Corruption breeds corruption
Today the United Nations is "celebrating" corruption.
A few decades ago, corruption was not a word heard often, bribery was a word which was never used openly. Bribery then would mean palming a one rupee coin to the gate keeper at the hospital to get in to the hospital outside visiting ours, to a hospital attendant to jump the OPD queue or to look after a patient. It was a pot of curd or a bunch of plantains taken to the residence of an official for some service. Or it was a bottle of arrack offered to a clerk in a government department. A very popular film was produced about a doctor who accepted a bribe of a few rupees to attend to a patient.
Looking back, it is very difficult to believe that we are living in the same country. Today bribes are offered and accepted openly. Even the highest authority in the country states that they have been offered bribes, and accuses other high officials of accepting bribes. There seems to be total immunity for everyone in the country for such a dastardly crime. The public has got in to the habit of forgiving and then forgetting. What they do not realize is that corruption is worse than a cancer, that it keeps on growing, that corruption always breeds further corruption. It also becomes a chain reaction, spreading from one level to another. It is also like a narcotic drug, as you get used to it, you have to keep increasing the dosage.
Such corruption means that money which should have been used for the benefit of the country ends up in some ones pocket, or bank account. With high level corruption the money even goes out of the country. Where funds come in to build a 100 houses only 50 houses would be built and a palace somewhere else. Where funds come for 100 km of highways only 50 km would be built. This corruption trickles down. When a poor family is allocated Rs 100, they receive only Rs. 50. Corruption also affects productivity, because all work get delayed till palms are well oiled. Till then every thing is at a standstill.
Bribery has become a part of routine business today and if bribery was to stop immediately by some miracle, there would be an immediate collapse of the private sector business and all public services. It would take a while for business to recover from such a collapse.
'Give me liberty or give me the freedom to bribe' wrote Pierre Lemieux, in www.mises.org. Today we do not have any freedom, even though we celebrate the winning of such freedom, and we boast that we are a free country. We are not free. We are the slaves under a totally corrupt system. Nothing works without the proper oiling. The politician or official who tries to be honest, who would refuse a bribe, would not be able to survive in today's urban jungle. One good apple would not be able to survive amidst a heap of rotten apples, however much chemical treatment has been done.
The term Public Servant is not applicable anymore. The new term for public officials should be 'Public Masters'. They are the masters and we the public are the slaves. We are worse than slaves because we have to serve them and pay them too. Even a Minister who accepts a bribe should be considered as a prostitute. People in such high positions would be selling not only their body and soul, but sometimes the entire country, our future generations. When a powerful official in a powerful country accepts a bribe it could sometimes affect the entire world.
Bribery is a form of prostitution. Payment for services rendered. Then anyone who accepts a bribe can be considered as a prostitute. A whore. Harlot. What ever name is to be used. But this is worse than prostitution because all men do not need services of prostitutes and all women are not prostitutes. Prostitutes are also used as bribes sometimes, in which case it would be a prostitute using the services of a prostitute! We have to coin a new word for this.
Bribery works in a vicious circle. And very often it is justified by those who give and accept bribes. It has become standard practice in some trades, like motor spare parts, when a new purchasing officer comes to purchase spares for his organization, be it public or private, the salesman at the counter would ask him the price that should be shown on the invoice. The man would try to refuse it the first time, but within a few days he would be roped in. It is in the interest of the salesman too, because the bribe offered would tie his customer to them. The salesman or his company would not be loosing any money, because the bribe would be added to the selling price. This cannot be stopped, because there would not be a fixed or standard price for most motor spares. There is heavy competition.
The person in charge of purchasing or imports in this shop would be aware of this practice, which he himself would put to good use when he makes the purchases. The foreign supplier would look after this person. At the other end, the sales staff of the organization where they all know how their purchasing officers are making money would in turn be using this policy for what they sell. And even for a customer who does not want to accept such a bribe, still the salesman could claim it from his employer. There would be no way to check if such a commission is paid in full to the buyer or if it is pocketed by the salesman. Such sales commissions are justified, sometimes even by the management, as long as it improves the sales. After a while the salesman would have made enough money on the side, that he will open a business of his own. He would tap all his old clients, offer a bigger bribe and beat his previous employer. Someday it would happen to him too.
