5 February, 2023

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A Sustainable Model To Curb Corruption

By Harsha Gunasena

Harsha Gunasena

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its press release on September 1st 2022, has identified seven key elements of the programme under the staff level agreement reached with the Sri Lankan Government. Out of these seven key elements five were restructuring related to macroeconomics. Other two elements were a deviation from the traditional IMF approach and those dealt with social safety net and corruption.

The IMF, I think, were able to negate the undue criticisms leveled against its programmes that they were neo-liberal, a term which was used with negative connotations without really understanding the meaning of it.

Following are the two elements referred.

1. Mitigating the impact of the current crisis on the poor and vulnerable by raising social spending and improving the coverage and targeting of social safety net programs.

2. Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.

The focus of this article is to explore the opportunities to introduce a stronger anti-corruption legal framework which would be supported by international bodies either by IMF or by United Nations (UN).

Corruption, as every citizen knows, contributed immensely to the economic downturn of the country. At the same time, we all experienced the malfunction of the institutions which are responsible for curbing corruption. 

The reason why IMF has included curbing corruption in its essentially economic recommendations was that the IMF understood the immense impact to the economy by a less corrupted society with strong anti-corruption legal framework. 

Sri Lanka is in the 102 place out of 180 countries in corruption perception index in 2021 published by Transparency International. The score of Sri Lanka was 37 where 100 was very clean and zero was highly corrupt. Score of Sri Lanka was 40 in 2012 and it was deteriorated to 36 in 2016. Thereafter it was 38 up to 2020.

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption. Sri Lanka signed and ratified the Convention in 2004.

The Bribery Act was introduced in 1954. The appointment of Bribery Commissioner and a Department was established in 1958. Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) was established by Parliamentary Act in 1994 as an independent commission and according to the 19A to the constitution the commissioners were to be appointed by the President with the recommendations of the Constitutional Council.  

There were interferences to the Commission even with these checks and balances. After the removal of 19A the function of the Commission was disgraceful. Therefore, we need to empower the Commission more or have an authority which cannot be influenced by the Sri Lankan authorities or by its collectivist culture to deal with corruption in the country. 

Therefore, it is suggested that to establish an institution with the assistance of an international body. Hence by bringing more checks and balances the independence and the forward drive of the institution can be ensured. Since IMF has dealt with corruption in one hand it could be IMF or since Sri Lanka has signed the UN Convention against Corruption it could be UN.

With this type of suggestion, the main question arises is whether the sovereignty of the country is compromised by taking such a route.

Sovereignty 

The earliest reference to sovereignty in our history was recorded around 223 BC in the form of a preaching of Arhat Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa when they first met during a hunting session of the King. Arahat Mahinda said “O great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have as equal a right to live and move about in any part of the land as thou. The land belongs to the people and all living beings; thou art only the guardian of it…” This thinking, the land belongs not only to the people but also to all living beings, goes beyond the sustainable development goals of UN.

In our constitution, Article 3 defined that the sovereignty is with the people, and it is inalienable.  Article 4 defined five ways to exercise this sovereignty of the people and in subparagraphs a,b and c it was specifically mentioned that the legislative power ‘of the people’, executive power ‘of the people’ and judicial power ‘of the people’ shall be exercised by the Parliament, by the President and by the Parliament through Courts respectively.

Therefore, sovereignty exercised by the State is a borrowed one from the people and it is based on the principle of public trust. No State can be harmful towards the people of that State in the guise of safeguarding the sovereignty of that very State. In any case by signing the UN charter States  allowed to dilute their sovereignties in order to strengthen the sovereignties of their people. 

This is what Kofi Annan when he was the UN Secretary General had to say about State sovereignty in September 1999. “State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them.”

Therefore, what is suggested is a mechanism which will strengthen the sovereignty of the people and dilute the sovereignty of the State. Since the sovereignty is with the people and it is inalienable, we are in the right direction. 

