1 October, 2020

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Transparency Blurred In ‘Integrity’ Awards

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Those who do not know Victor Ivan, former Editor of the ‘Ravaya’ newspaper would learn from Prasanna Vithanage’s documentary ‘Silence in the Courts’ that Ivan is an exceptional journalist. His efforts to go the proverbial extra mile to obtain justice are legendary, one would conclude, after digesting the story of two citizens who clearly belong to what Fyodor Dostoyevsky might have called ‘The Insulted and Humiliated’.

As Vithanage documents, the two women are raped by a judge presiding over cases involving their husbands as accused parties. There’s no one to entertain their grievances. Those institutions which shut the door on them include the Judiciary Services Commission and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. It is in desperation that one of the women comes to Victor Ivan.

Ivan not only publishes her story, but goes on to write a series of articles exposing the judge. The then Attorney General refuses to take action. Undeterred, Ivan exposes the cover up forcing the Judicial Services Commission to appoint a tribunal to investigate. The judge is found guilty but gets off with the light ‘punishment’ of ‘compulsory leave with pay’. Later, when moves to make the Attorney-General the Chief Justice came to be known, Ivan wrote a book about the failure of the justice system. He insisted then that it was wrong and unethical to appoint as Chief Justice a man who was accused of wrongdoing, was being investigated and as at that point yet to be cleared.

Victr Ivan MaithripalaOne doesn’t need to watch this documentary to know of Victor Ivan’s efforts to champion the cause of justice. There have been occasions when he got it all wrong, once even leading to the suicide of a police officer falsely accused. The intention, however, was not malicious. By and large Victor has been the voice for the voiceless, he has given space for those denied proper representation and has consistently argued for transformation of structures and procedures to ensure justice, accountability and transparency.

Perhaps it is all this that prompted Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) to give Victor Ivan an ‘Integrity Award’ as part of the celebrations to mark the World Anti-Corruption Day. The other recipient, posthumously of course, was ardent good governance advocate the late Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero.

Now TISL has its own ‘transparency’ issues, particularly with respect to donor funds requested, obtained and used for ‘election monitoring’.

“The CPA, NPC and TI received Rs. 272.31 million, Rs. 171.23 million and 174.79 million respectively, it was reported in ‘The Island’ of March 5, 2011. This is peace-time bucks, folks. If they got Rs. 618.33 million in three peace-years or roughly over Rs 200 million a year, one can only imagine how much money they wallowed in during the height of the war! ” For more details, read “CPA, NPC and TISL are about bucks (BIG bucks)”

There’s also an issue about the ‘giver’ of the award. If anyone still believes that President Maithripala Sirisena and the word ‘integrity’ can legitimately go together, then a quick look-back at how he fiddled with ‘democracy’, championed nepotism and wrecked corporate good governance, not to mention the abuse of presidential powers, would set the record straight. Let’s leave all that aside.

Does Victor Ivan deserve this award? If we knew only what has been mentioned above, the answer is a clear ‘yes’. However, there is damning evidence to impeach Ivan on questionable (we are being generous here) financial transactions.

There is the issue of his involvement in Ravaya’s non-payment of taxes where the former President nudged state agencies to advertise in that paper so that monies owed the Department of Inland Revenue could be paid. More seriously is the issue of Ivan demanding (and being given) millions of rupees from a fund made of donations solicited and obtained from the general public by Ravaya Solidarity. The would-be donors were not informed that the money collected would be used to purchase shares from Ivan. Indeed, as a Limited Guarantee company, there can be no ‘shares’, although the word has been used (loosely) by those defending the transaction.

What is most damning is that Ivan has agreed to pay back the money clearly indicating that what was done was wrong. While Ivan should be applauded for this act of ‘penitence’, it does not exonerate him. Ivan knew what he was about. Ravaya Solidarity knew what was happening. The public was deceived. Neither Ivan nor spokespersons for Ravaya have offered clarification that clears either party. Instead what we’ve seen is vilification of the whistle-blowers, a course of action that detracts from Ivan’s considerable contributions towards building a just and democratic society.