When the management insists that at least three quotations should be called for and product or service, when it is manipulated, one party submits all three quotations, giving them enough room to share substantial profits with those involved in the purchase.
When it comes to public institutions where products and services are purchased by tender, bribery and corruption has spread from top to bottom. Gone are the days when public tenders were handled by honest officials, who handled the tender and the evaluation to ensure that the country obtained the best products and services at the best price. Today the corruption begins before the preparation of the tender documents, where specifications could be 'locked', to ensure that a particular supplier or brand or model could only fit the tender specifications. Then it would be smooth sailing, the bidder could give his own price adding his profit margins, big enough to be shared with the people handling the tender. Often these people manipulate innocent technical officers to achieve their ends. There are also other ways of ensuring that their party gets the tender. The tender can be announced giving very little time for bidders to prepare and submit their offers. They could introduce impractical condition to qualify for the tender. After the tender is opened, offers, specifications, supporting documents could be introduced, documents from competitors could go missing. The members of the evaluation committee could be influenced, blackmailed or replaced with their own people. When samples are required, they are obtained from the institution from their present stocks, in cases where packing and labels are not required, to ensure that the samples never fail. Samples of other competitors could be tampered with.
Children learn from their parents how to give and accept bribes. A child's first exposure to bribery is at the time of school admission. Officials who issue the documents needed for the admission, and sometimes teachers and the school principal has to be bribed. In some schools this would continue, till the child completes his education, to win special favours in school activities, to be selected for sports teams, to be made a prefect or school captain. The child would also be aware when his parents accept bribes, would know how the parents are able to offer them all the luxuries. Even after the child has grown and matured enough to know what is right and wrong, he would enjoy the ill gotten gains of his parents. Not many would rebel against such actions, when the parents solicit more and more bribes to send the child overseas, to USA, UK, Australia or Japan for higher studies. The country has to pay for the education of these spoilt brats. The real Free Education in this country is really enjoyed by the children of some politicians and state officials only. By this time, corruption would be in the child's blood, never to leave, and he will continue the tradition and pass on to his own children.
Everyone in the country is aware of these practices. When a politician or a 'public master' sends his children overseas for studies, unless he has his own private income from business or professional services, we all know that he would not be able to afford such expenses on his salary. Unless it was on a scholarship the child would need expenses for academic fees and for food and lodging. In most instances such needs of the officials are provided for by businessmen. The official is under obligation for these businessmen, for several years, till as long as their children remain overseas.
Multi-National Companies, who state publicly that they do not resort to any unethical practices, still continue to bribe their way into big business in our part of the world. To them bribing our officials is not an issue, because they consider people in our countries are already corrupt totally and every one has a price, which they can easily meet. Then they will only add all this cost to their price. When any businessman pays a bribe to get some business, in the end it is the consumer who pays it. We have to pay not only the money for the cost of production and profits, but also for the payments made to officials who approve the import of such products.
Sri Lanka has joined the Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific, under the ADB/OECD. Thus our country is now committed to fight against corruption. The question is who will lead this fight? Who can cast the first stone? One year ago Sri Lanka received US$ 125,000 (Rs. 12.5 million) from the UNDP, "to begin a project aimed at preventing and rooting out corruption, by promoting transparency and accountability in the public and the private sector". It would be interesting reading material if the Commission to Investigate Allegations of bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) could publish the progress they have made with this project, or for that matter what the CIABOC has achieved over the past 12 years!
Bribery was made an offence in 1883, during the British rule. Then over the years new Acts were brought in. Declaration of Assets was made compulsory in 1975. CIABOC was formed in 1994 when all the other Acts and rules and regulations had failed. In one of their reports CIABOC mentions a "case of a Senior Security Manager of the National Housing Development Authority who was successfully prosecuted for seeking sexual gratification from a female security guard on the promise of getting a transfer to a more congenial station and a house to live in". What an achievement!
