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UDA disrupts Bribery Commission’s duties!

UDA disrupts Bribery Commission’s duties!

Preventing bribery and corruption was the main promise at the presidential and general elections, and the people have given a mandate  for that.

Promises only do not solve problems. There is a legally accepted procedure to reveal bribery and corruption and a mechanism to eliminate same. That mechanism should be strengthened first of all. The main implementing agency of that mechanism is the Bribery Commission. However, there have been allegations that investigating the large number of complaints it has received was progressing very slowly. There was hope for its revival after the collapse of the Rajapaksa regime in 2015. However, that allegation is still valid.

We looked into that and have been able to uncover many things you do not know, but should know. With that hope in mind, we decided to reveal all. This is the first revelation.

There is a question of constructing a spacious building for the Commission. Now, instead of investigating the complaints it has received, the Commission has to worry about this matter most of the time. That is not surprising in a country like Sri Lanka. People are unaware of that and level all the blame on the Commission.

With the government change, Dilrukshi Dias Wickremasinghe was appointed as director general of the Commission. Thereafter, the prime minister visited the Commission to observe its activities. Even at that time, it has been plagued by a lack of space. As a solution, the cabinet subcommittee on economic affairs has decided to grant it a 60-perch state land nearby. The land had a building which was used at the time as the official residence of the prisons commissioner. The land was released after giving him a solution. 

In the meantime, Wickremesinghe resigned and was succeeded by Sarath Jayamanne. He received a letter from the UDA, telling him to look for a new place as the Commission needed to be relocated outside Colombo. The Commission brought up the matter with the then secretary to the president P.B. Abeykoon. The relocation decision has been taken without considering the duties of the Commission – that frequent visits are needed to Hulftsdorp courts, Presidential Secretariat, Attorney General’s Department etc. Also, safety of witnesses was ignored. The UDA had not the least idea that the present location was the best suited place for the Commission. When this was raised with subject minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, he approved of constructing a suitable building in the land given it.

The Commission then informed the secretary to the president about it and he summoned UDA officials and told them to grant the required approval without delay. However, no approval came. Again, the Commission was informed by the UDA last November that it should be relocated, at Battaramulla. 

New secretary to the president Austin Fernando was told about the UDA’s adamant stand. Following that, secretary to the PM Saman Ekanayake summoned top officials of the Commission and the UDA in January. When asked the reason for its stand, the UDA replied that there was a decision to relocate all state administrative buildings outside Colombo. The Commission asked the UDA if they were unaware of its important role, asking that it be not included into the category of state institutions such the Wildlife and Irrigation Departments. The Commission also asked the UDA to consult it in a gentlemanly manner before taking a decision. It inquired about the facilities available at Battaramulla for suspects in cases being heard at Colombo Fort magistrates and high courts. The UDA then said that an appeal be submitted. Knowing the mechanism of the state well, the Commission had already prepared one and handed it over then and there.

Ekanayake strongly criticized the UDA’s conduct and told the Commission to submit a paper directly to the cabinet. However, Fernando interfered on the UDA’s behalf and asked it to immediately respond to the appeal. Three days later, the UDA sent a letter to the Commission, saying their decision for a relocation outside Colombo was a mistake.

However, disruptions to the construction of the new building are not over. To make maximum use of the land, the Commission decided to construct an 18-storey building. Opposing it, the UDA wanted it to be a 10-storey one according to ‘regulations.’ It failed to point out the regulations, but gave the BMICH as an example. However, there is no legal or other hurdle against the construction of an 18-storey building for the Commission. The UDA behaves like a baby in the arm and the problem remains unresolved.

This situation was not seen at least during the Rajapaksa regime. It permitted the Commission to construct a new building. In 2010, the decision for a two-storey building was changed to make it a five-storey.

Therefore, the Commission has to worry about such things in addition to carrying out its intended responsibilities. Society is unaware of this. Amidst all these, it made investigations and ruled the highest number of suspects guilty last year. More will follow on that later.

Ashika Brahmana

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