19 October, 2018

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Economic Crime & The P118 Of Sri Lanka

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

“If the top beam is askew, the bottom beams will be crooked.” ~ Chinese proverb 

There is a plague in the streets of Sri Lanka. If this plague has not entered your door steps, your family will still pay an indirect price. Most of us were aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of our lives but had no idea how to fight the plague. The plague is known as “Corruption”, and it might be inimical to the stability and integrity of the economy, which now threatens the entire nation. 

President Sirisena explained that he is not in a position to open the newly built hospital in Hambantota, which he laid the foundation for several years ago when he was Minister of health. “The building is completed but the hospital equipments has gone missing and all funding has been utilized, certain people who where after my term at the Ministry are directly responsible”, said President Sirisena to the Director General of Bribery and the Key Note speaker Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda after a discussion on fighting corruption in Colombo.

Whoever is responsible for robbing public goods should be arrested regardless of their political hierarchy or affiliation. If the powerful (top beam) in society could commit economic crime of this nature, one may wonder how we create a society free of corruption, and instill such values within the entire community. The President will need to take strict measures to arrest the culprits and strengthen weak government institutions, in order to fight corruption. 

According to Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe, “More than half the state officials would be in jail by now if they were dealt with in the manner in which former presidential secretary Mr.Weeratunga was dealt with and sentenced to prison on charges of misusing State funds”. Due to the large scale corruption, Auditor General suggested the new Audit Bill as a solution to ensure financial discipline in the State sector under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Such measures should be given utmost government support and top priority, especially considering the events which unfolded in the recent past. Passing the Audit Bill is not sufficient, but getting it implemented should be the key, explains former Auditor General Mayadunna.

Economic crime such as leasing the entire fishery harbour in Modara (Mutwal) Colombo a few years ago by a powerful Minister for a nominal fee was never investigated by the Bribery Commission. It is the duty of the commission to carry out investigation of all crimes, regardless of the culprit’s social standing. According to Anura Kumara Dissanayake, leader of the JVP, “The Bribery Commission has summoned him on two occasions to appear before it to inquire into the harbour tender, but the Minister had not gone there. Instead he influenced the President to remove the Director General of the Bribery Commission”. The rule of law should apply equally to all citizens. 

According to Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, a new “Perpetual class” has emerged in the Sri Lankan society. This constitutes a  new rich middle class, who are much more sophisticated when it comes to influencing politicians, political parties and campaign funding. There are evident differences between this new rich middle class and past businessmen. This Perpetual class exercises control and influence over ministers, high ranking officials and decision making of the state using their financial power. Prof. Uyangoda further explains that there is a need and it’s worth researching to understand the influence of such new middle class in our society. 

The practice of political funding and lobbying  has changed in many societies including in the United States. As Francis Fukuyama rightly identifies in his book ‘Political Order and Political Decay’ that there were only 175 lobbying firms in 1971, in 1981 number reached 2500 and by 2013 a whopping 12,000 firms spent $3.2billion on lobbying, according to Fukuyama “its these firms that distort American public policy across many different areas”.

The 2015 Presidential election followed by the August general election was held under the  central theme “Corruption of the family”. Today, the theme has transformed from the Rajapaksa family to another direction, the “P118”. The P118 is the list of 118 Members of Parliament (MP) who has accepted funds from Perpetual Treasuries which has become the discussion among mainstream media in Sri Lanka. During the last few weeks few MP’s were questioned by the authorities, one member of parliament who authored a book of the infamous bond scam by Perpetual Treasuries has also accepted Rs.3 million, which he again justified to give back to the poor of our society. According to some individuals there is no such list. Since the Government championed and introduced the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the public has a right to know if such a list exist. The RTI commission showing its strength, recently ruled that two termination agreements entered into between Sri Lankan and AerCap which caused great losses to SriLankan Airlines will be released.  The order by the commission explains ‘where the public purse is concerned, and the alleged financial irregularities of a particular Public Authority are under scrutiny in an Appeal before us, this Commission will be particularly watchful of the public interest.’ In the same manner, the commission could assist the public to reveal the P118 list, this time the ‘particular public authority’ will be the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Since the RTI is in full motion, politicians also could assist the commission by revealing information to the public, including the former President who claimed he has files of the corrupt. 

