Civil Society Puts Govt. On Notice

  • Demands Action Against MR And Family

by Ashanthi Warunasuirya

Brito Fernando, Gamini Viyangoda and Joseph Stalin

Civil society has warned the Government that they will face the same fate as the former Government if it fails to fulfil its promise to crackdown on powerful members of the former regime over their involvement in corruption and crime.

The local civil society backed Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 Presidential elections to remove Mahinda Rajapaksa from power and since then Rajapaksa and his family faced have allegations of corruption and being involved in serious crimes.

The Maithripala Sirisena-led government assured that the Rajapaksa regime will be held accountable for the allegations against them. However so far, neither Rajapaksa nor his family have been found guilty of any crimes and this has baffled civil society.

Brito Fernando, President of the Families of the Disappeared told The Sunday Leader that former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa has been accused of corruption, but concrete action has not been taken against her as yet.

Shiranthi Rajapaksa was accused over misappropriation of funds allocated to ‘Siriliya Saviya’ a charity run by her and registered as a Non Governmental Organisation.

“The case against Shiranthi Rajapaksa has taken a back seat. Everything was just for that short moment and then nothing,” Fernando said. He says that if there is an allegation against someone it must be investigated and dealt with under the law. “We see a long delay now in the judicial process as well,” he said.

Brito Fernando said that several institutions were set up to investigate fraud and corruption after the new government took office, including the Anti-Corruption Secretariat, but today the Anti-Corruption Secretariat has been shut. Concerns were raised that the Secretariat was not investigating major frauds by the former regime. The Secretariat was accused of investigating only minor incidents.

Fernando also said that even the special courts which were to be setup to investigate alleged crimes against humanity when the former regime was in office, has not seen light.

In December 2015 former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had said that the government will set up a special court to examine alleged war crimes committed in the final phase of the war. “The special court should start its work by the end of this month or by early January,” she had said back then.

The Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union Joseph Stalin told The Sunday Leader that while investigations into large scale fraud had been launched after the current government took office, there was no positive outcome.

“The entire process has been very slow. We do not see any progress on the investigations into former President Mahinda Rajapaksa or Shiranthi Rajapaksa,” he said. Stalin warned that if the government fails to fulfil its promises to the public, civil society will be forced to take things into their hands.

Puravesi Balaya Co-convenor Gamini Viyangoda told The Sunday Leader that one of the main issues facing the current Government is that corrupt Ministers from the former regime are now in the current regime as well.

“The government is struggling to take action on the corrupt Ministers who were in the former regime as some of them are part of the current Government. Everyone is now mixed together,” he said.

Viyangoda said that the law is unable to take its course as those corrupt are now working for the top members of the current Government. “The corrupt are roaming free and so are the criminals,” he said. He further said that a group of civil society members will gather in Colombo on August 15 and protest against the government’s failure to take appropriate action on corrupt members of the former regime.

“We will remind the Government of the promises it made during the 2015 election. Around 3000 to 4000 people are expected to take part in the protest,” he said.

Viyangoda said that civil society have a responsibility to ensure the government keeps to its promise to the people who voted for change.

Anti-corruption activist Ranjith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader all that can be seen today is institutions with name boards above them but little action. He said that those who investigated some cases are now not even to be found. “The actions of the Government will return to have a negative impact on them if they don’t act fast,” he said.

He says the Government seems to be dragging its feet on some issues and this is not what the voters expected from the government in 2015 at the elections. Tennakoon also warned that if the Government fails to act public will respond at the next election.

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