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Indian Media Confronts Corruption (Corruption III)

March 13, 2011 2 comments

We are attacking individuals without changing the system? It is the Desert Bloc systems that we must throw out. (Image courtesy - uknewspapersonline.com). Click for a larger image.

Sancho Panza

Indian Don Quixotes tilting at windmills of corruption, frequently confuse between system-problem, inadequate data and corruption. Everyone cannot be discerning enough to categorize forty types of embezzlement of government property – as Chanakya did. Classifying corruption can be a daunting task.

To understand this, we will have to go to Singapore.

Conspiracy and corruption

Singapore is interesting to examine.

Lee Kuan Yew ‘ruled Singapore for 31 years before stepping down as prime minister in 1990.’ Lee Hsien Loong, Lee KuanYew’s son, is the Prime Minister now. China Post called this as a ‘pre-ordained transfer of power a formality’, after an interim Prime Minister for 14 years, Goh Chok Tong. Ho Ching, Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter-in-law is executive director of Temasek, a Singapore government investment-and-holding company which controls some of Singapore’s biggest businesses. Lee Hsien Yang, another son of Lee Kuan Yew, is the chief executive of Singapore Telecommunications. Lee Kuan Yew remains in the Singapore Government with the title of “minister mentor”.

How is it that Lee Kuan Yew & sons run Singapore like a family business – yet face no corruption charges?

Oldest, largest Republican democracy

The other benchmark, is the world’s oldest and largest republican democracy – The United States Of America. Father-son duo of John Adams and John Quincy Adams set in motion the US Presidential dynasty which in all, accounts for 40% of all US presidents. This family, distant cousins included, counts Millard Fillmore, Harrison (William and Benjamin), James Madison, Zachary Taylor, Roosevelts, Nixon, Rutherford Hayes, etc. as its members. Rarely discussed, not remembered, is the fact that ‘700 families in which two or more members have served in Congress, and they account for 1,700 of the 10,000 men and women who have been elected to the federal legislature since 1774′.

Singapore run on the Platonic-Confucian model of a benign autocrat may work in the short run. (Image courtesy - temasekreview.com). Click for a larger image.

Not to forget the adoration by America of America’s ‘first’ family – The Kennedy’s (whose wealth came from bootlegging, crime, fraud; remember the RKO films share scam; or the next family, the Roosevelts whose racist record is possibly unparalleled. Rumour and murmur, has it how Joe Kennedy contracted for a kill by Frank Costello (a mafia boss), sold the US presidency to the mob, to save his life. A deal that was brokered by the legendary Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana.

To get a perspective on that, see the amount of criticism that the Nehru’s family gets for nepotism and dynastic politics.

Strict burden of proof

These issues while in the public realm is handled with great care. In the West, in the tradition of the Borgias, Medicis, Rothschilds, media has made these families into objects of mystique, adoration and study.

In Singapore, a pliant media was hectored by Lee Kuan Yew

telling the International Press Institute that it was naive to believe a free press curbs corruption because “the media itself is corrupted”.

Since sweet-heart deals leave little clinching evidence, making corruption charges can be disastrous. Especially in countries which implement libel and slander laws strictly, like Singapore. Even if these laws are loosely implemented, like in most Western countries, large awards keep opposition leaders, activists, the press and media in line.

Remember Julian Assange? Libel, slander, defamation awards in the USA,

include a $223 million award against the Wall Street Journal,$58 million against The Dallas Morning News, $34 million against The Philadelphia Inquirer, $29 million against Harte-Hanks, $18 million against Capital Cities, $16 million against a California weekly and $13.5 million against The Cleveland Plain Dealer and $10 million against ABC News.

Each amount was later reduced either by a judge or through negotiation. The exception was the California paper, which went bankrupt. In any case, even “winning” a libel verdict can have vast consequences, including monumental legal fees, damage to reputation and loss of jobs for journalists.

