UNP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has alleged that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABC) from its inception accommodated retired and a selected few to have comfort and enjoy special privileges at public expense.
The former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) MP Rajapakshe, in a letter dated July 11, urged his successor, senior Minister Dew Gunasekera to examine the status of investigations undertaken by the Bribery Commission during Rajapakshe’s tenure as the head of the parliamentary watchdog.
Rajapakshe alleged that the commission had failed to bring the investigations to a successful conclusion though investigations began in 2007.
The following is the full text of MP Rajapakshe’s letter sent to Minister Gunasekera: “I was delighted to read some media reports in which it was reported that Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation had recorded a profit of Rs. 15,000 Million in the past year. I being the Chairman of the COPE in 2006/2007 ventured to blaze a trail to crack down corruption in the public sector. But you are aware that corruption has reached to an alarmingly dizzy height now. I presented two reports in January and in August 2007 respectively and I was able to get the approval of the Parliament unanimously to adopt both reports as Parliamentary (Full House) Reports and got further resolution passed to get the Government to implement our recommendations, inter-alias that,
a) to take over State Organizations which had been privatised illegally and unfairly, and
b) to take action under the criminal laws and Bribery and Corruption Commission Act against the wrongdoers, irrespective of their heights and might either in their political or public offices.
With the crossover of 18 Members from the opposition to the Government, each one accepting ministerial or deputy ministerial portfolios within 17 days after the presentation of the first report, some of the government politicians and pole vultures tried to interpret the COPE report as an act to topple the government and to depict it as an act of treachery.
The Government also toed the line with the corrupted lot due to sheer political expediency irrespective of the fact that some of the wrongdoers were named in reports. It is pertinent to note that at the time of my presentation, some members of COPE representing the coalition government stood with me although they changed their stance later, obviously due to vulnerable factors remaining in the present system.
When Public Interest Litigations were initiated to implement some of the recommendations of the first report, government was obliged to agree with such recommendations in courts, but unfortunately the Attorney-General being the Chief Legal Officer of the State opposed to the said applications and argued condoning illegal and unjustifiable transactions despite the fact that they involved colossal sums of public money and assets. It was for the first time the Attorney-General’s Department descended to that level.
His argument was that miscreant, however much they were guilty, they shall be allowed to retain public assets plundered from the Public Coffers. But it was due to the profundity and the brevity of the Supreme Court, that two judgements were delivered endorsing COPE findings. As a result the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation also was re-vested in the people.
It is consequent upon that, the government was able to get back the Insurance Corporation of Sri Lanka and controlling power of Apollo Hospital and Shell Gas Company. (Litro) and substantial stakes of private banks. In addition to that 8.2 Acres, State land at the Colombo Port also was re-vested in the State. If one gets a proper assessment, the value of the assets so recovered is worth more than Rs. 150 billion which amounts to a one fifth of our then annual national revenue.
I believe that you will take note of our dedication and commitment and I as the Chairman of COPE had to pay a heavy toll in getting back those assets and fought with the powers-that-be from many quarters, exposing myself to life threats too. It came to a state where some evil elements of the government including pole vultures congregated themselves to resist the implementation of the said recommendation and I had to incurs the wrath of spoilers and plunderers, some of them who were involved in such monstrous activities are still retaining their cosy relations and position in with the government.
I had to remain in the House as an independent member for two years and to fight against corruption, malpractices, and wastage etc on my own and I have a pardonable pride as I did perform my duties to perfection despite the fact that I represented the ruling coalition. I have no lamentation at all for government claiming credit for the re-taking of Insurance Corporation and other public institutions which had contributed immensely to the national economy. Therefore I have reasons to be prouder than the government in a humble manner, for the services that I have rendered, by this glaring exposure. The purpose of writing this to you is to remind that both PAC and COPE now have become impotent and people cannot expect any service to the nation by this sorry state of affairs. Hence I kindly request you to take the following measures to reinforce the said two oversight committees with the best of intention of making the Parliament a vibrant, useful and beneficial institution for the general public.
(1) Members of Parliament holding executive offices such as ministers and deputy ministers shall not be permitted to be members of oversight committees keeping in with longstanding noble conventions followed in our Parliament and the other democracies of the world as well. Control over the public finance is exclusively vested in the Parliament in terms of chapter XVII of the Constitution. The objectives of the oversight committees are to check the executive. If the executive itself is going to do it, it reminds the principle of “Quiz custodies custodias” which denotes that, “who shall check the checkers?” If the executive itself is going to supervise the executive, it will make a mockery of democracy. Presently about half of members are part of the executive and therefore it demonstrates that our existing set up is against basic norms and fundamentals of parliamentary democracy.
It is a system of primitive democracy which had been done away with by almost all the democracies in the world.
Unfortunately the offices of Chairmen of both committees are being held by cabinet ministers and thereby both committees have been forced to descend to a level of redundancy.
(2) It is the basic and fundamental rule in almost all the democracies in the world that the chairpersons are elected from and among the members of the opposition.
Practically it is not possible for the government members to investigate into the corruption and malpractices in their own government. Therefore it is the duty of every Parliamentarian to ensure the smooth functioning of the said committees without any interference or interruption. I have no hesitation to say that when I was elected as the Chairman of COPE, I had the foresight and determination to change the then existed lackadaisical and lethargic conduct of the committee, which I did.
(3) During the recent past, functions of both committees have got dramatically changed and have descended to a deleterious level displaying that both institutions are virtually redundant and meaningless. During the above mentioned period we took lot of pains irrespective of various threats and some days we did our investigations from 2.00 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. It was a herculean task to do a comprehensive investigation to expose white colour criminals who had all protection from many quarters, including high powers, but still with our dedication and unhesitating, unfailing and unwavering courage, we performed successfully. We called all the important officials commencing from the permanent secretaries of relevant ministries and other responsible officers down the line. But nowadays they call only a very few, not more than two to three officials such as the secretary and finance controller and keep other officers outside the committee room. Mere exchange of pleasantries in the committee proceedings without an investigation presenting a report without specific findings and recommendation is a serious insult to the general public who expect the Parliament Members to be their custodians of safeguarding and protecting public coffers. We must not forget the “noblesse oblige” on our part as peoples’ representatives. It is our bounden duty to preserve and promote participatory democratic principles by restoring the pristine glory that existed in the previous generation, and people are very keen on seeing that parliament becoming a viable and sustainable institution, with a view to restoring democracy.
I wish to remind you that I moved a resolution in the House that corruption of very high magnitude that has taken place in 16 State Organizations referred to in the 1St and 2nd COPE reports, shall be sent to Bribery Commission for investigation and to initiate criminal proceedings and the same was passed unanimously. The then Speaker, Hon. W.J.M. Lokubandara in compliance with the said resolution sent the said reports to the Bribery Commission on 31st August 2007, with a specific direction to report the progress of. their investigation every other week and to initiate legal action. Hon. Speaker also announced in the House that the Bribery Commission has accepted them and the commission has had commenced their investigations.
It is common ground that the Bribery Commission from its inception was basically accommodating a retired and selected few to have comfort and enjoy special privileges at public expense ignoring their public duties.
I humbly urge you on behalf of the general public to call for a progressive report as directed by the former Speaker and inform the House whether the Commission has done anything or has allowed dust to gather on it, as usual in most of the law enforcement authorities in the country.”