COLUMN

Arrest Santa Claus

Summary

Visit a supermarket at Christmas to see corporate corruption in full blossom.

Christmas in Sri Lanka is the hamper season. Corporations openly bribe each other and public officials. Check out the top supermarkets! Look at what the He-She-Hos (CEOs) and their executives are executing!

‘Tis d season to be joli! Tra la la la la Lanka!

We are anyway a prize-giving nation. Unfurl any newspaper, click on the TV, you see people bending over and under.  One giving, another receiving: Prizes.  The business section is full of companies giving themselves awards, “Best Workplace” (do they have union?), “gender inclusive” (what do their ‘ammays’ say?), “socially responsible” (look how they hide dollars!) etc.

Those ‘under’ maybe deserving nobodies who’ve fought off other nobodies. Those bending ‘over’ maybe somebodies claiming to be ‘cleaner’ than politicians, or even ‘non-governmental’: CEOs, Bankers, Ambassadors, and others celebrated by a foxed media. Always handing out ‘prizes’ galore, is it in flagrante delicto?

The origin of the English noun ‘prize’ is from piracy, referring to booty stolen by pirates. Yes, learn English! Remember ‘Sir’ Francis Drake was an English pirate, robbing Spanish galleons, stealing Aztec, Inca and Maya gold and silver to the South China Seas, to bribe Asian Mandarins (from the word, Manthri!).

Hence, the verb ‘to prize’– means, to forcibly open. What is it these multinational banks, corporations and their governments actually pirate or forcibly open? Is it the public treasury and its secretaries?

The Grease

The word ‘hamper‘ is indeed overdosed with irony. Hamper‘s meanings range from baskets used for ‘dirty laundry’ to ‘hindering progress.’  Hampers are piled high at ‘leading’ supermarkets in Colombo now, blocking exits by cash registers jingled by young women wearing Santa elves’ caps. These envy-inducing hampers made of ventilating wicker carry the names and imports of large corporations in the country.

Hampers are then delivered by corporate salesmen to government officials, from the ports at sea level to estates at cloud level. They grease doctors, officers and ‘gentlemen’ to secure contracts, avoid taxes, and prevent a flourishing industrial impulse by ensuring ‘imports’ monopolize retail space.

Hampers are usually publicly distributed to functionaries in full view of subordinates, so as to instil a culture of what lies in store for them at Christmases to come. They also “stimulate the sight, taste and smells’ of officials’ spouses and children. Judging from advertised categories, hampers bribe about 15 layers of officials. They range from ‘VIPs’ whose hampers, fully imported, include ‘olives 375 gm,’ to those below who get ‘peanuts 50g’ plus.

The hamper, a percentage of the loot slipping in as ‘luxury’ imports, are then written off by tax magicians as ‘goodwill.’ Hampers are part of a larger system of graft that corporations excel at. A conspiracy so commonplace worldwide, it escapes Transparency International, whose backers being the largest corporations in the world, seem themselves Multinational Opacity personified.

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