Economic crime is perhaps the largest national security threat the nation is facing right now and it directly relates to the financial accountability and transparency of the Public Authority and individuals representing in the Parliament who craft policy protecting the sovereignty of the people. If policy makers could be easily influenced by lobbying groups, foreign policy, national security and people’s sovereignty will be threatened.

In countries such as South Korea or Singapore, if found guilty of financial misappropriation you will end up in jail – regardless of political position. To set the nation in the right path we should take a leaf from these nations and use drastic measures against corruption. In 1996, rumours spread that Lee Kwan Yew had received improper discounts on property purchases. Mr Goh Chok Tong, former Prime Minister of Singapore, ordered a full investigation of such improper activities, subsequently finding no evidence . He brought the issue to Parliament, which held a full debate lasting three days. Lee Kwan Yew said, “I take pride and satisfaction that the question of my two purchases and those of the Deputy Prime Minister, my son, has been subjected to, and not exempted from, scrutiny… It is most important that Singapore remains a place where no one is above scrutiny, that any question of integrity of a minister, however senior, that he has gained benefits either through influence or corrupt practices, be investigated.”

Sharing the Singapore experience in an essay for an anthology compiled for the inaugural Anti-Corruption Summit held in London, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong identifies four factors key to the Republic’s share of success on this score. First, the British steel frame bureaucracy left Singapore with a working system and sound institutions – ‘English laws, a working civil service, and an efficient and honest judiciary’. Secondly, men who wore white shirts and white trousers symbolised their determination to keep the Government clean and incorruptible with the strong honest leadership of Lee Kwan Yew. Third, Singapore institutionalised a robust, comprehensive anti-corruption framework that spans laws, enforcement, the public service and public outreach. The enactment of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) puts the burden of proof on the accused to show that he acquired his wealth legally and any unexplained wealth disproportionate to known sources of income is presumed to be from graft and can be confiscated. It also gives extra territorial jurisdiction so that the actions of Singaporean citizens overseas are treated the same as actions committed in Singapore, regardless of whether such corrupt acts have consequences for Singapore. “Our anti-corruption agency, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), is well resourced and independent. It is empowered to investigate any person, even police officers and ministers, and conducts public outreach to raise public awareness and shape social norms. We pay public servants fair and realistic wages benchmarked to private sector earnings and, in return, demand the highest standards of integrity and performance.”Fourth, Singapore over time developed a society and culture that eschews corruption and expect and demand a clean system. “They do not condone giving or accepting “social lubricants” to get things done. They readily report corrupt practices when they encounter them. Singaporeans trust that the law applies to all and that the Government will enforce the laws without fear or favour, even when it may be awkward or embarrassing. Businesses have confidence that, in Singapore, rules are transparent and fairly applied.” 

Sri Lanka has much to learn from the above four areas. Out of the 72-month Presidential timeframe, there are roughly 15 months or less before the next Presidential election. Can we expect some significant results in the next few months to take place by the Executive who was appointed by the people to hunt the corrupt?

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    The problem is we don’t I have separation of judiciary from politics ..
    Politicians use their influence on judges ..
    So that can not do their job at all.
    Until we have free legal system no one will do anything to stop fraud .
    Fraud is increased dramatically after CBK..
    People trusted Ranil see what he did ?
    People trusted M&s .see what he does .
    He helped all crooks..
    Wrong is wrong even it is done by my father ..
    That should be a policy

    • 1
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      Asanga: You are dead right that : “Economic crime is the largest national security threat the nation is facing right now and it directly relates to the financial accountability and transparency of the Public Authority and individuals representing in the Parliament who craft policy protecting the sovereignty of the people. “

      US citizen Gota’s Avant Guard scam (with Tilak Marapana and Wijedasa Rajapaksa) which privatized the SL Navy’s Indian Ocean security operation to a Global surveillance and security company was the biggest scam, as big as Ranil’s bondscam of Central Bank of Lanka.
      But Corruption has a Supply and demand side. Today development is a massive corruption racket today with foreign (fake) aid projects and “advisers/experts” from the Right wing Millennium Challenge Corporation. (MCC) , drafting Bondscam Ranil’s economic strategy and policy to advance the security and business interest of fake the US deep state.

      • 0
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        The Cyber War that works on Fake News, to protect and promote certain individuals for PM and Prez of Lanka is already on going — with US, India, Japan Aussi in one camp and China in the other, Either way the people of Lanka lose.

