Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) yesterday (21) urged the Cabinet to immediately reconsider a decision to allow President Maithripala Sirisena to retain his official residence upon retirement. The benefits afforded to the President could cost the Government Rs. 360 million over a 20-year period, the corruption watchdog said.
Last week, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to, among other benefits, let Sirisena continue his occupation of the Mahagamasekara Mawatha residence beyond 16 November, the day of the upcoming presidential election.
“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,” a statement from TISL quoted its Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere as saying.
The statement further said that decisions pertaining to such entitlements should only be taken when the President ceases to hold office.
“TISL believes that the timing of the decision when the President is still in office and is the Head of Cabinet raises serious questions regarding conflicts of interest. Furthermore, the fact that the decision was made during an election period where 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,” the statement added.