SJB Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne said that the government has brought a new legislation called Anti –corruption Bill is aimed at not to prevent bribery and corruption but more to make the informants – the whistle blowers about the thieves afraid and silence them. The new anti-corruption Bill proposed by the government enshrines that a person to be fined one million rupees and imprisoned for 10 years, if the information given is found to be false.
Addressing the media at the opposition leader’s office in Colombo yesterday, he spoke further said that Section 119 of the Anti-Corruption Act proposed by the President envisages prosecution of the person, if an information given about corruption is proved to be false. This criminalizes so-called “false complaints” and “creates a culture that discourages complaints” by scaring people from coming forward to complain against those who are engaged in bribery and corruption in the country. It can be considered as a ploy to silence the social activists called whistleblowers against corruption
People often ask whether the SJB supports the government at this critical moment. We as a responsible Opposition who would form a government with a mandate, are constantly supporting to build the country and the people, but not the government. But the government is not ready to listen to the progressive proposals presented by the opposition for the country.
I brought a private member’s bill about nine months ago to the effect that the president, prime minister, Ministers and others in the provincial administration should make their asset and liability statements public and to make the bribery commission independent in order to prevent bribery and corruption. And a private members Bill was also brought in March this year on behalf of the country to remove the arbitrary power of the Finance Minister to impose, remove and amend the value added VAT tax and Special commodity Levy SCL on essential imported goods. Nearly 16 billion rupees could be defrauded overnight from sugar imports because the finance minister had the power to impose and remove SCL at his whims and fancy. After 2019 it was proved prejudice to financial power of the country which is vested in Parliament.
However, the government not only rejected the proposals brought by the opposition to streamline the process of governance in the country, but the government’s intention is clear by submitting counter-bills to the parliament to dilute proposals made by Opposition SJB. Mr. Wikramaratne explained that the government’s aim of the government is not to prevent bribery, corruption and theft, but to frighten and punish those who provide information about corruption.
There is a need for the people to know the details of assets and liabilities statements of the heads of government, the 225 members in Parliament and the political authorities at provincial and local government level and high officials, whom the people think, who have the opportunity to engage in large scale corruption. In spite of this, the government has proposed that the assets and liabilities of about 200,000 politicians and public officials should be made public with the aim of diverting that process to trivial theft. The government’s proposal in the new act demonstrate that it has no intention to fight large-scale corruption in the country or to catch thieves, but to make it at a low profile just to deceive the people to show that the govt was serious to tackle corruption issues through the Bribery Commission.
According to the way this government works, people generally do not have the confidence that the government will take steps to fight corruption. This is not surprising. But since the Samagi Jana Balawegaya is a new party with a new agenda, Mr. Wickramaratne promised that justice will be done against corruption and irregularities even if they have taken place even 20 to 30 years ago. He mentioned that the SJB was watching the incidences of the inquiries of the murder of Journlist Lasantha Wickramathunge, businessman Dinesh Shafter and other high profile incidences.
The bribe of 250 million dollars taken from the ship Express Pearl is an example of the fact that not only did the country go bankrupt under this government, but corruption and theft engulfed the country. Mr. Eran Wickramaratne asked whether it is possible to expect justice and fairness against corruption under this government, as the law against corruption does not seem to being implemented and further, the recently brought anti-corruption bill seems to be a cover up to protect the corrupt further, while silencing the whistleblowers against evil acts.