        Cambridge Analytica was outed with a decoy from Lanka. But there are many other similar outfits that are scripting Fake News today and weaponizing Religion (Buddhism) to produce anti-Muslim riots and distract Lankans from the Cold War and Washington DC supply side of corruption and privatization of strategic national assets that advance deep state security interests.
        This agenda in Lanka follows the old Cold War strategy “Divide and Rule” by weaponizing religions like Islam in Mideast and Buddhism in Southeast Asia against Russia.and China, and civil society, with help of corrupt local politicians of course. Check out the book “Cold War Monks” Yale UP 2017
        Bondscam Ranil is protected by off shore Fake News generators who Distract Lankan masses from real national security threats like economic crime Bondscam Ranil’s corruption rackets carried out in the name (fake) Development
        The US Empire is in a Tailspin with Trump and the rise of China, and will not go softly into the night.Sri Lanka is reaping this world wind even now as religion is weaponized from outside.

        • 0
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          Asanga. your are right that Financial crime or corruption by politicians and their business cronies is the biggest threat to Lanka today.
          We need a citizens War against Money Politics and Corruption. The so called War on Drugs is Fake News to distract us.
          What happened to the anti corruption experts promised by US and UK govts. to investigate those named in Panama Papers! Fake Xperts were sent to waste time and organize and advise Ranil how to scam Central Bank instead!

          What a circus called Development and Economic Growth in Miracle of modayas!

  • 2
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    Asanga: We talk about corruption. but, Politicians and every one of political analysts who writes for these politicians (because of money factor) writes who should be selected. they praise Ranil, and rajapakses and ask MY3 to be Ranil’s pet or co-operate with RANIL (That is yahapalanaya) . YEsterday, some one presented a Decoy that is Basil rajapakse. commissions are worth less. They study it and hide it. Now until the elelction times, revealing information is banned. that is the state of the modern press freedom. YOu just discussed the tip of the iceburg. Rajith aSenarathne was asked to step down from the previous mahinda chinatana position probably he was not a pet of Mahinda Rajapske. HE usued his DOCTOR LABEL to steal and fool uneducated politicians. Now, Maitheripala HAd said he had sold even the hospital Equipments to private hospitals and laboratories. Even then he is not going to FCID because Ranil phones and say he is my man. Because of these MODI is silent. CHINA sys you have problems and first solve those and talk to us to get more loans. But there is one country who is busy making it their play ground in this region. They use our own money to spend onm those programs.

    • 1
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      Quite right JD. The anti-Muslim riots in Kandy happened on the day and week of PCOI Report on Bondscam being released, in order to protect Bond scam Ranil from mounting calls for impeachment for fraud at Central Bank.
      Fake news on social media and anti-Muslim riots were organized by Ranil’s foreign backers.
      Asanga, we live in complex times.
      There is a lot of fake news being planted to distract us from role of foreign parties in Corruption rackets and money politics in Lanka today, including NYT Report on Chinese aid to Jarapassa family without proper sources to distract from Bondscam investigations.

  • 3
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    Economic crime did not exist in the “top beam” level for a few decades after independence. But it became in the early 2000 and become very popular since 2005 and now it has established very strongly and now it is unstoppable. Once the chief justice purposely turned down justice to a economic crime using his power that is the death sentace for justice and law and order. Fake patriotism played a very key factor for the failure of law and order and there is no respect for law, order or judiciary. Every sector is corrupted, every level of govt service is corrupted, every one in the security service is corrupted and how do you stop?

  • 1
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    My3 Sira let Dr Ranil’s FCID sent Lalith Weeratunga to 3 Years of RI for giving a Prayer Cloth to each Sil Amme in Srilanka.
    Each Gift is less than the Price of a Sangria which this new Rich Middle Class down at Shangri La .
    Yahapalana Car Permits were sold for LKR 34 Million each ..
    Has the RTI given a list of who got them?
    Has the RTI told the Inhabitatns who are in P118?.
    Latest UN Report on Poverty says 5 Million Inhabitants are living on less than 2 Dollars in Lankawe.
    And most of them are malnourished and most are Children.
    My3 Sira said there won’t be any” Man Woman or Child ” living in Poverty in Lankawe.
    That was when the Yahapalanaya dawned upon us with all the Bells & Whistles blowing in 2015.
    This Hanbantota Medical Robbery…
    Did My3 Sira learn it fom U Tube TV from Colombo?.
    Becausee My3’s Right Hand Man and Dr Ranil’s Deputy have carved out Hambantota between them since Rajapaksa ran away to Kurunagala. in 2015..
    Did the Poverty Dudes in the UN make a Boo Boo !!!
    Didn’t the UNP Deputy at least tell My3 about this missing Operating Equipment HL Machines , MRIs and other High Tech stuff that have gone missing?.
    Specially if they were robbed by Rajapaksa followers?.
    Are there any Rajapaksa followers still there to do this Big Ass Robberies any more?..
    Wonder who the Minister who Sold Modara?.
    One more thing.
    Who is the Bribery Chief who got a the ass for ” Inviting ” the Minister for Grilling?..

