commissions and omissions

“I am commissioning you to find out details of what happened at the Central Bank, with regard to the sale of Treasury Bonds, and report directly to me.”

This the sort of order given by the President of Sri Lanka to the special team selected by him to probe the “daylight robbery”, or should we say the “white collar crime” (wearing suits and ties), famously (or infamously) called the Bond Scam,  carried out at the Central Bank two years ago.

The word Commissioning means an instruction, or a role given to a person or a group to perform some important task by an authoritative individual or an establishment. Such a  person or group, appointed by the authorities to investigate a certain misdeed is called a commission. Hence, the persons whom the President appointed to investigate the Bond Scam constitute the Presidential Commission on the Bond Scam.

That Commission, after examining  the evidence, presented to the President a report explaining  the whole gamut of this daylight robbery and concluding who was responsible for the same.

But, according to reliable sources the commission report failed to  reveal the actual culprits who, behind the scenes, instigated and plan this robbery of the century. If so this is a glaring omission. Due to this outrageous omission certain leading characters in the present political arena have been able to hide themselves from the public scrutiny as well as the law.

According to the accepted dictionaries, the meaning of the word omission is “someone or something that has been left out or excluded.” As an example “There are glaring omissions in the report,” the dictionary explains. For your information the above example the dictionary had given obviously is not a reference to the Presidential Report on the Bond scam.

So much for commissions and omissions, now we’ll go into another meaning connected to these two words.

Another meaning frequently mentioned and heard in VIP circles, among top government officials as well as politicians in particular, is the amount of remuneration that is demanded or to put it mildly, is requested, in granting a special favour. This is in addition to their legal salaries or wages.

It is a special fee for the service rendered (such as granting contracts, buying certain equipment (trains, train compartments, arms and ammunition etc.) for the supposed welfare of the public) based on a percentage  of the full amount declared for the job.

This sort of commission is a frequent happening in the sphere  of local politics, so much so that it has become a certain essential part of the system.

How does the word "omission"  connect to the word "commission" in this context? According to the Oxford dictionary the word omission means: “a failure to act” and it means when a person is bound to do or act but omits to take action or deliberately neglects it, it can be  called  an omission.

For example if a person or  a group of people (or shall we say the media), gets to know that a certain politician or one of his henchmen had demanded a special commission from an establishment in exchange for the “services” rendered, and is ignored,or not publicized or not acted upon to stop the misdeed, it can be called a glaring act of omission.

Hence commissions resulting in omissions have become normal and accepted practice in the present socio-economic and political environment in Sri Lanka today. That is how our politicians are able to spend lavishly for their polls campaigns, store massive funds in foreign banks and live happily ever after, completely forgetting the poor voter.   

 By Vijaya Ariyarathne


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