Combating corruption

Saturday, 28 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AN unrelenting drive against corruption was one of the chief tenets of the current Government’s recent election campaign. It proved successful at the polls as the public turned out in record numbers to signal their intent to clean up the higher echelons of public office. Assurances were given and plans were put in motion, but results have been scarce and the public as well as certain sections of the polity are growing impatient. Earlier this week, Minister of Public Order John Amaratunga assured the public that an independent Police service would be implemented soon with the help of the Opposition. He requested the Police to compile a list of unresolved complaints, while also criticising the Police on the lack of results seen so far. The Minister voicing his frustrations at the lack of progress in solving high-profile cases that have been notoriously put on the back burner by authorities under the previous administration also mirrors a growing impatience amongst the public for tangible results. While Amaratunga pointed out that the public expects the Government to deliver on its pledges – with the 100-day program into its final half and a general election looming large – the Government too will no doubt want to see quicker results. All the while, allegations of various political deals and cover-ups are mounting in the face of the ongoing feet-dragging. The Police has been quick to defend itself by revealing that the investigations into the murder of The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda have finally been handed over to the CID, signalling that investigations are finally moving forward. Other high-profile cases including the mysterious death of rugby player Wasim Thajudeen and the infamous Rathupaswala episode have also been passed on to the CID. The Police has pointed out that Parliamentarians, who allegedly enjoyed immunity under the previous regime, are also being investigated in several cases, citing examples of MP Duminda Silva being investigated for the death of politician Baratha Lakshman Premachandra and MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena for money laundering. Former Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and former Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Priyath Bandu Wickrema also have money laundering accusations levelled against them, which are being investigated. These charges come in the wake of a new Police division being launched this week under the IGP, which will be dedicated to probing large-scale financial crimes. The division will look into illegal financial transactions and money laundering as well as crimes against public funds and property. Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police N.K. Illankoon (IGP) announced that investigations into the controversial Avant Garde floating armoury have almost reached a conclusion. The Government has also been quick to explain that the Police force, which had been sidelined under the previous regime, helped conduct a free and fair election as a result. Amidst this seemingly positive drive towards solving these high profile cases, certain sections of the Government continue to criticise the Police for tackling small fry. Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne has accused the Police of deliberately focusing on minor offenders while leaving investigations into large-scale crime and corruption on the backburner in order to create a sense of disappointment amongst public spheres toward the Government. With this series of confusing statements made by interested parties, only one thing remains clear – in the shadow of the upcoming elections, the public will be uninterested in the Government’s excuses for failing to honour the leap of faith taken at the last presidential election.