Citizen Perera will have to go on bribing his way through, from birth to death, and even after death.
his heart to her
a blood pump
vaccines and "swine" flu
The whole world has panicked with the spread of the new strain of influenza A, named H1N1. The original misnomer 'swine flu' made some of our officials consider banning the import of pork! Two years ago it was the 'Bird flu', with some people giving up on eating chicken!
When there is an epidemic, we should be careful, but without going into panic mode.
There is a saying, "treat a cold and it will be cured in seven days, don't take any any medicine and it will last for one week". This should apply for the new flu, too except for a few among us who do need prompt treatment, like infants, expectant mothers and the feeble elderly.
The International Drug Mafia has still not been able to come out with a drug to fight A H1N1. All they can offer, and for WHO to recommend, are two anti-viral drugs developed against "Bird flu" and later on used even against common influenza. The exact wording is, "Since these antivirals have been effective in treating seasonal influenza, they are also expected to be effective for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infections." WHO advices not to use these drugs without using Oseltamivir could result in the development of resistance to anti-viral drugs and also the development of drug resistant strains. This drug was developed for the "bird flu". Since the "bird flu" has not appeared again the manufactures had to find a new market, and A H1N1 became God's gift to the drug barons.
Today the drug mafia is able to earn billions of dollars by selling their vaccines.
Normally a vaccine would take at least five years to be introduced into the market. It needs long research, then development, indoor testing and trials and the clinical trials. (which is the mafia term for conducting experiments with new drugs and vaccines using human guinea pigs).
The new flu strain appeared just one year ago. Already there is mass vaccination, without any studies on the effectiveness of the vaccine, its short term and long term side effects and the WHO is giving its full support. What are the risks involved, when we use such an untested unproven vaccine on our children? Day by day the number of vaccines given to our children is increasing. We do not have any idea of the cumulative effect of all these vaccines. We do not know what the long term effects could be. This is at a time when there is a major controversy in the United States that childhood autism is a result of this excessive vaccination.
It is time to decide on the priorities in immunization. Polio and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines are becoming essential because there is no cure for the diseases. Rubella vaccine for girls about to get married could be a must. But is it essential for our teenage school girls, at the risk of death, to habe rubella vaccine, just because it is the practice in the western countries? It is an insult to our young girls, if our health authorities expect them to become teenage mothers while still preparing for their O. levels.
Sri Lanka has always followed a very sensible path when it comes to new drugs and vaccines. They have always been careful to await clinical trial reports and then do a controlled clinical trial in our own country to ensure that the vaccine is safe for our people, because they know that the same vaccine could have different effects on people of different countries due to genetic and biological variations. That is why it is difficult to understand this almost obscene haste to expose our children to this new vaccine.
There are reports of new forms of influenza strains appearing, around the world. There were also reports that this new A H1N1 virus spread from a laboratory of a multinational drug baron, even accusations that it was intentionally released.
Those who are in such a hurry to introduce this vaccine for A H1N1, do they have an answer if a new strain, perhaps deadlier than this, appears by next winter? Even if a new strain does not appear, how long does the immunity last from this vaccine, do we have to vaccinate our children every year, like they do with the common flu vaccine in other countries? Only the drug mafia would benefit.
Could it not be better to be careful? take precautions against the spread of the flu. Educate our people to stay at home and stay isolated even at home, to avoid the spread of the illness. We used to have such good habits in our villages, when there was an infection of a contagious illness. People would have a sign on their door or gate giving notice to other people in the village that they had an infected patient at home.
WHO drew up a major campaign HFA/2000, Health for All by 2000. We are nearing the end of 2009, but HFA is nowhere in sight and in fact it is almost becoming Ill-Health For All or IHFA for ever.
Arogya Siddhi. Let good health prevail.
R.A.S. & the RAMAYANA
The Hindustan Times has reported today that our Royal Asiatic Society has claimed "The Tourist Board has been over the last couple of years marketing Sri Lanka to India as the abode of Ravana of the Hindu mythological epic the Ramayana. This is a total travesty and a future danger for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as there is no historical evidence whatsoever about Rama and Ravana... I urge you to immediately cancel this foolish and anti national project’’
According to the RAS website, "The Society provides a forum for those who are interested in the history, languages, cultures and religions of Asia to meet and exchange ideas. It offers lectures and seminars and it provides facilities for research and publishing."
