Having served as the Former Auditor General, Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne is leading the JVP National List at the forthcoming general elections. In a candid interview with Dailymirror , Mr. Mayadunne speaks of his entry into politics and of how he expects to serve the public void of corruption whilst providing a better insight into why he wouldn’t be engaging in party politics. He had the following to share with us.
Q : To begin with, could you tell us about your background as the Former Audit General and the role you played to serve the public?
The Auditor General’s role is to assist the Parliament to demand the accountability from the Executive. During my period the Auditor General’s Department delivered a good service to the maximum possible extent with the available resources. I entered the Department in 1973 as a Superintendent of Audit after sitting for an open competitive exam.
I was later promoted to the post of Assistant Auditor General in 1986 and was the senior most Deputy General until August 2000, after which I was appointed the 36th Auditor General of Sri Lanka in the same year. I served in that post for six years and retired in 2006. I served the Parliament the following year as the Project Director of the Committee on Public Enterprise and Public Accounts Committee.
Q : What have you got to say about your entry into politics?
Party politics means getting into a political party and, especially representing that political party. In my case, was invited by so many political parties and by lot of friends from major parties but they did not assure my independence. I wanted to serve the country without entering party politics. When Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) invited me, I told them that I don’t like to be part and parcel of party politics. However, they told me that it is the very reason why they are inviting me. They told me very clearly that they have sufficient number of party members and leaders who would appear for the party and deliver the services to the general public and other forums.
I understood that when a party invites someone in the belief that he or she could serve the country without getting into their political party, that sort of invitation should be respected. On these lines, I saw that it is an appreciable invitation. Therefore I told them that if they can maintain that background I would agree to allow them to nominate me in their national list. I am sure you can understand that I am not going to engage in party politics but would serve the country if I get an opportunity to do so.
Q : What is the manifesto would you present to the people?
Basically a Member of Parliament, who is elected has to discharge his obligations as required by the Constitution. The details of services are listed in the standing order of the Parliament. Therefore if you look at the Constitution as per Article 4(a) the legislative power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament, consisting of elected representatives of the People and by the People at a Referendum. As per Article 4(c), the judicial power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament through Courts, tribunals and institutions created and established or recognized by law except in regard to matters relating to the privileges, immunities and powers of Parliament and of its members, wherein the judicial power of the people may be exercised directly by Parliament according to law. As per Article 42, the President shall be responsible to the Parliament for the due exercise of performance and discharge of his power, duties and functions under the Constitution and any written law including the law for the time being relating to public security.
In addition to that Article 43(1) says that the Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. Therefore the accountability of the executive must be demanded by the Parliament. I wanted to serve the country without entering party politics. When Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) invited me, I told them that I don’t like to be part and parcel of party politics. However, they told me that it is the very reason why they are inviting me
When you look at Article 148, it says that Parliament shall have full control over public finance. This is one of the very important duty, obligation and a privilege of the Parliament. The other side of the coin is the accountability, the Parliament and its members hold towards the general public where public finance comes into play. This is mainly because public finance, including public expenditure, public revenue, public debt as well as public resources which would contain manpower, physical and financial assets, public skills and so forth. One of the major tasks of the Parliament is to account for international treaties and agreements as per Article 157. It says, “Where Parliament by resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of Members of Parliament (including those not present) voting in its favor, approve as being essential for the development of national economy, any Treaty or Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of any foreign State for the promotion and protection of the investments in Sri Lanka of such foreign State, its nationals or of corporations, companies and other associations incorporated or constituted under its laws, such Treaty or Agreement shall have the force of law in Sri Lanka and otherwise than in the interests of national security, no written law shall be enacted or made, and no executive or administrative action shall be taken, in contravention of the provisions of such Treaty or Agreement”.
When you look at these constitutional requirements you have to accept any Member of the Parliament shall be knowledgeable and prudent to fulfill their obligations. People say that some Parliamentarians have not discharged their obligations. This is the most important thing the Members of Parliament must be aware of in order to serve the country and the type of manifesto I would present to the people.