An investigation into all this is currently being conducted by the Registrar of Companies, who, we are told, keeps all documents under lock and key, as should be of course. The documents out in the public domain clearly warrant a ‘second look’ at Ivan by those who are passing around integrity-awards, one would think. TISL obviously thought otherwise. That’s their business.

In Ivan’s case, it would have been much better had he followed his own advocacy with respect to the Attorney General he ‘exposed’ in the case that Vithanage made a documentary on, i.e. had he said ‘There’s an ongoing investigation and until and unless my name is cleared, I shall not accept this or any other award.’ He did not do that.

He was under a cloud and that cloud has got darker. As things stand and as was pointed to Prasanna Vithanage just after his documentary premiered at the Liberty Lite Cinema some months ago, he has to at least consider a second documentary. This time on Victor Ivan.

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Latest comments

  • 14
    3

    Malinda Seneviratne,

    Spin Master Hypocrite neither you nor he are Socrates as in Plato’s Hippias Minor.

    “”Ivan not only publishes her story, but goes on to write a series of articles exposing the judge.””

    This is nothing compared to the English couple (just about middle class- appeared without lawyer) who took the Giant American Macdonald’s To the European Court and Won against the Judgement of English Supreme Court – It was all about excessive salt that was causing children to get obese. To top it they donated the amount they received as compensation to children’s charity. Here in the UK we are bringing the dead broadcasters to life too and stripping them off their awards.
    You are just all mouth covering bigot’s rapist – you name it puttha.

  • 9
    1

    Malinda Seneviratne

    “Ivan not only publishes her story, but goes on to write a series of articles exposing the judge. The then Attorney General refuses to take action. Undeterred, Ivan exposes the cover up forcing the Judicial Services Commission to appoint a tribunal to investigate. The judge is found guilty but gets off with the light ‘punishment’ of ‘compulsory leave with pay’. Later, when moves to make the Attorney-General the Chief Justice came to be known, Ivan wrote a book about the failure of the justice system. He insisted then that it was wrong and unethical to appoint as Chief Justice a man who was accused of wrongdoing, was being investigated and as at that point yet to be cleared.”

    “Perhaps it is all this that prompted Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) to give Victor Ivan an ‘Integrity Award’ as part of the celebrations to mark the World Anti-Corruption Day. The other recipient, posthumously of course, was ardent good governance advocate the late Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero.”

    Thank you for your defense of Victor Ivan.

    Assume that Transparency International did their Home Work.

    So, Victor Ivan , “earned it”. If he earned it, he deserves the award.

  • 4
    0

    “In Ivan’s case, it would have been much better had he followed his own advocacy with respect to the Attorney General he ‘exposed’ in the case that Vithanage made a documentary on, i.e. had he said ‘There’s an ongoing investigation and until and unless my name is cleared, I shall not accept this or any other award.’ He did not do that.”

    Linda the Mara Bitch too gets disqualified by the same logic.

  • 8
    4

    A very well written, balanced piece providing enough food for thought.

    I hope this piece would not launch the usual volley of insults at the ‘victim’, one has come to expect from a unforgiving reading public.

    This is all the more reason why, I applaud Malinda Seneviratne for visiting all sides to Victor Ivan. In assessing the overall impact of Victor on society, a charitable disposition on the part of the reader would not be out of place.

    Journalism would have been poorer by his absence and richer through his contributions. Reason enough, as far as I am concerned to be charitable as what matters is the sum total of it all.

    • 0
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      [Edited out]

    • 1
      0

      Justice & Fairplay makes a valid case for consideration. But where do we draw the line? Do we forgive the Great Liberator, and his odious band of low-life, for the hell they put us through because he thankfully ended the scourge of the Ogre in the North? Or, do we judge each act in isolation?