The problem is probably that the current president of the RAS Sri Lanka is obsessed with "scientific" issues only. He rejects the Ramayana, Rama and Ravana as "Mythology" and does not allow any discussions on such issues.
If he rejects the Ramayana as mythology, and the Ramayana sites in Sri Lanka, then the question arises about his stand on the Mahavamsa, about Vijaya, about Pandukabhaya, about the Buddha's visits to Sri Lanka and about Sri Pada. How do we separate history and literature?
Does he reject the Buddha, just because there is no "scientific" evidence about the Buddha, except for what is found in the Asoka edicts which were inscribed after about two centuries from the time of Buddha. Does he reject the images of the Buddha? Does he reject the Tripitaka because it was written down after many generations had passed it down orally?
If some ancient Indian king had inscribed on a stone pillar marking a place where Rama was born, where they found Sita, where they went into exile, then do we accept such claims as scientific, as we have accepted Asoka's editc abotu the birth place of the Buddha?
Why pick on the Ramayana? Can he prove that Ravana is a mythical figure? How can he deny that Ravana was one of the greatest physicians our country has produced?
It is difficult to understand how the 'Ramayana Trail' organized by the Tourist board could be called an 'anti-national project'. If the SLRAS president considers it as a scientific body, how could they talk about anything as 'anti-national'?
The Ramayana as a threat to the 'Territorial integrity' of Sri Lanka, needs further explanation from the SLRAS, do they believe that Rama will invade Sri Lanka again?
Instead of a closed door session, why doesn't the RAS Sri Lanka have an open discussion, and also invite a few Ramayana scholars from around the world?
Some of the recent deaths of animals in captivity in our zoological gardens, had been blamed on the visitors.
The real blame should be accepted by the authorities who manage these prisons. Who collect innocent animals from around the country, and from around the world and who keep these animals in small cages for life. The only escape for the animals is through death. Death would be a really welcome relief for them.
These animals and birds are captured, separated from their parents and siblings and separated from their habitat, their food, their playgrounds, their hunting grounds. We bring animals who live in very cold climates and also from tropical rain forests and deserts. We bring animals who are used to changing seasons, who migrate from one place to another with the seasons, who hibernate. Then we also send our own animals to live in arid climates or permanently cold regions.
We try to train some of these animals to perform circus acts. The animals would never on their own, perform these tricks. They would have liked to play with their own friends and siblings or their parents, but would never want to perform in front of beasts who claim they are humans.
It is time to question if we really do need these concentration camps for animals. Man is always curious to see other exotic countries, animals and birds. But should it not be in their natural habitat?
But visiting them in their natural habitat by all these millions of people would not be the answer, because that would ruin the habitat and the eco-system leading to the extinction of the fauna and flora in these sanctuaries.
We really do not need to cage the animals, or visit them in their home grounds. We can still see them, perhaps study them under better conditions, see them close up, see them as they live their lives, spend hours and hours watching them. We can do this without disturbing the animals or their environment, without harming them, and we can also do this in comfort, and at very little cost.
This is possible with the available audio-visual technology. Then only a very few people have to invade the lives of these creatures, and they can bring these images to our living room, our desk or even our phone. Children can learn more about these birds and animals at their desk, than they could do by glancing at a suffering animal in a cage for a few minutes.
Let us close down all our Nazi type concentrations camps for animals. Let us give them their freedom, which is their absolute right. Let us show them loving kindness. Let us show them that we can be humane if we really want to.
In the Supina Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya, we hear of the four different coloured birds who alight at the feet of the Buddha and all of them turn white.
Today the many coloured birds who alight at the feet of the statue of the Buddha, not only remain in their original colours, but they also form into groups by their colour
In our country, we claim we have the purest and highest form of Buddhism and that we have preserved it for 2500 years, and with about 75% of the people in the country claim to be Buddhists.
