By Chandra Jayaratne
Dear Mr. President,
Doing My Duty as a Citizen Advisor to Refresh Your Memory of Your Own Commitments
I make this submission as an appeal for your kind attention in my capacity as a citizen living by the Lord Buddha’s pronouncement, “A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise,” and believing that it is my duty to refresh your memory of your own social contracts creating public commitments and earnestly appeal for due accountable delivery of those commitments.
It is usual for you to end your nationwide addresses quoting from the Dhammapada. In that context, I appeal that you kindly refresh your memory with the stanzas 256, and 257 of the Dhammapada from ‘Vinicchayamahamatta Vatthu’ and stanza 252 from ‘Mendakasetthi Vatthu’, where the translations read as follows:
Verse 256: He is not just if he decides a case arbitrarily; the wise man should decide after considering both what is right and what is wrong.
Verse 257: The wise man who decides not arbitrarily but in accordance with the law is one who safeguards the law; he is to be called ‘one who abides by the law (dhammattho). (https://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=256)
Verse 252: It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own. A man broadcasts the fault; of others like winnowing chaff in the wind, but hides his own faults as a crafty fowler covers himself. (https://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=252)
I kindly appeal to refresh your memory by revisiting the following commitments made by you:
Commitments made by you in your 2015 Presidential Election Manifesto, committing in a social contract with 6.2 million voters that you will uphold democracy, rule of law, justice, ensure effective law enforcement and good governance principles throughout your term of office.
The statement made on April 23, 2015 on the occasion that marked 100 days since election as President, where you stated that “the freedom and democracy that comes with Good Governance should not be abused for personal gain. But our responsibility towards people of the country and for the children born tomorrow must be fulfilled. Every action will be taken to reduce and eliminate corruption and fraud. To this moment I have not made a telephone call or spoken to any officer in the Commission on Bribery and Corruption. I have not spoken to any officer in the judiciary. That is a necessity in good governance. The State sector should be an example to the people.” (http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=The_statement_made_by_President_Maithripala_Sirisena_o April_23_20150424_01”)
In the policy statement made at the opening of the Parliament on 1 September 2015, you committed to ensure that the “elimination of corruption and protection of state property was a main aspiration articulated in the mandate that the majority of Sri Lankans gave to my manifesto ‘Maithri Governance’ led by the principles of good governance. Therefore, the commitment to eradicate corruption and fraud remains a key principle of my government. I will not hesitate to take action to take those who are charged with abuse of state property before the Judiciary, whatever their status or affiliations may be. I am committed to further strengthen the existing institutional structures to eradicate corruption.”
Your expressed commitments, as signaled by your attendance and endorsement of the communiqué arising from the Anti-Corruption Summit in London in May 2016, where you made significant commitments to root out corruption from the country by establishing an anti-corruption secretariat, a special presidential commission and a commission to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption, together with the establishment of a special division within the police titled Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) to expedite investigations on major financial crimes.
Your commitments made during the National Summit on Anti-Corruption in Sri Lanka in December 2016.
Your commitments during the Open Government Partnership Global (OPG) Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2018. (http://www.ft.lk/news/SL-
Your commitment during the address as the Chief Guest of the Global Expert Group Meeting on the Jakarta Principles in Colombo to make Sri Lanka the number one country in the world, in the fight against corruption this morning (July 25 2018) (https://www.newsfirst.lk/2018/07/26/sri-lanka-and-the-fight-against-corruption-2/)
Having considered some of your Commitments noted above, I appeal that you, as the President and the minister in charge of Law Enforcement and Police, immediately Issue an Executive Order, binding on all members of the Executive, to strictly adhere to the following:
All pending legal action, pending prosecutions, investigations and intelligence gathering, be continued unabated, with integrity and commitment to the highest professional standards using international best practices, by all in law enforcement including the Police, Independent Commissions, Regulatory Authorities, Special Presidential Commissions, Special Presidential Task Forces, Financial Intelligence Unit and the Attorney Generals Department, irrespective of whether these investigation or prosecutions relate to periods pre- or post-January 2015.
All pending legal action, all pending prosecutions, all pending appeals, investigations and intelligence gathering involving:
Illegal and unauthorised transfer of state assets exceeding Rs. 500 million
All corruption investigations where the loss to the State exceeds Rs. 500 million
All bribery investigations involving Rs. 100 million or above
All criminal breach of trust, misappropriations, computer crime, proceeds of crime and fraud investigations involving amounts in excess of Rs. 1 billion.
All anti-money laundering investigations exceeding $ 2 million or equivalent in rupees or other currencies.
All high-profile murder, abduction and violence linked investigations and prosecutions be duly prioritised and necessary resources, human and physical, be allocated to ensure the earliest conclusion of investigations and prosecutions, with progress thereon being reported to the Inspector General of Police and Attorney General, once in every two months.
Any of the officers assigned for or engaged in carrying out any of investigation and prosecutions as specified under Sections 1 and 2 above be not subject to transfer or reassignment, during the next two years, without the prior special approval of the National Police Commission or the Judicial Services Commission.
All pending legal reforms and new enactments planned, including the proposed Proceeds of Crime Act and all other administrative or regulatory requirements essential to meet international ratings or other compliance stipulations, be completed and presented to the Parliament and other authorities at the earliest option.
Under no circumstances should any officer engaged in any tasks or accountabilities set out in 1 and 2 above be subjected to undue pressure, harassment or be directed to not pursue their accountability with diligence or be subjected to any other form of unacceptable oversight control or direction and where such instances are observed the relevant violators must promptly be dealt within the law and regulations in place.
The revenue authorities, (including Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise) and all regulatory authorities, Financial Intelligence Unit and Secretaries of Ministries be directed to assist (including requests for information, progress assistance and other requests emanating in connection with 1 and 2 above) in any way to ensure timely and comprehensive completion of all pending investigations and prosecutions.
All persons appointed to high posts must be pre-cleared by the empowered appointers to ensure that such new appointees are not persons who are subject to investigations nor are suspects or possible suspects in pending investigations and prosecutions.
*The writer is a good governance activist and a past Chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC).