29 November, 2023


What Are The Crimes Relating To Corruption In Sri Lankan Law?

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

There is much talk about the alleged corruption of the previous regime. But what is corruption? There is the UN Convention on Corruption. I think it requires Member States to declare certain financial malpractices as crimes. They include the obstruction of justice ( there are many such allegations against the previous regime) concealment, conversion or transfer of resources allocated already, embezzlement, trading in influence ( a la Wele Suda statement) illicit enrichment, concealment of illegal assets, misuse of public money or property other than as authorized by law. If these are enacted as crimes in law then private citizens should also be allowed to file action against officials accused of corruption in Audit reports, reports of COPE COPA etc. But the law must first prohibit all public officials subject to the present Bribery Law, from the abuse of power, misuse of government resources or their conversion for uses not authorized already,

What are the crimes relating to corruption in our law? Bribery was an offence punishable under the Penal Code as far back as 1883. It was during the British rule that bribery was introduced as a criminal offence into the Statute Book. In 1954 the Bribery Act was enacted to contain bribery in the Public Service. In 1958 the Bribery Commissioner’s Department was established by the Act No.40, under the Ministry of Justice. In1994 the Act no.19 created the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. Ministers are brought in under the law.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe - Minster of Justice

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe – Minster of Justice

Corruption has been defined under Section 70 of the Bribery Act. Accordingly, a public servant who, with intent to cause wrongful or unlawful loss to the Government, or to confer a wrongful or unlawful benefit, favour or advantage on himself or any person, or with knowledge, that any wrongful or unlawful loss will be caused to any person or to the Government, or that any wrongful or unlawful benefit favour or advantage will be conferred or any person, does any act in contravention of this provision commits the offence of corruption.” All these relate to the solicitation and acceptance of bribes. But modern day corruption indulged in by Ministers is not straight forward bribes which can be proved easily.

The allegations of corruption on the part of the previous President and his Ministers arise from giving contracts to their favorites without calling for tenders, accepting unsolicited offers and awarding contracts at exorbitant or excessive prices padding their commissions into such offers. Are they covered by our Bribery and Corruption Law? I don’t think so for the Financial Regulations that require competitive tenders and selection of the best tender apply only to the public officers who alone are subject to the observance of the Financial Regulations. The contracts are not signed by the Ministers. Nor are their orders minuted in the files. HOW THEN CAN BE HELD RESPONSIBLE?

The responsibility for financial management is vested not with the Ministers or the President as the Minister of Finance but only with the Secretaries and Heads of Departments as the Chief Accounting Officer and Accounting Officer. But in practice the Minister intervenes and decides to do away with tenders, accept unsolicited offers and award tenders to their favorites at excessive prices padded by their own commissions. So who should be held responsible for any irregularity with regard to them? Other countries have enacted laws such as the Canadian Financial Administration Act where in the responsibility for financial management is vested with the Ministers. The World Bank prepared a draft law- the Public Finance Act of 2002 which provided for the same. But it was not passed. Will the new Government pass such an ACT which holds them responsible?

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Cage all the SLFP MPs first and ask them as to why they should be released.

    Just do a simple reconciliation between the wealth they had in 2005 and their wealth in 2015.

    Simple as that.

  • 2

    Good points R. M. B.

    Is illegal Sand Mining in the penal code as a crime , Or is it under the E P laws?

    How about jacking up the price of our staple, Rice by creating artificial shortages?.

    How about receiving funds without Central Bank permission from sources who were know to finance LTTE activities..

    How about buying Real Estate at mate’s rates while holding high office .

    Is it full legit to collect Dollars, Pounds and Euro from Foreign Embassies to tell bullshit to our poor inhabitants and dupe them to cast their votes to create separate Bantustans ..for Sinhala Buddhists, Tamils .and Muslims..

    • 3

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Is illegal Sand Mining in the penal code as a crime , Or is it under the E P laws?”

      Good point, your Dalit liberator Douglass Devananda should be able to advise you on illegal sand mining. His supporters were in that business too.

      By the way when did you become an adherent of rule of law? Is it just after the elections?

      “How about buying Real Estate at mate’s rates while holding high office”

      Are you questioning the previous regime and their 10%, 20%, 30% consultancy/management fees?

      “Is it full legit to collect Dollars, Pounds and Euro from Foreign Embassies to tell bullshit to our poor inhabitants and dupe them to cast their votes to create separate Bantustans”

      I am with you.

      Shall we also revisit 2010 presidential elections when a large fees was paid to your sun god by your other sun god. The fees was 100% subsidised by your bullying big sister in the North.

      Regarding Bantustan, your big sister decides you obey. Therefore be nice to your own flock in this land.

      Do you still have relatives in Eri Virrar Pattinum?

