President calls for broad alliance to fight corruption

President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday called for a broad alliance to fight corruption in the face of an emerging “unholy alliance” that seeks to scuttle probes into acts of corruption.

Those who fear the probes that would follow the recent publication of both the Bond Commission report and the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into serious acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power (PRECIFAC) have now teamed up to form an “unholy alliance” of tainted politicians from various political affiliations, President Sirisena told media heads and senior journalists at a media briefing at the President’s House.

“This unholy alliance’s primary aim is to block investigations and court cases into their sordid dealings,” the President said. “They have gone to the extent of obstructing investigations and intimidating investigating police officers.”

He called on the media and civil society to rise up against his unholy alliance through a counter alliance that stands for truth and justice and strengthens politicians and officials who fight corruption. “We will take action against all wrongdoers regardless of party or rank. There are powerful individuals with plenty of money who want to stop these investigations.

But we are determined to go ahead with the probes and punish the culprits as soon as possible,” he stressed.

The President noted that the almost simultaneous release of the Bond Commission Report and the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into serious acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power (PRECIFAC) seems to have silenced many politicians who were vociferously demanding action on the Bond Commission Report. “Even I did not expect both reports to come within 2-3 days of each other. We had an opportunity to release the reports to Parliament and the Internet. Many people have now gone silent after they came out together.”

Repeating his stance that at least 2-3 days Parliamentary debate would be required to thrash out the issues raised in both reports, the President said those who clamoured for a debate on the Bond Commission Report had clammed up since the twin reports contain material that “can potentially be politically disadvantageous to certain individuals on both sides (Govt/Opposition) of the political spectrum”. Hence, the lackluster response to his open challenge to hold the debate on the Bond Commission Report before February 10, he added. No party except for the SLFP was keen on a debate.

Flatly refuting allegations that he had deliberately hidden certain parts of the report by the Presidential Commission on the bond issue, the President said there were however certain materials in the report which are needed to trace the lost funds and take legal action against the culprits. Maintaining confidentiality with regard to these documents was very important.

“There are no gaps in the report, although there are nearly two truckloads of documents pertaining to it which have to be studied to fully comprehend the whole issue. When I received the Bond Commission Report, I wanted to study it with my lawyers for at least two weeks, but there was an immediate politically motivated clamour to release it. So I did that and also read out a written statement which was drafted in consultation with top lawyers and experts, solely because of its gravity. This was in fact the first time ever I received help to draft a statement.”

The President also pointed out a trend where some borrowings had flowed into private entities without any accountability to the Cabinet or Parliament during the last three years. It has been revealed that these are linked to certain businesses and entities connected to some figures who were in the Government.

“This is a reason for reduced Government revenue. There are also instances where only 40-50 percent of budgetary allocations for certain subjects had been spent. These issues must be probed in-depth,” the President asserted.

The President said he has told the Prime Minister and other relevant persons that corruption cases should not be filed without solid evidence. “We do not want to have any cases that will get thrown away. I want lawyers to go through these files and gather evidence meticulously to avoid such a situation. I have given the same instructions with regard to the case against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.” 

 

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