“I am not aware of the terms of engagement under which Mr. Weliamuna provided these services nor the associated terms and conditions, including confidentality commitments and client/ service provider relationship terms. In that context I am unable to determine whether or not Mr. Weliamuna is free to indicate publicly his fees from this assignment. Hence I am unable to respond to your question, whether transparency principles upheld by Mr. Weliamuna, have been violated or not, by him failing to respond to your request for his fee income from the assignment.” says, Chandra Jayaratne, former chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and Friday Forum member.
Jayaratne made the above remarks when asked of his opinion on the “Wiliamuna controversy”. J. C. Weliamuna is the Chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka and a key member of the Friday Forum. Weliamuna was the head of the investigation committee of Sri Lankan Airlines.
After the investigation, on the 29th of April, he was appointed as a member of the Special Presidential Task Force for the recovery of illegally acquired state assets by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Colombo Telegraph asked Weliamuna to reveal the amount he was paid to investigate Sri Lankan Airlines – the first government-commissioned inquiry into the previous Rajapaksa regimes’s corruption and malpractices.
As reported, Weliamuna speaking to Colombo Telegraph confirmed that he along with his team comprising three other members U.H. Palihakkara, B.A.W. Abeywardane and M.K. Bandara were paid Rs 3.5 million. At that time Colombo Telegraph did request for a breakdown from the chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka, Weliamuna but he was not in a position to do so. A subsequent email was sent to him seeking this information. Weliamuna has not responded to that question as yet. We asked Weliamuna once again and requested him to furnish at least the amount he did receive as his fee but he is yet to respond to that question as well.
Jayaratne said; “I am certain that Mr. Weliamuna has participated in the inquiry in his professional capacity, whilst engaging in his normal day to day professional practice / vocation.
“Though he holds many other positions in civil society organizations, including TISL, I am sure that he has not represented any of them in this engagement. I see absolutely no conflict of interest in his this engagement in this professional assignment with his roles in the civil society institutions, including being the Chairman of TISL. This assignment with Sri Lankan Airlines would in fact advance transparency and good governance assurance and be supportive of anti-bribery and corruption and will thus be supportive of the end goals of TISL
“I find no negative issues with Mr Weliamuna receiving fees for providing his professional services, whilst engaging in his livelihood providing professional practice
“I am not aware of the terms of engagement under which Mr. Weliamuna provided these services nor the associated terms and conditions, including confidentality commitments and client/ service provider relationship terms. In that context I am unable to determine whether or not Mr. Weliamuna is free to indicate publicly his fees from this assignment. Hence I am unable to respond to your question, whether transparency principles upheld by Mr. Weliamuna, have been violated or not, by him failing to respond to your request for his fee income from the assignment.”
“Journalists should focus their energies on the quality of the output of the Weliamuna report. I know it’s a little difficult when the government has not made the entire report public, and only released snippets.” said Prof. Rohan Samarajiva.
When asked for a comment he said; “Here is where the urgent enactment of the Right to Information (or as it is now called, the Freedom of Information) Bill becomes relevant. An RTI request to the Secretary of the Aviation Ministry would have enabled a journalist who so desired to learn how much the individual members of the committee were paid. Even more importantly, an RTI request, or a threat of one, would have enabled perusal of the contents of the output produced by the committee so that an assessment could be made whether it justified the expenditure of public funds.”
His full response can be read here.
Meanwhile speaking to Colombo Telegraph, a Finance Ministry official said; I’m talking purely because this issue of integrity is extremely important, more so in this yahapalanaya times. These justifications were seen also when there was a dispute over Mr Jayantha Dhanapala‘s sitting on the Board of Dialog, a company blocking free expression in Sri Lanka while at the same time, advocating free expression as head of the Friday Forum. At that time, these very people saw nothing wrong with it and hammered Colombo Telegraph for exposing it, saying that the Rajapaksas were behind it. This terrible ambivalence is what has taken away the moral authority associated with the so-called civil society. Unfortunately elitists who preach good governance in Colombo cannot recognise this. The pro-people activists who brought Sirisena to power however do recognise this and are disturbed by it.”
“An individual has all the right to openly campaign for a political party to come into power and thereafter accept a financially beneficial payment for doing a job of work for that party. But this ‘committee’ was set up by the relevant Minister informally and not in the same way as for example, President Sirisena appointed Commissioners to an anti-corruption Commission which is under a particular law and subject to proper regulation. Even so, there is nothing to prevent an individual from accepting such an informal political position. But after doing so, he or she cannot continue as the head of a civil society organisation pretending to be impartial and non-political. This is where the conflict arises. This is where the integrity of that particular civil society organisation is damaged. It is a question of integrity, pure and simple. These matters cannot simply be covered under a blanket of saying that ‘so and so is under attack’ or that the Rajapaksas have paid for these ‘attacks.'” a Finance Ministry official told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity. He is barred from officially talking to the media.
“And the other question is basic. Why is Mr Weliamuna refusing to disclose the exact payment that was paid if there is nothing to hide? ‘” the ministry official further said.