resident Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly made an interesting statement at last week’s Cabinet meeting on his government’s anti-corruption drive. He is reported to have told his ministers that if the Attorney General’s Department and the Police Department were brought under his purview he would, within three months, bring to book all those involved in high profile corruption, which was alleged to have taken place during the previous regime.
In a country where the executive presidential system of governance is still in force and when the executive president laments that things are not progressing as he would have preferred and that he did not have the necessary tools to correct the situation; the ordinary people would have been perplexed as to who was governing the country.
On the other hand this is an indictment at its highest level against the ministers – the Justice Minister and the Law and Order Minister -- who handle the institutions that the President had referred to in his statement at the Cabinet meeting. However, the question remains as to whether, the President, as the leader of the country, had not monitored the progress of those ministries during the past two and a half years of his yahapalana government or has forgotten that he was still the executive president even though he and his comrades-in-arms had promised the people to abolish the executive presidency soon after coming to power?
Nevertheless, going by the statements made by the leaders of this government, including the President during and after the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections with regard to penalizing those who robbed the public coffers and about the eradication of corruption during their tenure, the President’s complaint is justifiable. As far back as October 2015 the government members had said that millions of dollars had been stashed by the leaders of the former government in banks in Dubai and that US and India were assisting the Sri Lankan Government to investigate the questionable transactions and reveal the details of the secret bank accounts. In May 2015 the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had issued a statement saying that the FCID had filed a B-report informing the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court that they had begun investigating a complaint that US$48 million invested in the Steel Corporation and US$190 million invested in the Marriot Hotel in Dubai belonged to him.
The then foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had said in May 2015 that the government was getting the backing of four foreign nations to trace US$18 billion allegedly siphoned off by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family during their decade in power. So, what happened to those investigations? Now the onus rests with the leaders of the government to prove what they said. If they do not or cannot do so the allegations would be tantamount to the former rulers being defamed and the action taken against them would be seen as a witch-hunt.
According to reports the President had also stated at the last week’s Cabinet meeting that if Mahinda Rajapaksa came back to power again, none of the UNPers were going to be touched. Does he mean that investigations against the former rulers have to be carried out as otherwise his life is in danger or as he had once described, he and his family would be sent six feet under? This cannot be the basis for any investigation. The only basis for any investigation should be the merit and substance of the cases.
The President and the other leaders of the government vowed during and after the 2015 elections to allow the law to take its course without being influenced or interfered by anyone during the tenure of the yahapalanaya government. But oddly enough he now says that the path taken by the law has been influenced by the UNP and that he too could influence it if the relevant institutions were brought under his purview.