Will the AG’S Department Act Independently?


The President Maithripala Sirisena in his address to the nation comprising extracts of the report handed over to him by the Commissioners who inquired into the Bond Scam made the following observations. "The Commission Report stated that the Hon. Prime Minister’s responsibility in the appointment of Mr. Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of Central Bank was proper. The Commission was of the view that when the Prime Minister made his statement in Parliament, referring to the appointment of Mr. Mahendran, he had believed in the false facts presented by Mr. Mahendran and Mr. Samarasiri, specially the promises made by Mr. Mahendran. The report also said that the Prime Minister should not have done that! It was observed by the commissioners, that these facts were before the COPE Committee, and the Prime Minister had not stated about it because he had not taken proper action against Mahendran.

In spite of these remarks which necessarily warrants scrutiny, the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement and thanked the Commission for the 10 months of exceptional service and said, "This is the aspiration of all, for the law to be enforced without any influence".

It cannot be said that our Prime Minister who has a Law Degree is unaware of the concept; the theory of ‘command responsibility’, which clearly points the finger at the Prime Minister himself. To those who are unfamiliar to the doctrine of ‘Command Responsibility’, which was established at the Hague Convention, it now applies to the Government, Corporations and Trusts and refers to the duty to supervise subordinates and liability for the failure to do so. It is now established that the Prime Minister being the superior officer and the Minister in charge of the Central Bank, has miserably failed to supervise the criminal adventures of his good friend, Arjuna Mahendran and his son-in-law, Arjuna Aloysius.

The Prime Minister seems to be relieved that his hope of exoneration by preventing any further investigation into his conduct is wholly dependent upon only one person, the Attorney General himself. It was reported sometime ago that Jayantha Jayasuriya, the present Attorney General had been summoned by the Prime Minister and given an earful. This information could not be discounted as it was very well known that prior to this event, for the first time in the history of the A.G.’s Department, the AG was summoned by the Prime Minister, and several Ministers and Junior MPs questioned him. This is wholly unbecoming of a government which proudly proclaims of the Rule of Law and Good Governance. The Attorney General is only answerable to four people viz the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Minister of Justice. Not to any other person, even though they may claim that they can do so on the basis that there are charges pending against them, investigated under the direction of the Attorney General for corruption. As long as Jayantha Jayasuriya the Attorney General is beholden to the Prime minister for his elevation to the post over others, the Prime Minster may be relying on the AG’s Department so that without any problem, he could apportion the blame to the Department and absolve himself of any wrong.

Does Ranil Wickremasinghe as the Prime Minister really believe in the doctrine of Good Governance? He claims to be a liberal democrat and his image as one of the leaders in South Asia who fosters democratic ideals; and because of his image as a democrat, he was elected as a Member of the Mount Pelerin Society, which is an international neo liberal organization composed of intellectuals and is committed to preserve personal and political freedom.

With that background the entire election campaign which was spear headed to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had by that time developed amnesia that he is a great Sinhala king and his cheap sycophants elevated him to the status of King Dutugemunu and was considered by everyone to be undefeatable. With Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremasinghe spearheaded the campaign against Rajapaksa and their only slogan was to establish the Rule of Law and Good Governance and defeat the neo dictatorial Rajapaksas’. Along with him there were others who canvassed on the same platform, one of them being the accused charged before the High Court for having acted as an Agent to Raj Rajarathnam who had connections with the LTTE and who had committed ‘insider trading’ by establishing a financial agency called the Galleon Traders, and part of this money was laundered through Ravi Karunanayake, who by then had been charged by the Attorney General for violation of the Exchange Control Act. When charges were framed against Karunanayake, no one, not even Ravi Karunanayake said that that it was a political witch hunt by the Rajapaksas'. Yet he was appointed as a Deputy Leader of the United National Party and after the victory was made Minister of Finance and the Exchange Control Department came under him. The great knight in shining armour should have asked Ravi Karunanayake to get his criminal investigation resolved before seeking a ministerial portfolio. Instead, Karunanayake was appointed the Minister of Finance and the Department of Foreign Exchange was brought under him.

Then just before the budget the High Court judge hearing the case conditionally discharged the accused, Karunanayke and others, on mere technical grounds and imposed a direction to the Attorney General to indict the accused with proper indictment. What did PM Wickremasinghe do to ensure that the Attorney General’s Department would follow the directions of the High Court Judge without any delay to re-indict Ravi Karunanayake? It is well known that the former Attorney General and the incumbent did not do anything to charge Karunanayake.

Karunanayake is now the main Campaign Manager in charge of the UNP for the Colombo Municipality. He is campaigning to ensure that Rosy Senanayake becomes Mayor. Ravi Karunanayake still has an office at Temple Trees. We all know of the efforts that Ranil Wickremasinghe made to save Karunanayake from being removed from both portfolios of the Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ravi Karunanayake as the Minister of Foreign Affairs wanted certain important corporations and other outfits like the Lotteries Board, to be brought under the Foreign Ministry. Eventhough Ravi Karunanayake is currently without the ministerial posts, he sremains one of the most powerful members of the UNP and its Deputy Leader.

The Prime Minister’s strong links with his deputy leader are sure to send a strong signal to public servants like the Attorney General who must be having ambitions. Everyone knows what happened to Suhada Gamlath the Solicitor General who should have succeeded Yuwanjan Wijetilleke as the Attorney General.

That is why in other democracies and countries with similar political culture like India the Ministers resign so that a truly independent investigation could be had. The AG and the CID would love to have a free hand to question Karunanayake.

The yahapalana government brought in amendments to the Exchange Control Act, which in effect prevents any investigation into money laundering and terrorism but also and changed Bribery and Corruption Act. Though the presidential commission has recommended indicting Ravi Karunanayake under the Bribery and Corruption Act, I do not know whether in the report the learned Commissioners took into consideration the position of the New Exchange Control Act. Therefore, if the government really wants to have the PM’s buddy, Karunanayake charged for the above acts, the CID should be granted powers to conduct probes. It must apologise to the public and immediately repeal Section 8 of the Exchange Control Act. Then only Swill provide for deciding whether Ravi Karunanayake has committed the offences.

(To be continued)

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