Iraq experience

Iraq entered into an Extended Fund Facility programme with IMF in July 2016 and Iraq agreed to make amendments to the 2011 law of establishing the Commission of Integrity in order to strengthen its governance, accountability and oversight, and independence, and provide it with powers in line with UN Convention Against Corruption. Later Iraq signed an agreement with United Nations Development Programme  where Iraq got EUR 15 Mn to enhance Iraq’s compliance with the UN convention and to provide staff and legislation support in the investigation of  cases of corruption.

Guatemala Experience

Guatemala had a civil war from 1960 to 1996. It was started as a revolt by the left- wing junior military officers against the authoritarian government. After the peace accord  there were several human right defenders were killed including Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera. Civil society leaders started a conversation about the need to establish an international commission with the mandate to identify members of paramilitary groups who were responsible for the killings. By 2002 the idea of a United Nations backed international commission has grown and the Government asked UN to suggest ways to make it a reality. However, this was not materialized.  

In 2005, the government decided to establish a negotiation process aimed at creating the necessary political consensus and legal support for fighting impunity in Guatemala and by 2007, a new legislation for Congress consideration was produced. The initiative was called the International Commission for Fighting Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG-Spanish acronym).

The CICIG’s objective is to support and strengthen the Guatemalan State institutions in charge of the investigation and criminal prosecution of crimes committed by illegal groups that have infiltrated state institutions promoting impunity and undermining the democratic gains made in Guatemala since the end of the internal armed conflict in the 1990s.

According to the agreement which was signed in December 2006, which is considered a treaty between UN and the Government of Guatemala, the Commissioner, who is the head of the institution, shall be appointed by the UN Secretary General and the Secretariat shall be headed by an international official. The expenditure of CICIG shall be met by the voluntary contributions of the international community and the Commission shall act within the law of Guatemala.

Although the main aim of establishing CICIG was to bring the assassins under the law, the Commission has done a remarkable work in combatting corruption. For example, in “La Linea” Case (2015), CICIG together with the Attorney General was able to discover a tax fraud in the customs system and public charges were made against the Vice President and the President which forced them to leave their offices.

The CICIG assisted in filing more than 120 cases in the Guatemalan justice system, implicating more than 1,540 people. Joint investigations by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG also resulted in more than 400 convictions. The CICIG did not have prosecutorial powers, nor could it independently carry out raids, arrests, or wire taps. The CICIG has played a fundamental role in promoting important reforms to Guatemala’s justice system.

The story of CICIG is no doubt a successful one. It has delivered what it promised regarding greater enforcement of the law, strengthening of the justice system (particularly public prosecution), and weakening of powerful criminal rings that preyed on state institutions. Above all, it has helped Guatemala in its fighting against corruption and impunity.

Conclusion

Experience of Iraq was an IMF monitored programme whereas the experience of Guatemala was UN assisted programme which was more credible and result oriented. If Sri Lanka solicits the support of UN at this critical juncture in order to save our Democracy, certainly we would get it. Model of Guatemala was effective and sustainable. If this model is established in Sri Lanka its support to the Attorney General’s Department and to CIABOC would be immense.

The values behind the concept of democracy are in line with values of the individualistic societies where rule of law and individual liberty is upheld, and majority opinion is carried out while respecting the opinion of the minority. In our type of collectivist countries rule of law and individual liberty is yet to be established and minority views are crushed by the majority opinion. we have an absurd form of democracy, and we all experience it.

Therefore, we have to act to save our Democracy and thereby the sovereignty of the people even by introducing additional checks and balance coming with the support of UN of which we are a member nation and within the laws of Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Kurunegala ( who is the sitting MP, anyone ???) siphoned 51 Million, to remove a stone from construction site, building a maternity and child clinic. Apparently 9 million was approved for removal of stone. Why could they not find a site to build , without removing any stone ???? I am curious to know the total cost of this B.S, ?? so that we can figure what % is taken out to remove stone.

