Bribery Commission Members Accused Of Corruption
By Nirmala Kannangara
The International Anti-Corruption Day falls tomorrow - December 9. Although this day is marked worldwide, questions have been raised as to how the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in Sri Lanka will mark this day when their own members are accused of corruption.
The Bribery Commission has to be an independent body, which cannot be messed up by any visible or invisible force and has to work against corruption and fraud. However our own Bribery Commission appears to be falling to pieces as it is plagued with corruption and fraud. The Bribery Commission’s responsibility is to investigate into credible complaints, but their deliberate failure to act on many instances of bribery and corruption charges against government politicians, their stooges, personal friends and ‘big wigs’ has raised questions as to why the general public should pay millions of rupees of their hard earned money to maintain this shady commission.
Although allegations have been levelled against the Bribery Commission for failing to act on various instances of bribery and corruption pointed out by many including UNP Parliamentarians Sujeewa Senasinghe, Karu Jayasuriya and JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti, no probe seems to be taking place by the Justice Ministry to look into these allegations against the Bribery Commission.
Chairman, Bribery Commission Justice Dammika Jagath De Silva Balapatabendi has come under severe criticism for allegedly suppressing and covering up bribery and corruption charges lodged against government politicians and their stooges but only netting small ‘sprats’.
UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe pointed out in parliament last week as to how the Bribery Chief allegedly aided and abetted to arrest former Director Preventive Sri Lanka Customs for an alleged bribery charge early this year as a personal favour to one of his friends – owner of Vehicle Lanka Pvt. Ltd. Harsha de Silva.
According to Senasinghe, an arrest has to be made when accepting a bribe but in the case of former Customs Preventive Director Ranjan Kanagasabai, the bribery officials were not present in the Director’s room to see whether the bribe was accepted or not. “The Customs Officer was fixed for this alleged bribery charge.
If the bribery officers want to make any arrest they should be present when a bribe is given. In this instance these officers were out of the Director’s room and entered only after the alleged bribe was ‘given’,” said Senasinghe.
De Silva had entered into an agreement with the BOI to import vehicle parts to set up/ conduct and operate a business to assemble vehicles with second hand body parts for the local market.
Although the agreement was as such de Silva did not import car parts but full units except its engines with gear boxes and axels. These parts were brought in separate containers.
“When the Commissioner Motor Traffic did not accept applications to register De Silva’s assembled vehicles on the instructions of the Secretary, Ministry of Transport, De Silva filed a Fundamental Rights Application in Supreme Court (SC FR No: 304/ 2011) to get an order to instruct the Motor Traffic Department to register his assembled vehicles.” said the sources.
Meanwhile MP Sunil Handunnetti accused the Bribery Chairman for not taking any action against the government ministers although credible information has been submitted to the Bribery Commission.
“Recently there was a report that the Bribery Commission has received details about certain ministers on bribery and corruption.
If they have credible information why cannot they investigate into it and proceed on the matter. It is the responsibility of them to file action against any person who is alleged to have involved in bribery or corruption irrespective of their post or affiliation to the government.
“Once Minister Rohitha Abegunawardena was asked to appear before the Bribery Commission but he did not turn up stating that he was sick due to a snake bite. Is this minister still on medication for the snake bite? Why couldn’t the Bribery Commission take action against Minister Abegunawardena? Hasn’t the Bribery Commission got powers to take legal action against those who do not turn up at the inquiry? What would happen if a person who is not affiliated to the government does not turn up at an inquiry? Will the Bribery Chief ignore such cases as well as done to Minister Abegunawardena,” asked Handunnetti.
Meanwhile, Nihal Ferdinando, former Personal Assistant to Nilanga Dela, Diyawadana Nilame of the Temple of the Tooth said that although relevant documents and photographic evidence had been forwarded to the Bribery Commission against Nilanga Dela for large scale corruption, Bribery Commission did not take any action to investigate the matter. “I lodged an entry in the Bribery Commission in 2011 regarding misappropriations of Nilanga Dela.
Although my 14-page statement was recorded no action was taken against my complaint up to now.
The silence of the Bribery Commission regarding my matter is abstruse and intricate because I was not invited for any inquiry.
In a letter dated October 24, 2011 the Bribery Commission stated that a legal report had been called from the legal division to decide on further steps. When I have submitted all documentary proves to prove that Nilanga Dela has misappropriated Temple of the Tooth funds, why couldn’t the Bribery Commission take any action on my complaint.
As everybody knows the Commission is functioning only to investigate bribery or corruption against opposition members and government servants who are not affiliated to the government,” said Ferdinando. “When some of our members lodged complaints with the Bribery Commission in regard to Minister Silva’s wealth, nothing happened till recently,” said some members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha. “Until the government interfered recently and got the Bribery Commission to start an investigation, they were silent merely because Silva is a government minister. If there are credible information the Bribery Commission has to investigate into it even if the accused is a government ‘big wig’ or not. But here that is not happening.
Leaving all the ‘big sharks’ aside by allowing them to engage in bribery or corruption the commission is going behind only after small ‘sprats’. Do we really need to maintain such officials with our tax money?” the sources queried.
Meanwhile, when The Sunday Leader contacted Justice Jagath Balapatabendi, the Bribery Commission Chairman said that he had never purchased a vehicle from Harsha de Silva nor owned an Emperor vehicle. “Who prompted you to do a follow up to the speech made by the UNP Parliamentarian? Let him prove what he has stated,” said Justice Balapatabendi.