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Govt. promises new laws to battle bribery and corruption

Non-cabinet Justice Minister Dilan Perera, MP, yesterday said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would introduce a new Act in Parliament to fight waste, corruption and irregularities in the public sector. Addressing the media at the Mahaweli Centre, the Minister said that this would be the first Bill to be tabled in the House after the forthcoming presidential polls.

Responding to an Island query why the government had conveniently failed to act on damning findings of parliamentary watchdog committees as well as periodic revelations by the Auditor General in some instances with regard to waste, corruption and irregularities in the House, the Minister claimed that existing laws were not adequate to tackle corruption.

He said that people expressed sentiments similar to that of The Island, though anti-corruption laws had to be strengthened to tackle the issue which he asserted was as threatening as terrorism. He said those found guilty of robbing public money should be executed. The death penalty should be imposed on robber barons first of all though many demanded Capital punishment for rape and killings, he said.

Now that the war had been won, President Rajapaksa’s primary task would be fighting corruption, he said.

UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjayantha, MP, acknowledged the need to ensure transparency in village-level projects funded by the government. He said that there had been criticism of projects carried out in the provinces over the past few years with regard to waste, corruption and irregularities.

Responding to our queries, he said that the privatisation of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) and subsequent inquiries had revealed what really took place in the name of the so-called privatisation process. Some of those involved in the controversial transaction sought the Speaker’s intervention to thwart a case being moved in the Supreme Court. He said that several senior representatives of the Attorney General’s Department were of the opinion that there were loopholes in existing laws.

Minister Premjayantha said that under President Rajapaksas’s leadership the country had achieved victory over LTTE terrorism, an extraordinary feat, particularly due to heavy international pressure exerted on the government of Sri Lanka. The bottom line is that the war victory had changed the political and military landscape though the Opposition continued to call for restoration of peace and democracy, he said.

He said the eradication of terrorism gave the much needed peace of mind to the population. "Parents no longer have to check school bags of their children or guard schools. They used to rush to schools every time a bomb went off in the South or terrorists targeted public transport. The so-called border villages were a thing of the past. The end of war last May also brought an end to the long standing practice of having to set up cluster polling booths close to the LTTE-held area to allow people to exercise their franchise. But today, people feel the difference whether they live in the Northern and Eastern province or the South," he said.

Minister Premjayantha said that nothing could be as ridiculous as the Opposition pledge to restore democracy when people enjoy the benefit of the end of war.

Recalling the extremely unfavourable environment in which the government waged war against the LTTE, he said that the President gave the people what they really desired. He said that the country could now go ahead with development and achieve targets which would not have been possible a year ago.

Minister Premjayantha launched a scathing attack on former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva whom he believed was involved in preparing Opposition presidential candidate General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka’s manifesto. He said that Silva had ordered changes in the Year One admission system causing problems.

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