    • 5
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      Part I)
      Chiv,
      “Kurunegala (WHO IS THE SITTING MP, ANYONE???) siphoned 51 Million, to remove a STONE FROM CONSTRUCTION SITE, building a maternity and child clinic. Apparently 9 million was approved for removal of stone. Why could they not find a site to build , without removing any stone ????”
      That was a great question!!??? Nevertheless, it does not help to resolve the matter, JRJ cunning and foxy constitution and election rules!!! Remember we have an area or District based representation with Manape to complement the system!!
      However, would endeavour to help you achieve end result of who is who Kurunegala!!?
      If you recall going back to 2006/07, SL awarded a contract to Chinese Contractor, financed by the Exim Bank of china multibillion dollar, originally 676 Million USD! The HAMBANTOTTA PORT PROJECT HPP)!! As understood from reports it was negotiated based on an unsolicited offer by china at the request of MaRa, then executive President of SL!!
      Unfortunately for SL, on completions and about to commission the port and declare open the advanced HPP, with state of the Art equipment, it was unearthed to the bewilderment of one and all that the entrance channel or access to this
      (TBC)

    • 5
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      Part II)
      new Seaport – HPP –had indeed an IMPEDIMENT!!!??? THE ‘ENTRANCE (ACCESS) CHANNEL’ WAS BEING BLOCKED BY A MAMOTH ROCK OUTGROWTH BLOCKING POST PANAMX CONTIANER SHIPS FREE PASSAGE ‘TO AND FROM THIS PORT’ (HPP)
      The all-powerful Executive president ordered the blasting and removal of the ROCK OUTGROWTH IMPEDING ACCESS TO HPP!! Same contractor, to facilitate the process – explained that this impediment wasn’t detected in the initial study conducted by foreign consultants in their feasibility study. THE COST IS THE DIFFERENCE FROM THE ORIGINAL HPP COST AS CONTRUCTED TO ELEVATE THE TOTAL COST TO AN ASTOUNDING 1041 Million USD (Little over 1 billion USD!!) the port was sold or leased to china harbour for that amount in 2017 by the government as the serviceability was not possible!!!
      Circa 2022 – WE HAVE ENCOUNTERED AN OUTGROWTH OF ROCK IN A SITE, WHICH THE MC HAS IDENTIFIED FOR DEVELOPMENT OF A MATERNITY AND PAEDIATRIC HOSPITAL FOR CITIZENS OF KURUNEGALA!!!?? WHAT A TRAGEDY!!! The MC decided to blast rock “out of the way”, to enable the project to go ahead and success!!
      To answer your question now!!
      THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT IS H E FORMER PRESIDENT MAHENDRA PERCIVAL RAJAPAKSE
      (TBC)

    • 5
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      PART III)
      MP AND HON JOHSTON FERNANDO MP, FORMER MINISTER OF HIGHWAYS, AS PRIME REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT FOR KURUNEGALA DISTRICT – THE ONE AND THE SAME, WHO BLASTED THE ROCK OUTGROWTH IN THE ACCESS CHANNEL IMPEDING POST PANAMAX SHIPS TO HPP, THE ‘CROWN JEWEL’, BACK IN 2010 AND AT A COST OF NEAR USD 300+ MILLION!!!??
      Comparatively, cheaper and this time they detected before construction on the Hospital!?
      ‘KUDOS’ TO THE BENEVOLENT MP & ESPECIALLY MUNICIPAL COUNCIL BEING ALERT!!!???
      The valued question is WHY DIDN’T THEY PUT THIS “VALUED BLASTED ROCK IN SAFETY VAULT – MEANING MUSEUM VAULT – BEING SO VALUABLE”!!??
      OR DID THEY ‘PUT ANYTHING AT ALL IN A SAFETY VAULT’
      Hopefully this explains the ‘ENVIOUS’ position as queried by you!!???????????? The passage from SL Rs 9 Million to 51 million!!! My humble view is that it is cheaper than USD 300 million, which is SL Rs. 1.125 Billion!!! Sri Lankans are lucky and fortunate to have such FARSIGHTED LEADERSHIP EVEN AS MERE MINION MP’S, TO CIRCUMVENT AND OVERCOME KNOTTY ISSUES SUCH AS THIS – NOT FORGETTING IN THE MELEE THE ACQUIASABLE LORD MAYOR OF KURUNEGALA!!!
      God bless all the saviours of this thrice blessed Island Nation!!!????
      BHUDHAM SARANANG GACHCHAMI!!???

