Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka acknowledged that the Government has a long way to go in ridding the country of corruption but argued that Prime MInister Ranil Wickremesinghe making a statement to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Central Bank Bond Scam indicated the Government’s commitment.
Ratnayake was expressing these thoughts through a Facebook video posted this morning (December 9) on the occasion of the UN Anti-Corruption Day.
He bragged that the Government has done a lot of work in combatting bribery and corruption, pointing to the setting up of the FCID (Financial Crimes Investigation Division) and the establishment of an independent Police Commission under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Interestingly, Ratnayake has come in for a lot of flak for inhibiting the course of justice including suspicious relations with a key suspect in a corruption case, Gamini Senarath, who was advisor to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Ratnayake was also named and shamed by President Maithripala Sirisena who told a delegation of senior UNP ministers that it was Ratnayake and no one else who was in the way of legal processes pertaining to the former Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Although Ratnayake said that the Police Department can now operate without political interference, IGP Pujith Jayasundara revealed a year ago to President Sirisena that Ratnayake had instructed him (Jayasundara) not to arrest a ‘Nilame,’ believed to be Dilshan Wickremeratne Gunasekera, the former Devinuwara Basnayake Nilame and a close relative of the Rajapaksa family who was also the Chairman, Mineral Sands Corporation.
The full text of the statement is as follows:
Corruption, in this day and age, is no longer considered a mere ‘economic’ or financial crime. It has greater implications -such as abuse of power, exploitation of the vulnerable and denying social justice. It is in this context that we have to identify corruption as a crime against society – or a crime against mankind.
Battling corruption was a top priority on the national unity government’s reforms agenda and we embarked on this process under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
A key milestone in the battle against corruption was the setting up of the Police Financial Crimes Investigations Division which was entrusted with the task of probing into financial crimes in a fair and impartial manner.
Apart from the FCID, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption (PRECIFAC) was also set up under the government and this showed the government’s commitment to probe into bribery and corruption.
Alongside these new establishments, the 19th Amendment to the constitution was passed in Parliament which enabled the setting up of independent commission. Independent Commissions, as we all know, ensures a vibrant democracy and allows transparency in the country’s system of government – a major deterrent to corruption.
As the Law and Order Minister, I must state that the establishment of Police commission was a major boon to the Police service which suffered under the political jackboot for many years.
It allowed Police officers to act diligently and independently, without undue pressure from the political circles. It, needless to say, restored public faith in the Police service.
I am proud to say that the systems we have established, under our government, will go a long way in terms of battling bribery and corruption, in the years to come.
But, there are challenges that we need to overcome. I am aware that the patience of the public – especially the ones who have voted for the government against bribery and corruption – is wearing thin. They want to see the culprits convicted and they, understandably, demand justice without delay.
Our law enforcement bodies are working day in and day out, despite many a challenge, to achieve these results and fulfill the expectations of those who voted for a change on January 08, 2015.
It is important to understand that some of the major financial crimes under probe were meticulously planned and carefully executed. It requires a lot of time and hard work to trace evidence, analyse them and bring the perpetrators to book.
There are areas where our investigators lack expertise, and they have to seek the assistance of outside parties – sometimes foreign experts.
Also, there are areas where the investigators are hampered by lack of resources and human capital. We, as a government, continuously work with the law enforcement parties to address these issues and find sustainable solutions.
Amid all these issues, the Police have produced satisfactory results. As I’ve already stated in Parliament, the Police Financial Crimes Investigation Division has so far received 370 cases of which 73 have been forwarded to other bodies for investigations.
The FCID has so far concluded 93 investigations and sent for the the Attorney General’s Department’s advice for legal action.
The Criminal Investigations Department has conducted 38 investigations – 24 on cases involving people and 14 on cases involving properties – of which 17 cases have been referred to the Attorney General’s Department for legal advice.
We are aware that the Attorney General’s Department too is facing issues on the human capital front. This is not a blame game and we all have to understand the challenges each party faces, and help find permanent solutions.
The government has also taken measures to recruit more states counsel to the Attorney General’s Department to expedite legal action.
To further facilitate this process, the United National Party’s Working Committee has already passed three separate resolutions for the expedition of action regarding cases involving bribery, corruption and financial crimes.
The party has also resolved that measures should be taken for the appointment of Trial at Bars at High Courts to hear such cases and the appointment of a special prosecution authority under the Attorney General.
In addition, the party has resolved that legal provisions should be made available enabling anyone to appeal to the Supreme Court directly against the rulings by the High Court. Currently, such appeals are made to the Court of Appeal.
When these new mechanisms are in place, we believe, prosecutions with regard to cases of bribery and corruption will move fast.
Our government’s commitment to this cause was clearly shown when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made a voluntary statement to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Treasury Bonds issue.
It was the first time a Prime Minister of Sri Lanka offered to engage with an ongoing investigation. We have seen many instances where political power was used to clamp down investigators and block proceedings.
The idea of our government was too usher in a new political culture for Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister’s voluntary statement before the bond commission was a manifestation of the ‘change’ we intend to bring about.
What I have to say is that we have come a long way from where we were; and, we have a long way to go. We are determined to overcome the challenges and move fast on prosecution, while setting the right systems in place, so that there won’t be any room for bribery, corruption and financial misappropriation.