Q : Why did you choose to contest from JVP instead of contesting from another political party?
Other than JVP, no other party ensured my independence. The JVP is the only party that ensures it. When you look at the history of the major political parties, there are lots of charges of corruptions. Unfortunately, they have not cleared those charges in a convincing manner. If I lose my independence under such political parties, it would be very difficult for me to appear for them within the Parliament as well as outside later on.
Q : Have you commenced campaigning for the forthcoming election, and if so, how confident are you about the victory?
The JVP permitted me not to come onto their political stages or canvass for them. I actually do not want to express any prediction at this juncture, but what I want to say is that when it comes to the responsibilities as well as obligations in performing the duty within the Parliament as well as out; JVP is playing a very important role and that have been their position over the recent past. Therefore, I believe people would confirm their confidence more and more upon the JVP and I understand that expectation is getting broader and wider.
Q : What do you think is lacking in the system to eliminate corruption and what would you suggest to as a remedy?
If you look at the corruption of the State machinery, Parliament is the body that should claim the accountability of the Executive. During the last two or three decades the executive has not played their role with accountability. Parliament should pressurize them to be accountable which will be claimed at the Parliament House level as well as the Parliamentary committee level.
At the committee level, Public Appoints Committee under standing order 125, Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) under standing order 126, Public Petitions Committee, Select Committees, Consultation Committee are established to demand the accountability of the executive. Under standing order 109, the consultative committees irrespective of each and every ministry, review and report to Parliament the reports, estimates, bills in respect of the respective ministries. All these committees have to perform their duty without party politics as recognized by all other Commonwealth countries. Members of the Parliament should serve these committees to eliminate the frauds and corruptions, and give the maximum service to the general public through efficient and effective operations of the Government arms. When you look at these constitutional requirements you have to accept any Member of the Parliament shall be knowledgeable and prudent to fulfill their obligations.
All these committees are expected to table their reports at least once in a year at the House and debate over the issues and take collective actions. When you look back at our history, the Parliament has not debated even the reports of COPE and PAC (Public Accounts Committee). Accordingly, the accountability of the Government machinery has not been properly and effectively demanded, corrected or improved.
Q Why did you think that corrupt politicians are still at large despite the measures taken by relevant authorities to curb their malpractices?
I believe that some political parties cannot continue without the assistance of certain corrupt politicians. Some parties are compelled to safeguard corrupt politicians to protect themselves from being exposed to any trouble.
Q What have you got to say about the proposed National Audit Act?
The proposed National Audit Act as well as the related Amendment to the Constitution in respect of State Audit was drafted during my tenure.
It went up to the Cabinet approval but unfortunately it was not tabled due to various hidden reasons. However, after January 8, 2015, the Constitutional Amendments were passed as a part of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the Audit Bill has not been passed so far. I think the coming Parliament should give proper priority to enact that statute and let the public reap that benefit with proper merit.
The efficiency and effectiveness of the Government machinery must be definitely enhanced in order to facilitate the National Audit Act to operate independently to its fullest capacity. The frauds, corruptions, mismanagement and malpractices can be minimized to a greater extent if this is enacted properly. JVP is playing a very important role and that have been their position over the recent past. Therefore, I believe people would confirm their confidence more and more upon the JVP and I understand that expectation is getting broader and wider
Q How effective do you think is the Auditor General’s Department under the present condition?
The Auditor General’s Department ensures its functional independence through the Constitution itself. It is sad to note that the financial and administrative autonomy was not guaranteed. However the Constitutional Amendment was already passed and the Audit Act which is to be passed in future would help in the productivity of the Auditor General’s Department.
Q What message do you have for the voters of the forthcoming general election?
Our voters should understand the current position as well as the future of the country. Voters have to think in a prudent manner before casting their vote. They should not stick to a particular party with a fixed mentality. Instead they must think of the country and should compare the activities and policies of the political parties with fair and rational mind. Today, we need a Parliament which can control the Government for the betterment of the general public. It is the duty of the voter to get elected responsible members to the Parliament to ensure the accountability of the Government.