As a former public officer who had learnt extremely hard way as to how to face similar situations, I thought it is nothing but right to share my experience which I believe would be useful to public servants today, provided they want to be independent without compromising their integrity.
In the year 2001 I was the Head of the Customs Revenue Task Force. I was appointed to conduct a revenue fraud inquiry involving ‘The Finance Company’, Arjuna Ranatunga’s family and Arvinda de Silva as suspects. By then, Arjuna’s father was a minister in the Cabinet of the President CBK. The crux of the issue in brief, is as follows.
For promotion of tourism the Koggala Beach Hotel had been issued with 3 tax-free car permits to import high valued luxury vehicles, which it had sold to the people mentioned above and there was admission made by the General Manager of the Hotel conceding to the selling of 3 permits.
When the matter came up before me for the inquiry both ‘The Fnance Co’ and Aravinda de Silva pleaded guilty and they were dealt with according to law, imposing penalties and forfeitures running into over 4 million rupees for each vehicle. However, in Arjuna’s case his wife Mrs Samadara Ranatunga had been made to claim the responsibility and I had to face a terrible situation as an order coming from the, then President CBK to let them free. And I was ordered to comply with it by the, then Director General of Customs (DGC), Janak Gunarathna, with an order made to suspend the inquiry.
The case was called on 06th Aug 2001 and the suspects in the case appeared at the inquiry believing that it would not be proceeded as per the guarantee by the President CBK, herself. When the inquiry was commenced around 2.00 pm, there was a phone call from the DGC asking as to how I was going to deal with the mater and I informed him that I would call him back. And went ahead with the inquiry with out replacing the receiver.
I had a good officer named Nandana Perera, Superintend of Customs, who was directed to conduct the prosecution and inquiry was conducted from start to finish with the same order made around 5.00 pm as in the two cases.
I am aware that the DGC, Janak Gunarathna was summoned before the President CBK and he was found fault with for not complying with her order. And in tern the DGC severely reprimanded me for rejecting the unlawful came from the President that would have resulted in a loss of government revenue running into over Rs 4,000,000.00.
I had a terrible time after performing my duty as a committed public servant performed the office faithfully according to my conciencconstitutional obligation to the people. Some time thereafter President CBK called for the inquiry record and mitigated the penalty to Rs 1,000.000.00.
This story also demonstrates that corruption is an incurable decease in this country, which has been institutionalized in the government business, irrespective of the political party in power.
Readers are invited to refer to the full story reported in the Parliamentary Hansard dated 09th Oct 2001 where number of MPs in the then opposition reveal the story in detail, accusing the then President CBK, Minister Reggie Ranatunga and Finance Secretary P B Jayasundara for condoning corruption