  • 1
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    have you researched much about human rights and democracy in Singapore? What do you think the differences in levels of corruption are between dictatorships and democracies (i.e. that holds regular popular elections)?

  • 3
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    The British left Ceylon too, with English Laws, a working Civil Service and an efficient and honest Judiciary, in 1948.
    In the fifties, newly recruited public servants had to pass an examination on PSC Rules, Administrative Procedure & Accounts – later came the Establishments Code.
    Financial and Administrative regulations were observed strictly in all departments, and each had Internal Auditors.
    A fine of Rs. 50 and above imposed on any public servant for any reason resulted in his dismissal, after formal inquiry.
    All these were done away with gradually, and politicians took over all these functions.
    Sirimavo B, allowed each MP to recruit 100 persons to lower rungs of public service, including banks, kachcheris & police – “job application forms” were sold at Rs. 1,000 each.

    Now, those who inquire into ‘corruption’ appear to be corrupt.

  • 0
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    Asanga,

    We have been talking about ending corruption & putting those responsible behind bars for quite some time but it’s like flogging a dead horse. No matter what we say, it’s not going to spring into life. If the President is moaning that the hospital equipment & it’s funding is unaccountable, what the f**k is he doing as President if he can’t get to the bottom of it with all the resources available to him?. He has shot himself in the foot by proving he is ineffective as a leader. Even a lowly clerk in a mercantile establishment will get the sack if unable account for his responsibilities, let alone funds. This is an example of how no one is held accountable in SL, & that is right from the top. So what can we expect, other than the inevitable?

    Your example of the Singaporean model is inspiring. Quoting the 4th important factor as stated by the Singaporean PM, ”……. Singapore over time developed a society and culture that eschews corruption and expect and demand a clean system”, I think, is the most significant point related to the problem in SL . We have, as a society, come to accept corruption & nepotism as a way of life. The politicians in the past have promoted this culture which has grown exponentially in recent years but is it not possible for the education system to teach the new generations of a righteous society? I am afraid most teachers are taking the noble profession of teaching only to make mega money from tuition classes by teaching their pupils to pass exams, so that the new generations too, can join the band wagon of getting rich quickly. It’s all about acquiring wealth by seizing opportunities & with a few donations to charity when rich, rubs off all sins. After all, money talks & who cares how it was made?

  • 1
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    The writer speaks of “Singapore Virtues” at length in one paragraph. Does he know that was “Some Thing In The Past”? One example: In the famous “MIG Deal” of the MR Regime, who was the “Go Between”? A Singaporean. Where was that “Bogus C.O” operating from? From Singapore. Another: From where Sajin Vas Gunawardane operating on “Deals”. Singapore. Where did Duminda Silva – the ex MP, now on “Death Raw” operating in a “Big Way”. Singapore. The latest: Who and from where this present Government’s arms were “Twisted” to sign a “Trade Agreement” to the detriment of Sri Lanka? Singapore Government and Singaporeans. Sine of late that “Honourable” Singapore and its Government has changed its “HONOUR” to be in the “Bullfight Game” . That great man named by you, Lee Kuwan Yew must be biting his teeth from the grave.