Going by the law …

How the Singapore systems, uses extreme measures to curb dissent, political opposition, a loud-and-raucous press are extracted below.

Fledgling Singapore Herald newspaper, which was strangled to death by Harry Lee, then prime minister, when it ignored his strictures on what news it should and should not publish.

Lee angrily summoned the American manager of the Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Singapore – the Singapore Herald’s bankers – to his presence, and publicly humiliated him by ordering the unfortunate man not only to stop honouring the cheques drawn by its customer, the Singapore Herald, but also to foreclose its accounts with the bank.

the Government Investment Company (GIC), Temasek Holdings and other linked companies, whose ultimate shareholders, lest it be forgotten, are the Singaporeans themselves whose enforced savings are invested in the GIC’s multifarious companies and subsidiaries. The vast corporate management, however, is in the cozy hands of the eminent Lee family: the father, the dauphin and his dauphine, Ho. But not – be it noted — the prime minister. They do not report their stewardship to parliament or the people. There are no real checks and balances. There is however an alarming opacity. Neither the Accountant General nor the Auditor General has any jurisdiction over them. What supervisory or enforcement authority they have is somewhat tenuous. It is a situation that cries out loud for oversight powers. Remember what Juvenal once said: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves?

Singapore’s chief justice – believe it or not — receives more than the combined salaries of the Lord Chancellor of England, the Chief Justices of Australia, Canada, and United States Supreme Court. (via Singapore: Past, Present & Future? Paper by Francis T. Seow – Former Solicitor General Singapore, February 14 2003| Some perceptions of the governing People’s Action Party’s grasp on political power in Singapore).

Multi-million dollar awards can seriously dent any newspaper or a publishing house. In India, the Indian Express newspaper group was rapped on its knuckles for exposing some of its wrong-doings – but not to the extent of ruining it.

In systems, where such laws choke dissent, the popular press and mainstream media cannot say much – without evidence. Much of corruption becomes post-facto and post-mortem. Unlike India, where slander, libel or defamation laws are not implemented at all. The mass-hysteria about corruption in India, is fueled by media ‘freedom’. Corruption has become breaking news – with no libel or slander prosecution on the horizon.

 Will isolated activism help? The role of the State and governance needs to change.(Cartoon by Zapiro; courtesy - www.africancrisis.co.za.). Click for larger image.

Will isolated activism help? The role of the State and governance needs to change.(Cartoon by Zapiro; courtesy - http://www.africancrisis.co.za.). Click for larger image.

India loved its kings

In the recesses of Social Unconscious, Indic kings remain a beloved memory. Indians have known incorruptible kings – without imperial ambitions, who left no palaces, monuments or memorials. Not even any hagiographic accounts. Rulers who governed without the help of prisons, police force, or a centralized judiciary.

Having known governance under भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, the gradual rise of Desert Bloc polity in India, has been viewed in by Indians with skepticism and distrust. Starting with Qutub-ud-din-Aibak (1206), to the rampant massacres of the British to gain control over ज़र zar (meaning gold), जन jan (meaning people) and ज़मीन jameen (meaning land) has been seen in India, as a case of individual or group corruption.

In remembrance of this polity, and these rulers, uniquely, an estimated 50% of India calls itself a कुमार, कुमारी kumar, kumari (prince, princess), सेल्व-कुमार, सेल्वी selva-kumar, selvi (prosperous and popular prince, princess), राजा, रानी raja, rani (king, queen), राजन rajan (king) राजकुमार rajkumar (prince) as a name or surname, in the memory of these anonymous rulers.

Indic governance was guided by a polity based on भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra. This system guaranteed four non-negotiable universal rights – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh (liberty) and धर्मं dharma (justice). The system also ensured access to ज़र zar (meaning gold), जन jan (meaning people) and ज़मीन jameen (meaning land).

Post colonial India, has made an uneasy compromise with Desert Bloc polity, using democracy, socialism, a (mostly) free-press, to rebuild itself from the ruin of of despotic colonialism.

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