The Bribe Culture of Sri Lanka

bribeWhat makes us give bribes or solicit bribes from other people? In a psychological sense, extortion is viewed as behaviour motivated by greed, desperation and ambition. The very particular set of thinking and expectations involved in bribery and corruption has been an occasional topic of research for economists and psychologists over the years, on the overall cultural, organizational, and personal levels.

Researchers have measured and studied corruption on the global scale, for instance. The World Bank has estimated that US$ one trillion gets paid every year in bribes, worldwide. There’s corruption in every Government in the world, but what varies is how extreme, how visible, and how tolerated it is.

Recently, the Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), President’s Counsel Sarath Jayamanne made reference to this when he said that State employees are ‘pressured’ by family members to seek bribes and use other exploitative methods in order to fulfil the illicit appropriation of cash or funds.

The Director General noted that, “We have learned that it is the family members who pressure the State workers to seek bribes because they compare their social status with neighbours and others. They compare as to how many floors the neighbours’ houses have. This influences the State workers to go after bribes. But in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia such things never happen. We are planning to take measures to educate everyone, especially, the schoolchildren against corruption so that they would know that it is not good to pressure their loved ones who are employed in the State sector”.

Funny as it maybe, this is the only available and efficient solution to rid the country of the corruption. The collective culture, as opposed to its individual impact, promotes bribery which perceives the removed responsibility faced by an individual, from the society. In other words, the person who solicits or gives a bribe does not see the individual responsibility the action creates and the potential impact it creates in his immediate and non-immediate environments i.e. society which he lives in which indirectly affects the entire Nation State as a whole in the long run.

In order to rid a society of this plague, the solution has to come from within the society itself and not without. To change the bribing culture, it requires a large scale societal change. However, ironically, large scale change in society does not and cannot happen overnight and has to be implemented in subtle ways. One such would be the education and awareness increase in the younger generation. Hence the project commenced by the CIABOC is rather commendable as changing the mindset of the future generations is the stepping stone or the foundation for a corruption-free environment.

Yet there are obvious practical issues in this. Despite children learning these in school or from outside lecturers during a one-day seminar would not potentially make much of a difference if the society they enter after school, has not changed. If their seniors are as corrupt as before, the so-called new born adult in the society is forced to adapt in order to survive. This means that the individual, no matter how learned and how strong in his morals, will have to forgo some of his or her principles for the sake of surviving the adult world. A child might not have to make that choice but an adult will be forced to.

Therefore, education is not the only solution for this. Stricter laws and regulations, proper methods of identifying, prosecuting, being held accountable and prevention of future attempts too, have to be in place in a more concrete manner if the society is to rid itself of corruption. This, of course, is never an easy task. If corruption is instilled in humanity then it is impossible to deviate from its set path. One could only hope that we evolve out of this immoral creature’s skin. But then again, evolution has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong.

(Ceylon Today)

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