President Maithripala Sirisena
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), in a statement yesterday, said it was deeply concerned by the recent decision made by the Cabinet to allow President Maithripala Sirisena to remain in his official residence at Mahagama Sekara Mawatha, formerly Paget Road.
TISL believes that the timing of the decision, when the President is still in office and the head of the Cabinet, raises serious questions regarding conflict of interest. This is underscored by the decision of the Supreme Court in 2007 concerning the premature exercise of Executive Power under the Presidents Entitlements Act of 1986.
While former Presidents and their widows or widowers are entitled to an official residence as per the provisions of the President’s Entitlement Act 1986, TISL drew attention to a 2007 judgment of the Supreme Court.
- Corruption watchdog calls on Cabinet to revoke decision
- Says decision to give him Paget Road residence raises conflict of interest concerns
In a fundamental rights application to the Supreme Court (SC FR503/2005), a three-judge bench ruled in favour of the petitioners, quashing the Cabinet decision on grants and entitlements to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, while the President was in office.
In its judgement, the Court noted: “The facts that have been clearly established in this case prove that the first respondent and the Cabinet of Ministers of which she was the head, secured for the first respondent benefits and advantages in the purported exercise of executive power in breach of the provisions of the President’s Entitlement Act No. 4 of 1986.”
TISL said it was firmly of the stance that decisions pertaining to such entitlements should only be taken at such a time when the sitting President ceases to hold office. Furthermore, the fact that the decision was made during an election period, when the President has declared that he will remain impartial despite his party’s decision to support a candidate, also raises several red flags on electoral integrity and potential corruption under the Bribery Act.
TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere said: “A conservative estimate could place the benefit afforded to President Sirisena as a result of retaining the official residence at Mahagama Sekara Mawatha at over Rs. 360 million over a 20-year period. As this decision has been made by the Cabinet of Ministers, led by President Sirisena, the conflict of interest is deeply concerning and illustrates little consideration for the protection of public resources.”
TISL calls for the Cabinet to immediately revoke any Cabinet decision on the entitlements of President Sirisena.
As an election observer, TISL monitors and reports on the misuse of State resources during elections. Complaints can be raised with TISL on their election complaints hotline 076-322-3442 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.