Fighting corruption and a dilemma

Fighting corruption and a dilemma

First, let’s agree on the ground rules. 

Of course, each corruption incident, every irregularity that seems serious, should be clamped down with determination, until the end. No public officer or his/her relative or friend, regardless of their position, should be able to evade the obligation of accountability on accusations concerning themselves by taking advantage of the established culture of impunity in Turkey. 

Just as numerous municipalities from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have been subject to corruption investigations, cases and mass arrests in the past years one after the other, there should not be any provision for immunity that make it possible for the municipalities of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to be exempt from punishment. 

Without doubt, these guiding principles are also valid for the recent corruption claims where three members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Cabinet have also been accused. 

What I have touched on so far is one side of the medallion. There is also another side to it. 

A wide segment of society, on one hand, welcomes the clamp down; on the other hand, they feel that this is part of a huge showdown. 

Perception in the outer world is no different. Yesterday, prestigious newspapers in the Western world were assessing the sudden disclosure of corruption files as a new stage in the fight between the AK Party government and the Gülen community. 

This showdown does not eliminate the need, at all, to solve corruption claims that rocked Turkey the other day; however, it again causes the issue to be approached with a degree of caution. 

One of the components of this caution is the simultaneous timing of the launch of three separate corruption files in different fields. It is indeed a significant point to note in that three different files involving Fatih Municipality, the gold trade and the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) have been processed as one package. 

It is impossible not to see the marks of a strategic move that also includes cornering the government.
However, the stance of the government in this corruption chapter does not quite generate confidence either given that there have also been accusations made relating to them which have been covered up. The recusal of the three prosecutors who were examining the Deniz Feneri corruption case still remains fresh in our minds. 

In developed Western democracies, the public’s trust in that such investigations are conducted objectively and according to law when similar corruption scandals erupt, is unfortunately not felt in Turkey. Also, in other bitter experiences, we have all witnessed in the recent past that similar investigations, where there was a lack in sensitivity in regards to the principle of presumption of innocence, have frequently staged “character executions,” serious violations of law and victimizations.
As a result, the causes of the dilemmas people have been pulled into by the corruption earthquake that has rocked the country from one end to the other can be viewed through these factors. 

I guess one of the most significant outcomes of this incident is that it has shown that law is necessary for everyone, including the government, which is in the position of being the target of the investigation. From this aspect, it is a moral obligation for the government to self-criticize the indifference they have demonstrated before the victimizations others have experienced during similar investigation processes. 

Opting to keep quiet before a violation of rights may cause similar violations that could one day hit you like a boomerang. 

At the present stage that has been reached, it is of utmost importance that the investigation launched is conducted meticulously, ensuring that care is taken so as to approach the accused as innocent until proven guilty, with regards to the claims that have been made against them. 

The AK Party government is facing the test of convincing the Turkish public opinion that it would investigate the claims in these files without hesitation and with determination, even though it might come back to hurt itself - no matter what.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Dec 19. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.