      • 4
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        Mahila, CORRUPTION is now a serious issue. While reading this , first thing came to my mind is Hambantotta BS. More than the corruption what concerns me most is the general public attitude/ acceptance , normalize , excuse and call it fate . If not for bankruptcy and economic meltdown these issues in past, would have been of any major concern. Even the food scams during Pandemic were many , not just one. . If not how on earth Mahinda after diverting Tsunami funds will still be a law maker. Look at the people involved in this MC commissioner, Surveyor, Engineer, Technical officer the whole administration, government officials, white collar criminals are involved.

        • 5
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          CHIV,
          “WHILE reading this, first thing came to my mind is Hambantota BS. More than the corruption what CONCERNS ME MOST IS THE GENERAL PUBLIC ATTITUDE/ACCEPTANC, NORMALISE, EXCUSE AND CALL IT FATE”
          I’m not surprised at all, especially the nonchalant attitude of the infamous 6.9 million!?
          These 6.9 million were the beneficiaries of the ¼ Bottle of Gal Arrack, Biryani Chicken Packet, Rs. 5000.00 cash, gift for installing to power!! Wasn’t it not Bribe, Criminal offence by lawmakers!?? Everyone agrees tacitly that is, ACCEPTED BEHAVIOUR, PER THEIR CULTURE AND CIVILISATION? If that is their stance, then voters have to come to terms, accept Bribery and Corruption of those elected by them is acceptable!!?? YOU SCRATCH MINE I’LL RECIPROCATE!!
          GOOD SYNDICATE – ONE RECOGNISES THE OTHER AND HAPPY TO THRIVE!!!
          THESE FELLOWS HAVE NO SCRUPLES AT ALL!!! ANYTIME AND ALL TIMES GAME ON!!!???
          What else do you expect, police prosecutes, on Election Day, God Fearing Neighbour, gives, lift to polling booth to an aged and feeble in his village, but no prosecution for MONETISED GIFTS AND INDUCEMENTS, OPENLY OFFERED AND ACCEPTED BY THE PARTIES ON ELECTION DAY!!!!
          Wonder of Asia and world; ‘EXPONENTS OF DEMOCRACY’, result of 2600+ years, culture and civilisation!!!

    • 1
      0

      The only way to stop corruption is to rebuild society. Rebuilding the citizen. …. that is not impossible. FIBREs are weak, but a rope made out of fibres can even heavy ships be anchored to the jetty. Likewise, if people regardless of various differences, it is time to unite for saving the country from the free fall.
There they have to achieve them through workshops.
All TV channels should unite to support the people. A barber knife can be used to shave the head as well as cut a person’s neck. Therefore, Mlechcha TV channels can turn this nation in a positive direction. Sacrifices are the need of the age.
–
People today are bored and have easy access to television and smart phones.
It can be done by subtracting “TELEDrama Series” from the evening telecast hours. The destruction the media whores are doing to the nation must finally be stopped.
Even though the country needs them and their services, they abuse the nation they fall into.
If the Rajapaksas became fake champions overnight through MLECHCHA media coverages, why can’t the same television media change the minds of the majority of this country?
–
Almost all housewives and mothers are addicted to those tele dramas which are continuously aired on PVT and state channels.


  • 1
    2

    If you want to end corruption, you get the tares and freemasons thrown out of all positions of power and influence.
    The IMF and UN are both criminal organisations run by these satanists, as are the political leaders of SL. They are all from the same serpent bloodlines and secret society network.

