By Jason Deegan, President of Anti-Corruption International and Ambassador to the EST Think Tank.
So here we are, day 3 of the Panama Papers scandal and its already got its own hashtag, (or a number of them) potentially brought down its first government (The dramatic fall from grace of Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s Prime Minister) and has spilled the beans on a host of powerful, wealthy and famous (some would argue now infamous) people, but what does it actually mean, beyond the hashtags and stuttering interviews of prime ministers? Well the phased introduction of the stories has angered some and made others very happy, indeed for the average person reading them (ourselves included) it makes for much more stable reading, as the thoughts alone of reading or delving into 11.5 millions documents is a daunting prospect, but one which I am sure will be relished with the ultimate release during early May.
While many big names are potentially pulling all the levers of powers hoping that they can stop themselves suffering the same fate of those who have gone before them, we in ACI can only hope that there is no faint heart, no documents on the powerful kept from the public view.
What we have seen and what we have felt here in ACI is at first a sense of disbelief, that such a major occurrence could go on for 40 years (albeit more pronounced in the later years) and not raise eyebrows. That if this is but one case of one law firm in one place, how many potential documents are out there that are yet to be released; how many documents are being written as I type or as you read? After disbelief we moved on to a sense of sorry familiarity that hashtags and tweets were filled with a sense of “Are you surprised?” and no, we weren’t. I think many of us in ACI who are in our 20’s remember only too well the great financial collapse of 2008, I myself felt the ripple effects rather suddenly here in Ireland and I remember watching as pundit after pundit talked of how this is how its being working for years, and when we watch films such as the big short, the wolf of wall street or Syrianna (Which has the infamous line “Corruption is why we win”) we simply accepted these are the rules of the game.
For too long the rules of the game have been accepted. Recently we here in ACI have been watching with excitement the power of people demanding accountability and transparency on the streets of Reykjavik. If there’s one thing we hope for, is that it spreads from Reykjavik to the world. For too long we have accepted the rules of a rigged game, for too long we seen corruption as “how these guys function” I think the Panama Papers scandal is the time to say “No More!”
And that means we won’t be putting out petitions to sign or we won’t be looking to only make our case online. It is important that activism, true activism, highlights that this is not a case that time will simply allow to drift off and for the game to start again. We have seen the real world impacts of the Panama papers scandal: it enables dictators and tyrants to bypass sanctions, it allows for the most vulnerable in societies around the world to suffer more while ever more intricate schemes are used to ensure that wealth is kept from view, indeed we have seen the people who should be ensuring that no wealth has been hidden are indeed involved in hiding their only wealth.
To quoted one of the greatest rockstars of the generation before my own
“It is the duty of the youth to challenge corruption” –Kurt Cobain
Well I can think of no better time to start challenging it than right now.
– Jason Deegan
Anti Corruption International President.