President cracks whip over anti-corruption efforts

Thursday, 6 July 2017 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Chathuri Dissanayake 

Dissatisfied with the progress made by state investigative arms to bring culprits responsible for large-scale fraud to book, President Maithripala Sirisena has threatened to take over the relevant line ministries under his purview at the latest Cabinet meeting, the Cabinet spokesman confirmed yesterday.   Speaking at the weekly Cabinet press briefing, co-spokesperson Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told reporters that President Sirisena expressed his strong displeasure over the lack of progress with large-scale financial fraud and insisted it should have been investigated over the last two and a half years.  Untitled-1

“The President wanted to take over the investigative units under the Law and Order Ministry, including the Criminal Investigation Department and Financial Crimes Investigation Department for at least three months to ensure that all the major corruption cases are investigated properly and wrongdoers are prosecuted,” Senaratne said. 

“There are 82 cases at the Attorney General’s Department and they have not processed them yet. We have to take action against these people. We all know who they are,” he said, but fell short of naming the individuals allegedly preventing the cases being processed by the department. 

President Sirisena had also told Cabinet he would be willing to take over the investigative arm of the Law and Order Ministry and the Attorney General’s Department for about six months to expedite investigations.  

Implying that individuals within the Government are protecting the culprits responsible for large-scale corruption during the previous regime, Senaratne said that several Cabinet members supported the President taking over the investigation. 

“The President questioned as to why Gamini Senarath (ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Chief of Staff) has still not been arrested. We asked the same question. There has been evidence given by his driver, there are details and photocopies of the cheques drawn, but nothing has been done,” Senaratne admitted. 

The Cabinet discussion also examined whether to extend the term of the Anti-Corruption Committee Secretariat (ACCS). However, no concrete decision was made on the matter during the meeting, Senaratne said. Instead the Cabinet had called for a complete report on the status of the Secretariat to decide on the future of the unit.

“Even the Prime Minister is not happy with the work done by the Anti-Corruption Committee Secretariat. It has not been effective. There are only six investigators in the Secretariat and one Supervisor. However, there are five more advisors and five directors. It is okay if there were more investigators, but large amounts are paid to these other advisors and directors. Over Rs. 12 million is needed to maintain the Secretariat per month,” he said. 

The President pointed out that the Secretariat has investigated and prosecuted only two former ministers who are part of the current Government for minor offences while neglecting large-scale corruption allegations levelled against leaders of the former regime, Senaratne revealed.

“As many as 76 cases, which have been processed, have been for small incidents,” he highlighted. 

Being critical of the nature of the cases being prosecuted by the unit, Sirisena had highlighted that there was a trend to target Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members, Senaratne confirmed. 

Disgruntled about the current status quo, the President has also spoken of the threats to his life he may face if there is a change in Government in the near future, the spokesman said.  

“They said they will not give up power for the next 20 years when they had those rallies. So we know that they were planning to rule and we understood the threat,” Rajitha stated.