Colombo Telegraph

State Minister Eran Wickramaratne Defends Right To Steal Public Funds

By Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

The whole nation is surely very angry about the manner the MPs and Cabinet of Ministers defraud public funds through various means, including the selling of their tax-free car permits to motorcar dealers. The intended purpose of issuance of these permits was to import a vehicle absolutely tax-free and use it to discharge the office of the MP effectively and efficiently and not to abuse it for improper purposes.

However, now it is proven fact that these permits are being abused to defraud over 33 millions rupees of public funds for each vehicle and already over 27 such vehicles have been registered in the RMV in the name of private individuals who are not entitled to enjoy this tax-concession granted only to MPs. I request the readers to check the names in the list and see how many ministers are there and the readers will see Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and the former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and many more people, who talks morality in public and practice completely the opposite, deceiving the people at will.

In his campaign for the office of the Executive President, Sirisena, pledged the citizenry to adopt a policy based on corrupt-free administration. Attending the World Anti-Corruption Summit held in London sometime thereafter (on 12th May 2016) he declared that his government is was committed to combat all forms of corruption, an extract of which is reproduced below: ‘… Corruption is one of the factors that promote political violence and other forms of human rights abuses. Sri Lanka went through such a stage during the previous administration.

The people reacted strongly against corruption by changing the corrupt administration by the power of the ballet in January 2015 at the Presidential election and again at the Parliamentary election in the August 2016…’ ‘…We were elected to office on the policy platform of democracy, good governance and rule of law. Therefore, we consider our prime duty is to root out of corruption from the country. We are happy that the summit proposes to establish an International Anti-Corruption Centre, all of us as leaders need to act collectively to strengthen our own law enforcement agencies to track the corrupt and recover the proceeds of corruption…’

In fact the Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake himself condemned this abuse in his maiden budget speech on 20th Nov 2016 as follows:

‘… Honourable Speaker, the vehicle permit schemes have been politicized and misused and have created a huge revenue loss over Rs 40 billion a year to the Government. I propose to abolish all the vehicle permits granted under different schemes, including to Parliamentarians. However, I ensure all government officers will be financially compensated for the benefit foregone. Further, all the vehicles purchased to the Government will be subject to all applicable taxes and necessary allocations will be provided in the Budget…’

And he pledged to abolish it altogether, which however never happened, but worsen with total exemption granted to MPs to rob government’s tax revenue.

When this abuse was then reported to the Corruption Commission on 26th Aug 2016, this is what the Finance Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake, had to say in reply to the BBC correspondent at a media conference held in Colombo on 20th October 2016:

“පාර්ලිමෙින්තු මන්ත‍්‍රීවරුන්ට හිමිවී තිබෙන තීරුබදු රහිත වාහන බලපත‍්‍ර විකුනා ඇති බවට පළවන වාර්තා අසත්‍යයක් විය හැකි බව මුදල් අමාත්‍ය රවි කරුනානායක පවසයි, මම හිතන්නේ ඒක බොරුවක්, විකුනපු එක්කකෙනෙක්ගෙන් අහන්න, මන්තී‍්‍රවරුන්ට වාහන බලපත් සපයා තිබෙන්නනේ එම වාහන පාවිචිචි කිරීමට විනා අලෙවි කිරීමට නොවෙයි, මන්තී‍්‍රවරයකුට බරකරත්තයෙන් යන්නද කියන්නේ ,විනිසුරුවරයෙකුට වාහනයක් දුන්නට ප‍්‍රශ්ණයක් නැහැ”

And on 21nd November 2016, the State Minister of Finance, strongly defended the right of Members of Parliament to ‘raise funds’ through the sale of their duty free vehicle permits. He claimed that Members of Parliament had ‘enjoyed that privilege’ since the time of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s presidency. The readers would observe that this statement completely contradicts with the government’s declared stand on combating of corruption and protecting of public property.

Corruption Commission failed to deal with government corruption

The statutory duty conferred in the Corruption Commission is to strictly enforce the law against any person, holding any public office (suspect can be a MP, a Minister, Prime Minister, the President or even any judge holding any office from Supreme Court downwards) who had alleged to have abused the office to benefit or favors himself or any other person which attract a penal sanction of 10 years rigorous imprisonment (Section 70 of the Bribery Act).

However, when this day light robbery was reported to the Commission with overwhelming evidence, it simply turned a blind eye and had the audacity to say that since the losses incurred by the government has been caused due to the implementation of the government policy, the commission would not conduct an inquiry into this fraud.

Then on 01st November 2016 the General Secretary to the United National Party (UNP) and Minister of Public Enterprise Development, Kabir Hashim, making a special announcement said that the new government of ‘good governance’ will not provide facilities for thieves and corrupt persons to escape law as was done during Rajapaksa administration.

This statement made by the Minister, expressing the policy of the UNP in combating corruption, was a total lie and it vividly demonstrates the level of deception of the citizens of this country by those who hold office in the Legislature and the Executive with no respect and regard to the rule of law. During the investigation carried into this gross abuse of public funds it was revealed that Kabir Hashim himself had sold his permit and the vehicle imported on the permit issued to him was found in a leading car sales centre at Dutugamunu Street, Dehiwala, now this piece of evidence also is filed in the Supreme Court (SC/Writ/07/2016) in a case filed against the Corruption Commission for its failure to conduct an independent and credible inquiry into this day light robbery of public funds and this case is due to be supported in the Supreme Court in early February 2017.

Deception of citizenry has become customary for the dishonest politicians

Now I invite the readers to watch the video clip published with this press release. This clip was taken from the live interview given by Eran Wikramaratne UNP MP and a state minister to Sirasa TV. Watched this clip to understand what this person trying to say to the citizenry?

“we don’t care we believe we have a right to abuse the office for our private benefit and the citizenry should know that. This is what Mahinda Rajapaksa regime did and we too have the same right, because we are concerned about the economic freedom of the MPs”

 

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