  • 2

    People of Sri Lanka who overwhelmingly elected this government will be so disappointed when they find out that none of the corrupt SLFPers in the previous government got punished during the stipulated 100 days. The present government will let all the drug dealers(kudukarayo), ethanol dealers(ethanol karayo) and the corrupt people(dushithayo) get away although President Sirisena used these popular words to win the support of poor Sri Lankans. How can he punish the corrupt when he appoints his corrupt brother to head the telecom. How can they take Duminda Silva into custody when Minister Rajitha Senaratne’s wife, the doctor holding a high position in the health sector, influences the doctors at Sri Jayawardenepura Hospital to give false medical certificates about the medical condition of Duminda just after shooting Bharatha Lakshman. These bogus medical reports helped the authorities to send Duminda, the guy chewing, chewing gum after the shooting, to Singapore for treatment. Those who came out leaving Mahinda Rajapaksa are not saints although they are acting like saints now. They knew very well that the opposition is going to win even if a puppet other than Ranil contests as the common candidate. A non SLFP common candidate with no skeletons in his/her own cupboard would have been a better option. The drug dealers, ethanol dealers, and the corrupt will never get punished under these leaders no matter what the UN Convention on Corruption says.

  • 1

    On SUNDAY 1st FEBRUARY 2015 I learned to my HORROR that public officials including scientists have long adopted the practice of “adjusting” data in order to ensure that development projects are allocated to areas favored by the ministers that they work for!



    Tell me if you can.

  • 5

    Corruption is not only the bribe receiver but also the bribe giver. A big Malaysian company like Dialog is known to have given free gifts of very expensive phones to MR and family, Gota and family, that fraud Lalith Weeratunga and family ,Gamini Senarath and family etc. If any of them deny this ask them to produce proof of purchase such as Credit card records or receipts for their phones, connections and even bill payments. Sometimes Dialog even waives the bills off, Gota , Namal and Gamini Senarath are some who benefited.
    • One time Gota’s son was employed in Malaysia by Dialog. Can he deny this ?
    What does Dialog ask for in return ? The very lucrative government and armed forces supply orders, towers, access ,wider coverage etc. Once they destroy all other competition Dialog can charge any thing. When they say they are patriotic what they really mean is patriotic to Malaysia !

  • 4

    Thank you RMB for educating Colombo Telegraph readers about how the legal system operates in regard to bribery and corruption. lot of people make lot of noise to vent out their frustration and anger, without knowing the facts.They are bound to be disappointed like it has been after every election.The alleged culprits get away, remember the apple wathu from mahaweli contracts, defence contracts during the war etc but there were no prosecutions?

    Would’nt it be better for JVP and like minded citizens to strive to get the required laws and systems in place without simply trying to get publicity by chasing thin air? Human nature is such that when presented with opportunity most people will be corrupt even in developed countries. That’s why those countries have stringent laws and majority of culprits get caught and are punished.

    SL needs such frameworks but politicians from all sides are not too keen for obvious reasons, they are human and they need to maximise their opportunities, albeit not all. In that context you are providing a great service by highlighting the facts. We shall push harder for the relevant laws.

  • 2

    Can one have a total pesonality change with a promotion as has happened to our dear my3.
    He professed, when he was the Minister of Health, that White flour is so unhealthy that it was banished from school tuck shops, prices were jacked up even estate labourers were asked eat rice instead of their staple roti.
    Now red rice which was sold at Rs.33/-kg at the time was quietly increased to 45/- Johnny, with his mug smirk, explained that price for paddy is too low.
    Then he once again shot it up to Rs.60/-to 63/- without any explanation. Not even the JVP asked why? I am still bewildered at the JVP’s sinlence on rice.
    Now imported white rice is available at prices ranging from 50/- to 60/- even the farmers in Polonnaruwa eat that stuff after selling their crop enmass to large scale mills like Nipuna and Araliya.
    Our local red rice? Nowhere to be seen! What are Araliya and Nipuna doing with our rice? We are made to understand from informal, sources not official, that it is taken by breweries at higher prices to make beer.
    So now we drink beer and eat white rice for good health.
    Back then he was making a big noice about non-communicable deseases- Diabetes. His remady-reduced sugar prices plus eat white flour and white rice.
    Soon he’ll come up with a scheme to increase heart decease and cholesterole.
    wonder if he is on a mission to reduce population in Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    Dil I am heartened by your comments. No politician is a saint. None will ever be. Malcom Muggerige used to say the same thing. He said the pursuit of power will necessarily mean that the politicians will continue to avoid accountability for themselves. So dont expect any laws to criminalize various financial malpractices as recommended by the UN Convention against Corruption ever being passed in Sri Lanka not under this government or any government

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