20 October, 2017

TISL Gets Knickers Twisted Over Good And Bad Whistleblowers

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), in a classic case of ‘what’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander,’ has taken to task the Customs Department for sending Assistant Superintendent W.M.R.P. Wijekoon on compulsory leave on allegations of leaking information to the media, citing Section 40 of the RTI that protects whistleblowers.

TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere

TISL has expressed concern that the said provision has not been considered prior to disciplinary action being taken under the Establishments Code. The provisions of the RTI, however, override all other written laws including the Establishments Code.

The Sunday Times reported on May 7, 2017 that “Mr Wijekoon and his team from the Customs Central Investigations Bureau (CIB) (had) recently raided an unauthorised vehicle reassembling yard in Minuwangoda after obtaining a court order. The importer had allegedly made a false declaration to the Customs and was bringing dismantled vehicles in containers, declaring them as used vehicle parts. This was apparently to pay less as Customs duties.

The officer was reportedly sent on compulsory leave “for violating the Establishments Code by using a trade union as a conduit for providing information to the media“.

Section 40 of the RTI Act – the whistleblower provision – reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any legal or other obligation to which a person may be subject to by virtue of being an officer or employee of any public authority, no officer or employee of a public authority shall be subjected to any punishment, disciplinary or otherwise, for releasing or disclosing any information which is permitted to be released or disclosed under this Act”.

TISL, accordingly, has urged authorities to reflect on the provisions and principles of RTI and consider the whistleblower protection clause in the case of Assistant Superintendent W.M.R.P. Wijekoon.

What is remarkable about the position taken by TISL in this case is that TISL itself has shown scant regard in for the whistleblower protocols it campaigned for in general and Section 40 of the RTI in particular. TISL recently punished three staff members (Jagath Liyanaarachchi, Shan Wijetunga and Ananda Jayasekera) after they had employed the whistleblower provisions to complain about numerous malpractices that were rampant in the organization.

It is ironical that the moralizing on the Customs Department issue has come in the form of a communique signed by the very officer who was instrumental in showing the above mentioned staff members the door, namely Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere.

The following is the statement issued by TISL:

Customs Whistleblower: TISL Flags Protection Clause in RTI Act

Reports that a senior Customs investigation officer Assistant Superintendent W.M.R.P. Wijekoon has been sent on compulsory leave on allegations of leaking information to the media, have raised concerns over the protection of whistleblowers.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is concerned that the provision within the Right to Information (RTI) Act which seeks to protect whistleblowers, has not been considered prior to disciplinary action being taken under the Establishments Code.

The provisions of the RTI Act override all other written law, including the Establishments Code.

According to The Sunday Times report of  7 May 2017, “Mr Wijekoon and his team from the Customs Central Investigations Bureau (CIB) recently raided an unauthorised vehicle reassembling yard in Minuwangoda after obtaining a court order. The importer had allegedly made a false declaration to the Customs and was bringing dismantled vehicles in containers, declaring them as used vehicle parts. This was apparently to pay less as Customs duties.”

The officer was reportedly sent on compulsory leave for violating the Establishments Code by using a trade union as a conduit for providing information to the media.

TISL believes that due consideration has not been paid in this matter to Section 40 of the RTI Act – the whistleblower provision – which reads as follows;

“Notwithstanding any legal or other obligation to which a person may be subject to by virtue of being an officer or employee of any public authority, no officer or employee of a public authority shall be subjected to any punishment, disciplinary or otherwise, for releasing or disclosing any information which is permitted to be released or disclosed under this Act”.

TISL highlights the importance of expediting the process of amending the Establishments Code to reflect the provisions and principles of RTI and urges authorities to consider the whistleblower protection clause in the case of Assistant Superintendent W.M.R.P. Wijekoon.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    The whistle blower didn’t get his share ,so he added a twist of lemon as a result knickers were in a twist. when the leaders are corrupt these sprats obviously get corrupt. This is why so called beautiful Srilanka stinks under the knickers.

  • 10
    1

    So now what will the Authorities to whom this was reported to, do? How does it go from here. Who gets the shit, and do the wrongly reprimanded and suspended officers get reinstated or will the Executive Director be shown the door ? What a game of Bull Shitting it has turned out to be. Every twist and turn in this enactment has come up with an exposure of the naked illegitimacy that the RTI has become. So much for the Praises that were sung World wide, when it was introduced.

  • 7
    0

    The corruption in Customs cannot sustain itself without political patronage. Political patronage knows no ideological boundaries but works on “You scratch my back and I scratch yours”.

    Remember a few years back a Customs officer was disciplined for “tarnishing the reputation of Lankan Customs”. What did he do? He detected a stash of heroin in a container!

  • 5
    1

    RTI applies even to the NGOO. Does the TISL or any of the NGOO apply the RTI to themsleves? Oho! They will escape by saying it is personal!.

    It is the whistle blowers who clean up a system which is otherwise corrupt. Enron and Worldcom came to light because of whistle-blowing. In the case of cutoms, whistle blowing was not in favour of the “powerful”. A person of the calibre of the present DG of Customs cannot be unaware of the provisions of the RTI. So it has to be an act of pleasing the some one higher up. In other words the interdiction is a lesson for others not to blow whistles.

    The Government should not give the impression to the world at large that the so called “Yahapalana” laws are one thing but in actual practise it is another Jarapassa Government in different clothing.

  • 3
    2

    @GoodGovernance, what for the telling!

    NGOO famous for preaching but not practicing, no?

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