its leadership. If what these UNP defectors say is anything to go by, then billions of rupees that the UNP gets by way of contributions from the membership as well as faithful financiers go unaccounted for.
These allegations have yet to be substantiated. But, the fact remains that no political party reveals sources of funding. This kind of secrecy has enabled moneybags to shower funds on parties on the sly and `cash cheques` later on. Thus, even drug barons, smugglers and fraudsters have political leaders in their pocket.
This country has made an issue of some LTTE fronts funding political parties in the US. The Democratic Party had to return funds received from LTTE activists. But, ironically, there is no way of finding who funds whom in this country for want of transparency. It may even be that terrorist fronts are funding political parties as well as individual politicians here. A few years ago, we reported that a President (not the present incumbent) had visited a wealthy businessman in Colombo 7, who turned out to be a drug czar. The largest haul of heroin in Colombo was detected in his house later on. We believe the President concerned did not know the drug baron for what he really was at the time of visiting his house but there must be many more such anti-social elements masquerading as philanthropists and members of the business community, hobnobbing with political leaders of all hues and funding election campaigns.
One may not take what SB and Johnston say of the UNP and its funds as gospel, but it is incumbent upon the UNP leaders who claim moral high ground and are campaigning on an anti-corruption platform against the government, to counter the serious allegations being levelled against them by two of their former colleagues who are au fait with the UNP s financial affairs. They should produce accounts and audit reports for the past years and reveal the sources of party funds. Their inability to do so will only bolster the claims by SB and Johnston.
It will be interesting to know what the SLFP defectors have got to say about the funds of their former party. SLFP parliamentarians, Wijedasa Rajapakshe, Mangala Samaraweera and Arjuna Ranatunge are now in the Opposition vowing to eliminate corruption in the government ranks and they should tell us where the SLFP gets its funds from and how they are handled.
Similarly, as for the expensive election campaigns of the two main contestants in the presidential fray, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a lawyer by profession and Sarath Fonseka, a retired general drawing a pension, must reveal how much funds they have received for electioneering and who has contributed them. People have a right to know!
No candidate who refuses to divulge such information to the public has a moral right to campaign against corruption. Charity, they say, begins at home.