By Chandra Jayaratne –
For Personal Priority Attention Please
Austin Fernando Esq.
Secretary to the President,
Supporting the President’s Call for Assurance of Good Governance
I was glad to receive the invitation for a discussion with the President on 22nd January 2018. I had planned to make use of this opportunity to bring to the kind attention of the President and Yourself, some Issues requiring priority personal attention. Regrettably the meeting was cancelled late that morning. I submit this letter in pursuant to the aforesaid plan and to seek essential leadership action from you in the above regard.
On many occasions, the President has spoken of how the assurance of good governance, rule of law and independent justice systems under his watch, have led to the risks of international sanctions, which could have crippled our economy and the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, were avoided by his strategic leadership action and confidence building international relations strategies.
In the above context, I am unsure as to whether the authorities have brought to your attention, a new challenge that has emerged, which if not addressed with priority in a timely manner, can bring back the risks of creeping sanctions, which can again damage the forward march of the state, the economy and negatively impact on economic activities and the common people.
The challenges referred to arise from Sri Lanka being classified by the Financial Action Task Force within the light grey area of classifications, as an” other monitored jurisdictions”, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu, and Yemen.
If you have not been made aware of above and had not reviewed the action steps planned to be taken by all connected stakeholders in a collective and committed initiative to prevent the possibility of Sri Lanka, being further downgraded following the next review by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) to “dark grey” area classification; and instead in fact assuring that Sri Lanka will be upgraded from the current classification; it may be opportune for you to take strategic action on behalf of the President in a timely way with required priority attention.
I had in addition planned to stress at the planned meeting, the importance of the following additional strategic steps being leadership directed under your oversight.
1. The strategic importance of early action being taken
a) to ensure that serious violation of Financial Action Task Force recommendations and the misuse of or engaging in irregular and unauthorized foreign exchange transactions damaging the financial stability, international classification and sovereign rating of Sri Lanka, are made a predicate offense under the money laundering legislation. This has become essential in the face of the Foreign Exchange Act No 12 of 2017 de-criminalizing the misuses of and illegal uses of foreign exchange. This reform is essential in order that several high profile investigations now in progress by the law enforcement agencies, regards the large scale violation of Exchange Control Law and associated money laundering offenses are to be continued, suspects prosecuted and perpetrators brought to book. You will recollect the many submissions I made to you in this connection, when the bill to enact the new Foreign Exchange regime was in progress; and the assurance you conveyed that the relevant amendments will be incorporated during Committee Stage amendments, whereas such amendments were not incorporated in the adoption of the Bill.
b) Create by Statute a Serious Frauds Office and an Independent Public Prosecutor. The Serious Frauds Office so created must absorb the present activities and progress all the pending investigations before the Financial Crimes Investigation Department of the Sri Lanka Police. These strategic steps are essential in the face of legal cases now before courts challenging the legal validity of the Financial Crimes Investigation Department and the challenges posed by not having a dedicated special Resource to take independent decisions on high profile prosecutions of serious crimes and progress them with due diligence and professional attention.
c) To enact a standalone Proceeds of Crime Act
d) To legislate and empower law enforcement authorities in the course of any investigation to call upon suspects to provide asset and liability declarations, sworn affidavits, audit and other validation certificates from independent third parties,
e) To legislate that any person, making a false declaration, giving a false statement, submitting a false affidavit, statement or document, or misrepresenting, misleading or misdirecting law enforcement authorities in the course of any investigation, is committing a serious criminal offense punishable by a mandatory jail sentence. (eg. in the USA such an act is considered a “Felony”)
f) Compulsorily require all public servants and all persons contracting with or engaging in any economic or administrative transactions with the State to be bound to report to the relevant authorities all instances of non compliance with laws and regulations they are aware of.
2. Request the Inland Revenue Authorities to examine and if found liable, charge with retrospective effect, all primary dealers engaged in trading in government securities with income tax, financial VAT and where appropriate deemed dividend tax due in terms of the applicable statutes
I trust that this personal appeal to you for strategic leadership action will receive your kind attention