Former Auditor General Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne resigned his post as the JVP National List MP after making a special statement in the House last week. In a candid interview with the Dailymirror, Mayadunne explained what drove him to resign and he challenges faced by the country to eliminate corruption, an uphill task under the current context. Following are the excerpts of the interview.
QWhat made you resign as a MP from the JVP National List?
In the recent statement I made in Parliament, I clearly explained why I stepped down. I can’t deliver the service expected from me when the wish of the people is against it. As a member of Parliament my main purpose was to serve the country through an active role to mitigate corruption, waste, malpractices fraud and so forth. When I analysed the results of the election that was recently concluded, I realised that corruption has not been taken into serious consideration by the general public. Many have cast their vote not against corruption but in favour of corruption. There were forty eight candidates who secured more than one hundred thousand preference votes. I have to admit that only a few among them could be identified as non- corrupt. And there are some among them who were under allegations of corruption, misbehaviour and abuse of power. This clearly indicates that corruption isn’t taken seriously by the majority of voters.
On the other hand, some candidates of the two major political parties who did not have anything to do with corruption charges were rejected by the people. They were humiliated and insulted by the people.
"As you may know, some candidates have spent millions of rupees and adopted varioust tactics to get into Parliament. But none can be in Parliament against the mandate of the people"
Analysing the election results, it was also clear to me that the people’s wish to accommodate candidates of our calibre was generally rejected. Therefore, I understood that people do not wish to see individuals like myself fighting against corruption in Parliament. But, we should not reject or condemn the wish of the people. Any member of Parliament should not appreciate the mandate of the people.
QWhat was the public response you received after the statement you made in Parliament and your resignation?
After I delivered my statement in Parliament, the general response was satisfactory. Most of them appreciated my resignation while a few of my friends did not agree with this decision. They were of the view that I should have continued to serve in Parliament. Although I appreciate that as a positive comment, I still wish to respect the people’s mandate.
QDid the appointment of Mr. Handunnetti or the JVP lead to your resignation?
Not at all. I disliked appointing someone other than from the National List under any party. However the blame does not lie with the party but with the provisions in the Constitution.
The Parliament has the right and opportunity to amend the facility to appoint members to Parliament from the list of the district candidates. The JVP did not influence me to resign; in fact they wanted me to stay in Parliament at least for some time.
QIn a context where attempt to enter Parliament is magnanimous, it also means that you are giving up power. How do you explain that?
As you may know, some candidates have spent millions of rupees and adopted varioust tactics to get into Parliament. But none can be in Parliament against the mandate of the people. In the case of a member nominated by a party through a National List, it is done so only after the release of election results.
I analysed the mandate of the people and decided not to accept the nomination to Parliament. Refusing to attend Parliament is an insult and disrespect to a respectable institution. Therefore I decided to make a statement and render my resignation.
"I disliked appointing someone other than from the National List under any party. However the blame does not lie with the party but with the provisions in the Constitution. The Parliament has the right and opportunity to amend the facility to appoint members to Parliament from the list of the district candidates. "
QDo you think that it is an impossible task to fight corruption while being in a party with a less number of MPs?
JVP has fought against corruption with the three members they have had in the seventh Parliament. I hope they will fight against corruption with more vigour and diligence with the six members they have.
QHad you continued to remain a MP, what would have been your role to serve the public?
I planned to serve at the House mainly through focusing on the Public Finance sector. Public Finance is a very vital sector to minimize the corruption, wastage, malpractices and frauds. As per Article 148, Parliament is the machinery authorized by the Constitution to exercise full control over public finance. Articles 148, 149, 150 and 151 require Parliament to maintain full control over public finance through collecting, accumulating and dispersing it properly. In addition to Public Finance there were so many other key areas that I could have contributed to: especially the Public Accounts Committee established under standing order 125, Committee on Public Enterprises established under standing order 126 and the consultative committees under standing orders 104-115 which will be replaced by the Executive Committees will be the major areas I should have contributed to.
QWith regard to corruption and bribery, where does Sri Lanka stand now, in your opinion?
During the last decade, the international corruption index has placed Sri Lanka in the range between 80 and 90 among 170 countries. Therefore we have to take meaningful steps to control bribery and corruption.
QWhat are the failures that have not been addressed yet to eliminate corruption in the country?
The main problem lies with what people wish for. As proved in the election results, unless people take corruption as a serious issue, it is difficult to control it. Election results clearly proved that people have taken corruption lightly. Civil societies also should take effective measures to mitigate corruption.
QThere is a strong public opinion that the public sector is corrupt from grass root level to the very top. What has led to such corruption and if so do you agree with that contention?
When members of the public do not take corruption as a serious issue, I believe that blaming them will not serve any purpose. The public sector serves under the Constitution as well as under regulations stipulated by the Executive. Article 52(2), requires the secretary to execute the functions at the ministry as well as all government institutions coming under it. If any officer is found to be corrupt, the government should take effective measures to weed them out.
QSince you have resigned as a National List MP, what plans do you have to fight corruption and serve the community?
I was an active member of a Sri Lankan professional association which is a non-political and independent institution. When I was nominated by the JVP, I resigned from that association as it does not provide room for politicians.
Unless they accept my non- partisan and adopted an independent stance, I was unable to rejoin it. However I believe that a single association alone is not strong enough to fight corruption. It is important to amalgamate all civil society groups to fight corruption and injustice. Pic by Nisal Baduge