Private sector to come under bribery laws soon


Sarath Jayamanne addressing the media. Thilaka Jayasundera and Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga look on

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) is in the process of amending existing laws to subject the private sector, too, to bribery laws.

Director General, CIABOC, Additional Solicitor General Sarath Jayamanne, PC, yesterday said that it was in line with the proposed National Action Plan to combat Corruption (NAPAC).

Addressing the media at the auditorium of the Government Information Department, Jayamanne promised to finalise the NAPAC by June this year.

The President’s Counsel was flanked by Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Additional Secretary, Finance and Media Ministry Thilaka Jayasundera and Additional Secretary,Finance and Media Ramani Gunawardena.

Expressing serious concern that relevant bribery laws hadn’t been amended for 23 years, Jayammane said that the Legal Draftsman Deepani Kumarajeewa was addressing the issue now.

Without making reference to any specific case, Jayamanne underscored the pivotal importance of bringing the private sector under the scope of bribery laws.

The gathering was told how the CIABOC had to implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and any other international Convention that dealt with corruption in line with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Jayamanne explained enforcement, prevention as well as law and policy reforms meant to strengthen the anti-corruption project.

Responding to a query, Jayamanne stressed the importance of educating the public, especially the student population on good governance and accountability. Emphasizing that every individual had a role to play in changing a culture of impunity, the Additional Solicitor General explained how his eldest son inquired from him recently whether he could request Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, in charge of a coastal district to provide breakfast to a group of schoolboys from Colombo. Jayamanne pointed out that had he given in to his son’s request, the group would have received breakfast courtesy some owner of a wayside eatery as a result of his request being passed down the line.

The President’s Counsel recalled how he had to disappoint junior Jayamanne when he wanted to use the father’s official vehicle in a big match parade. However, the boy has pointed out that all others used their parents’ official vehicles without any restrictions.

At the onset of the programme, Dr. Samaratunga explained the objectives of the project. Austin Fernando, Secretary to the President couldn’t attend the meeting as his presence was required elsewhere, Dr. Samaratunga said.

Jayammane said that he was in a dilemma as to why bribery/corruption cases were filed in the Magistrate’s court instead of High Court. The veteran criminal lawyer explained how the entire process had been delayed and weakened due to a questionable decision to take up such cases in Magistrate courts. Jayamanne said the cabinet had now granted approval to amend laws to move High Court in respect of bribery/corruption cases. He stressed the need to deal with public servants who had taken disputable decisions detrimental to the government and for the benefit of some other party in an expeditious way.

During open forum, it was pointed out that Treasury Secretary Dr. Samaratunga himself had admitted in parliament last year the absence of mechanisms to act on findings made by parliamentary watchdog committees, Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The gathering was also told how the parliament and the Finance and Media Ministry after the change of government in 2015 had reached agreements with the US and Australia for good governance and accountability improvement projects worth Rs. 1.92 bn Rs 3.8 bn, respectively.

The contentious issue of political parties or certain individuals receiving massive US funding in the run up to last presidential polls in January 2015, too, was raised. Many an eyebrow was raised when it was pointed out that common presidential candidates Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena contested on controversially registered New Democratic Front (DNF) ticket.

Another issue taken up at the discussion was the 13 year delay in enacting the National Audit Bill. Pointing out that the previous Rajapaksa administration held it up for a decade, the meeting was told how the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government further delayed for over three years and diluted it.

Referring to the presidential commission of inquiry that probed the treasury bond scams in 2015 and 2016, the Information Department gathering was told of the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake issuing specific instructions detrimental to state banks in the presence of Dr. Samaratunga to heads of state banks.

The dire necessity to take punitive law enforcement and judicial measures without further delay was stressed. The unbelievably corrupt practice in members of parliament selling super luxury tax exempted vehicles imported on special permits issued by parliament at the expense of the national economy, too, was discussed. The tax exemption given to each MP amounted to at least Rs 30 mn, the meeting was told. It was also pointed out that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has paved the way for members of parliament to receive mega tax exemptions in every five years as the new law reduced the term of parliament from six to five years.

The media also questioned how Dr. P.B. Jayasundera who had been faulted by the Supreme Court in high profile case against the controversial privatization of Lanka marine Services (LMS) involving John Keells was appointed Secretary to the Finance Ministry by the previous Rajapaksa administration.

Jayamanne assured that the proposed NAPAC would take into consideration matters raised at the forum as well as other public representations that could be emailed to:

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