Most of these 15 million Buddhists recite the Five Preceots regularly, often several times a day.
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
We kill a 100,000 cattle for a year for the meat. Slaughter of chicken is probably uncountable. On Sundays along the West cost, penly by the road side we see slaughtered pigs, hung by their legs, as their flesh is cut up for sale to the waiting slobbering customers.
We have poor animals and birds, sentenced to life imprisonment in our Zoos and Elephants in Buddhist temples, always in chains. These elephants are paraded on days of Buddhist festivals, in the name of the Buddha, who preached Ahimsa for all living things. To attract tourists, we proudly advertise elephants carrying beastly humans on their back. Farmers poison elephants who invade their farms, and then offer alms to the temples with the crop harvested from these farms.
We kill other humans, for a few thousand rupees, or just for the fun of it, or just to please another 'human'.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
We are placed 97th in the world corruption index. Corruption by giving and accepting bribes, in contracts, purchases, obtaining a license, getting a permit for some business, admitting a child to school. People who accepts bribes for whatever reason, are stealing from the other people, directly or indirectly. This money they steal is money that could be meant for medicine, for food or for education.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
There are reports of increasing incidents of sexual abuse of children and women. The number of aids patients increasing and more and more children suffering due to the break up of families. Most novels, films and television serials depict adultery as the norm in today's families, which further encourage people to indulge.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
It is hard to find any 'correct' speech in our country today. All print and electronic media give only half truths, or gross distortions of the truth, or outright lies. All politicians utter lies. They make promises they never intend keeping. They cover their mistakes and misdeeds with more lies. Children are trained to lie as they begin their schooling, as school admissions can be made only by submitting false information. Husbands lie to their wives, children to their parents and parents to their children.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
Probably the highest per capita consumption of alcohol is in our country. All the legal and illegal manufacturers are minting money and the government earns a big chink as taxes from the legal dealers, while officials and politicians fill their pockets from the earnings of the illegal dealers, violating the 2nd and 4th precepts too.
Those who consume alcohol violate all 5 precepts, as they hurt their children and women when they are drunk, steal when they don't have money to drink, indulge in sexual misconduct, have to lie to their families and employers.
If all of us could keep our promises, as we recite the Five Precepts, what a beautiful and wonderful country this could be, and what an inheritance to leave our children!
Transformation of Buddhism
In Sri Lanka, the Dhamma preached by the Buddha has gone through many transformations.
First we had the Hinduization, bringing in Hindu deities into our temples, sometimes converting them to 'Buddhism'.
Next came the Christianization, which led to the coining of the term 'Protestant Buddhism'. This was influenced more by Christians who turned to Buddhism, than from a direct influence of the Christian church. We saw this with the start of 'Sunday Schools' instead of teaching the Buddha Dhamma to the children on poya days. We saw the Bhakti Gee, Wesak Cards, Schools on the lines of the Missionary schools, and even performing marriages in temples, officiated by Buddhist monks, even though there was no legal status in the 'temple marriage'.
Now we are seeing the Islamization of Buddhism. It too had begun gradually, almost unobtrusively, like the proverbial camel getting into the tent. Some of the first changes happened in 'Buddhist schools', where mothers of students were compelled to wear a sari, when they came to the school. Why the Sari, is it because the school authorities believed that the mothers could corrupt the young girls and boys if they came in trousers, or skirts or cloth and jacket? Couldn't a woman wrap a saree around her, but appear more naked than if she was unclothed? Couldn't a woman wear a shirt and trouser and be the most decently dressed, if by the standards laid down by these schools, 'decent' meant not flaunting the women's assets?
Now we have Buddhist monks, threatening to issue a fatwa against a political opponent. This threa was called a 'Sangha Angawa', what ever it could mean. If a Buddhist monk, or should we call him a 'Mufti' or a 'Mullah', issues a Fatwa against a person, then could a Buddhist kill this person and attain Nirvana?
Even if consider the 'Sangha Angawa' as a form of ex-communion, it would be interesting to see how a follower of the Buddha Dhamma could be excommunicated. A true Buddhist does not belong a to church and he can be a Buddhist, all by himself.