      I lean towards Old Rome, and the case for Caesar’s wife to be above suspicion. What are we afraid of? That we will end up ridding our public life of those who fall short, and, perhaps, then enabling those with unimpeachable moral fibre to come forward and serve us. (Those men and women who would not be seen dead having to work with the scum that now inhabit our politics and public institutions.)

      • 0
        0

        No Spring Koha, We should not forgive any ‘liberator’ who has stooped to murder, theft, graft, deceit, lies,the tinkering with the judiciary, resorted to family bandyism among a million other low acts, all for his political survival.

        We do not forgive anyone – past or present – who has POWER and is tempted to misuses it.

        My reference is only to avoid insulting until he is proven guilty of the accusation.

        Please get me right: My fervent hope is that EVERY sinew and muscle available to the State be employed to seek out the truth and expose the criminals, so that justice can be meted out.

        However I would recommend that lowly insults be avoided, without a proper basis for such insults. Insults going on innuendo is insulting.

      • 1
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        Apologies for my partner’s loose talk about Caesar’s wife.
        He doesn’t know about the gardener!

    • 1
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      Justice & Fairplay – “Integrity” by definition, leaves no room for swindlers to be included in its parameters. With that in mind, how could Ivan be granted an award that exemplifies it?

      Your ‘law’ would allow “charity” to supersede its value.

      What if a pretty decent chap, a philanthropist to boot, committed murder? Would your “justice and fairplay” release him from his crime because society “would have been poorer by his absence and richer through his contributions”?

      • 0
        0

        Jury, you have taken what I have said, out of context.

        There is no way murder can be pardoned. Murder is Murder.

        Outside that, there can be degrees to which a sentence of a lesser nature can be applied?

        • 0
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          Justice & Fairplay – I agree that mine was a rather extreme example, but regardless, the principle remains.

          What about your response to my first para / question?

  • 1
    0

    The main character in Henry Jayasena’s Hunuwataya Kathawa (from Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle)is Azdak the judge. He delivered the great judgement, ” What there is shall go to those who are good for it; the children to the motherly that they prosper”, thus awarding the child to the woman who cared and brought it up, and not to the child’s biological mother who left it in a great hurry.
    This judge, Azdak was a corrupt man who took bribes ( “mama ganawa”).

    Brecht wants his readers and audiences, to judge the act( the judgement of Azdak) and not the person,for a person is a complex creation of society and biology. Are we not the same kind of product of biology and society as a person we pass judgement on? To judge each act of a person and not the person is something difficult, but worth thinking about.

    I have no knowledge of any of this Victor Ivan’s history.

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Malinda Seneviratne: I read your posting in another “web page” and made a comment and wish to repeat it here too. You siad: “In Invan’s case… and advocated: “There is an ongoing investigation and until and unless my name is cleared, I shall not accept this or any other award”. For your information, this type of “forthrightness, sincerely and honesty will never happen in Sri Lanka for the next million years. Even if you say, in a very rear instance that it has taken place, I doubt and very much doubt if that country is called Sri Lanka. In my opinion even Edgar Cassy to be reborn would never make such a “Prophecy” to take place in Sri Lanka. Why go so far, look at some of the Politicians ‘Indicted” in courts who hold even Cabinet positions going about their “Business” as if nothing has happened even though they are released on strictest “Bail” conditions. So why talk of Victor Ivon?.

  • 0
    0

    Well written Malinda. These integrity awards never been given to persons with integrity. The TI personnel do not have the access or contacts to know such persons. They always pick persons from the popular figures. Further, Victor Ivan’s business and financial deals with one of the most corrupt person known as Kumar Rupesinghe never featured in your writing.

    As I came to know that the case of this judge was initially identified and investigated by a prominent human rights organisation based in Kandy and later handed over the information to one of the Ravaya Kandy correpondent to publicised the case. Of course, Victor did the rest by conducting his own investigation about the judge etc. But the fact is that Victor should behaved honestly to accept and acknowledge the source of information. He may have thought that by acknowledging the original source of information he may not have enjoyed the credit for exposing the story. This is also a question of integrity. Ajantha

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