    • 1
      0

      This Gewindu Kumarathunga acted like a poisonous reptile in that meeting. To me, the kind of reptiles should be taken away from any human associations.
      :
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_1831zGXuI
      .
      GK or the like real racists will not die….however their toxines will kill them many a time before they really die.
      Sinhala extremists of Gewindu nature destroyed this nation. Look at the way they pointed the finger at the President. Here, the President acted very diplomatically. Mahinda Rajapaksa looked like the “aged Tripoli man”: all leaders have erred on their terms. But stay attacking them will not bring us an inch forward.
      They should do something meaningful in this interim government, if the time is well spent on such discussions, it will bring much more to bring harmony among all races in this country.
      I don’t take his side, but in the end everyone should come together to call us “Sri Lankans”: whatever race and religion they are born in… wherever they live they should all have equal rights. Resident of the country.

  • 2
    0

    “To End The Corruption” – We already have the necessary “TOOLS”. For example, the necessary “Legislation” and the “Institutions” to implement the provisions of those “Statues”. Then why cannot we “End The Corruption”?

    The “Simple” answer is: The “Institutions” that are set up are not allowed to function “Independently” by the “Politicians” and the “Cohorts” of “Beaurocrats” who hold high positions. These “Institutions” are the Police, (including the agencies of Law Enforcement) Independent Commissions, and the Justice System. Just imagine, a simple thing as bringing a case before Courts by the “Bribery Commission” without adhering to the proper procedures and giving room for the accused to challenge such cases purely on “Technical” flaws and get away. Look at the “Police Commission” whose Chairman visits the airport to receive a corrupt politician. Look at the IGP, who says: ” Of the 184 OICs 182 are appointed on requests of politicians.” Look at the IGP who does not take the advice of the AG to “Transfer” a DIG in connection with a case. We have an IGP who still cannot take action as a simple transfer of a DIG who has been found violating “FR” and made to pay compensation in ” Millions” out of his own funds. The SOLUTION: Make these Institutions INDEPENDENT.

    • 4
      1

      IF THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS ALWAYS A PATH!!????

  • 3
    1

    We can talk of corruption till the cows come home, so let have some action. The Rajapakses & their cronies robbed the country blatantly – Period. So lets hold them responsible, investigate their massive wealth & try to claim at least some back & put them where they belong, in jail, as a deterrent to aspiring future leaders. We have a corrupt society & there is no other way to stop them continuing to bleed the country. RW maybe the best out of a bad lot but he is also implicated by protecting this despicable lot, therefore, the current bunch of yobs have to be thrown out & each investigated as well. That’s for starters. So Harsh, get cracking if you are serious.

  • 4
    1

    mind is willing! Not the Heart!!??

  • 2
    1

    We missed a”Golden” opportunity to put all the “Rajapakse Clan” and its “Cohorts” in jail in 2015 and recover the “Loot”. Who prevented it? I put the entire blame on the then President – Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil W of that notorious “Yahapalanaya”. What did that “Government” do? They set up a “Committee” (a favorite of Ranil W) and “Derailed” the “Investigations” by means of a “Wetting” committee under the Chairmanship of Ranil W. Although that “Investigative” committee was to be under the Police, no complaint was allowed without those being first received and wetted by a “Committee” of politicians. When this “Process” was questioned, Ranil W – the then PM told the Parliament, it was for the purpose of making things easy for the investigations. So it was “Ranil W & Co.” (including Sirisena) of “Yahapalanaya” who carved out a “Safe” exit for “Rajapakses” and “Cohorts”.

    Even, today, “Rajapakses” and their “Goons” who looted the wealth of this country are in “SAFE” hands of “Ranil W” – “SAVIOR”. Is there any other reason for Ranil W to be INSTALLED in this seat of “Executive Presidency” against all Democratic Principles and Norms? We need to CLEAN (get rid of) this “CLAN” (Elite) first and start afresh. Until then “Rajapakses” and their “Goons” will continue to enjoy life of plenty and luxury.

    • 2
      0

      Simon,
      You are spot-on and right on the Money!!!??

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