Sri Lanka multi-party anti-graft committee to probe past scams

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – A multi-party committee headed by Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and another task force headed by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Dissanayake will probe large scale corrupt deals of the last regime, a minister said.

They will probe alleged corrupt deals at the Employees Provident Fund, Colombo Stock Exchange scams, assets of suspected ‘large scale fraudsters’, illegal land acquisitions and large volumes of items found in different places that were brought into the country during the last elections

Wickramasinghe will chair a committee made up of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka, Urban Development Minister Rauf Hakeem, Tamil National Alliance chief R Sambandan JVP’s Dissanayake and Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka.

Also in the committee will be TNA legislator M A Sumanthiran and Transparency International Sri Lanka’s J C Weliamuna, and businessman Malik Samarawickrama who is connected to Wickramasinghe’s United National Party.

The committee will probe misdeeds of the Rajapaksa regime, whose main constituent party was President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Another ‘Urgent Response Committee’ co-ordinated by Dissanayake will have state officials, police officers lawyers, financial and accounting experts and sleuths from Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigations Department, Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

A committee chaired by Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa with Ministers Ranawaka, Samaraweera and Hakeem will draft legislation to tackle undeclared wealth.

Assistance will also be sought from Reserve Bank of India, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to track down ill-gotten wealth stashed abroad by in the "hierarchy" of the last regime, Senaratne said.

In the past all probes into scams have failed due to the lack of permanent secretaries of ministries. The 1971 and 1978 constitutions destroyed the institution of permanent secretaries which was the lynch pin of an independent public service.

Before 1971 secretaries were permanent and elected politicians could not appoint transfer or take disciplinary action against them, just like judges.

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Permanent secretaries formed the basis of public services of Britain and former colonies and it still exists in countries like India and Singapore.

The current administration has promised to re-create a constitutional council to appoint top officials but whether the institution will be as successful as permanent secretaries in creating an independent public service, remains to be seen.

 

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