  • 0
    1

    Dear Author and all participants,
    When Malaysia (then Malaya) got independence the first Prime minister, Tungu Abdul Rahman promised the voters if he gets elected he would develop Malaya like Ceylon. Likewise when Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew contested, he too promised the voters if he got elected he would make Singapore like Ceylon! Ceylon was the envy of all Asian Countries including India and China after independence. Ceylon was envied for the foreign assets it had, the smooth functioning railways, public works departments, Civil service, financial institutions, security and Police services et all. The British found Ceylonese capability in administration and employed them to key positions in all Countries under the British.
    Look at Singapore, India, or any other Asian Country today. None of the Counties meddled with the dignity of their Country except the Sri Lankan politicians. Their grievance was the British preferred Tamils and neglected Sinhalese though Sinhalese are the majority. So as soon as they got independence the majority Sinhalese Governments took out their grievances on Tamils. Ceylon got turned into a racial boiling pot with regular race riots and blood bath on the streets wherever Tamils lived. This created the Diaspora and the famous LTTE. Even today majority of Tamils living in the North and East is a boiling pot for the majority Government. All the Sri Lanka forces, Army, Navy and Airforce are heaped in the North and East after the forces have vanquished the LTTE. Evidently there is no end for peace in Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future. Taking out of the vengeance on Tamils still continues along with pilfering the remaining available loans from Countries waiting for an opportunity to grab Sri Lanka wholesale which is more likely than Sri Lanka standing on its own feet.

    • 0
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      Correction: Sorry for typing “Evidently there is no end for peace” instead of “Evidently there is no room for peace”

  • 0
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    Asanga Abeyagoonasekera: We are into this corruption/nepotism/impunity is a big big way. Politicians are not willing to take the challenge. For example:
    President Sirisena explained that he is not in a position to open the newly built hospital in Hambantota, which he laid the foundation for several years ago when he was Minister of health. “The building is completed but the hospital equipments has gone missing and all funding has been utilized, certain people who where after my term at the Ministry are directly responsible”.

    The equipment are there in private hospitals. MS does not want to look. He s probably worried that one of his friends own the hospital. This is the lackadaisical attitude which help keep us in the quick sand.

    This P118 thingy is a red herring.

  • 0
    0

    Richard: You have addressed the “participants”. Thanks. You mentioned : “Their grievances were the British preferred Tamils and neglected Sinhalese though Sinhalese are the majority”. True to a great extent. (1) The British had a “Plan” i.e. to “Divide” and “Hand Over” (2) English education was far stretched out in the North and in Colombo compared to other districts of the country and that facilitated the British. The then “Elite” of both Tamils and Sinhalese who had opportunities and particularly living in the surroundings of those “Elite” schools had much greater avenues and opportunities to enter Government Service that was considered a “Fortune” and a “Prestige”. A social “High Class” mentality was established and even it went down to in the case of considering marriages. This was the “established” social order both among the “Elite” Tamils and Sinhalese. This “DIVIDE” was never PROPERLY and PROFESSIONALLY addressed by all the founding “Father Politicians” who took over from the British, because they too belonged to that “Elite” and did not want to “DISBAND” that “HIERARCHY”. Then a “LOST HOPE” politician , but he himself of the class of “Elite” open the lid of a “Boiling Pot” of the majority in 1956 to be the visible “BUBBLE” of the “Puncha Maha Balavegaya” that comprised the “Down Under”. Since then, all the “Crafty” and “Corrupt” political conglomerate worked and are working to hatch themselves and their eggs in the nests they have built and building for “Themselves” and their “Generations” to come, but not allowed entry to those in that “Boiling Pot” who still continued to be KEPT therein. Unfortunately, those in that “Boiling Pot” have neither yet REALIZED why they continue to rot in there nor AWAKENED to the NEED to break the shackles of SLAVERY ( political allegiance to elite politicians) and secure FREEDOM. That is our FAILURE and that is the evidence you say: “…there is no end for the peace in Sri Lanka in the near future”. That is my opinion.

  • 1
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    Power should not concentrate to one place. It should be shared and judged by checklist. 225 are good for asylum.

  • 1
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    What we see and experience today is the cumulative result of successive governments from both sides of the divide working in collusion to strengthen themselves by dividing the citizens to different camps. Party affiliations, Ethnicity , Religion and social status have been effectively used to keep the people divided.
    Over the years the Constitution and Laws have been tinkered with to ensure that the Parliamentarians can manipulate all organs of the state including the Judiciary. In this context, it is relevant to look at practical means to introduce a new Constitution that meets the true aspirations of the people , makes the citizen Sovereign over the Politicians and most importantly creates a “Sri Lankan” identity. Doing this through Parliament under the existing Constitution is a far fetched dream.
    It is time now to promote and form a new 3rd force made up of educated, capable and patriotic people with an untainted past to free us from the Rogue Politicians and make us the Masters.
    2020 Presidential Elections could be the starting point for the CHANGE we need so desperately.

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