The Yahapalan Government, in the process of introducing new regulations governing the management of the country’s debt, has scripted in provisions granting immunity against prosecution to Central Bank officials and members of the Monetary Board ‘if they act in good faith.’
The proposed regulations has ben gazetted and will be presented to Parliament within the next three months as the Active Liability Management Bill.
The said immunity is included in Section 9 which deals with ‘defence in criminal or civil proceeding.’ Accordingly members of the Monetary Board, officials of CB and those working for the line Ministry ‘cannot be held liable, either for criminal matters or civil matters for performing in good faith the duties and/or exercising the powers given to them by this Act or any regulation, Order, decision or directive issued and made.’
Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva pooh-poohed concerns over the immunity clause. He told the Sunday Times that ‘most of the laws have this as a standard clause and there is nothing to be alarmed about.’
The Sunday Times, quoting unnamed analysts opined that ‘the immunity clause in the Active Liability Management Bill appears to have a wider meaning than what is contained in other bills.’
There is, for example, a safeguard through a connected clause in the Monetary Law Act under Section 47 on ‘Protection for acts done in good faith,’ where it is clearly stated that ‘No member of the Monetary Board or officer or servant of the Central Bank shall be liable for any damage or loss suffered by the bank unless such damage or loss was caused by his misconduct or willful default.’
In the case of the Central Bank bond issue scam, for example, misconduct and willful default have been established by the various commissions and committees inquiring into the same. As such the plea ‘I acted in good faith,’ does not stand.
The current wording in the gazette, on the contrary, had it been in force at the time the bond issue scam was perpetrated would have given wrongdoers a lifeline.