ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka’s simmering political crisis worsened on Monday as the head of the bribery commission resigned in protest over the controversial remarks of President Maithripala Sirisena questioning her integrity.
Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe tendered her resignation to Sirisena who had appointed her last year after the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) was re-established as a fully independent body.
"She sent her letter of resignation to the president today," CIABOC Commissioner Neville Guruge told reporters.
There was no immediate comment from the President or his office, but sources close to Director-General Wickramasinghe said she was quitting protesting President Sirisena’s remarks on Wednesday questioning her integrity.
Her resignation deepens a crisis between the President and the Prime Minister over anti-graft investigations carried out by three instituitions — the CIABOC, the Financial Crimes Investigations Division and the Criminal Investigations Division of the police.
While CIABOC’s independence is guaranteed by the 19th amendment to the constitution, the FCID and the CID are controlled by the police, which comes under Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake, a loyalist of the Premier.
Sirisena’s apparent U-turn on corruption and investigations into high profile cases has stunned even his senior aides who said he had not consulted any of them before making the remarks on Wednesday at the Sri Lanka Foundation.
He publicly condemned the CIABOC and Wickramasinghe for last month’s prosecution of three retired admirals and the former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Sirisena said he condemned the prosecution with "disgust". All four were given bail, although legal experts noted that it was highly unusual to release them on bail.
The quartet was accused of defrauding the state of Rs11,400 million. Any loss of over Rs25,000 usually attracts a mandatory remand period of at least two weeks.
Sirisena said military commanders who led the successful campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 should not be humiliated by bringing them to court.
Wickramasinghe, a senior prosecutor from the state Attorney General’s department, has launched several high profile investigations against members of the former regime, as well as those of the Rajapaksa family.
Sirisena’s outburst came days after Namal Rajapaksa, the son of the former leader, filed a petition in court saying that prosecutions against him were politically motivated, a claim now confirmed by President Sirisena.
The President accused Wickramasinghe’s CIABOC of working according to a "political agenda" and vowed to take unspecified "stern action" against the CIABOC, as well as two other anti-corruption bodies, the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) and the Crime Investigations Division (CID).
The President’s remarks signalled a rift between him and the national unity government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which oversees the FCID and the CID.
The two men are from rival parties, but made a common cause to topple former strongman Rajapaksa, whose entire family and closest associates face allegations of corruption as well as murder.
(COLOMBO, Oct 17, 2016)