Feb 24

                                               
Individual members of CIMOGG, long before they joined forces in this association of concerned citizens, were greatly troubled by the many reports appearing in the press which contained serious allegations of impropriety and/or corruption by public officials and by the people’s representatives at the various levels of government.  It was presumed that the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (PCIABC) would routinely investigate at least those cases of corruption where copies of purported original documents were reproduced in the relevant press reports.  Whether the PCIABC does so is not known but all the indications are that it appears to deal only with cases where specific written complaints have been submitted to it.

One particular class of allegations is, to all intents and purposes, not investigated at all.  Allegations against Executive Presidents comprise this class because of the immunity against prosecution that is enjoyed by the incumbent President, compounded by the control they exercise over all investigative arms of state machinery, during their incumbency.  However, as immunity against prosecution ceases when a President leaves office, there should be no bar to the PCIABC initiating its own investigations into these matters at least after that.  Indeed, it is CIMOGG’s view that there is no reason why the PCIABC should not commence its inquiries immediately upon the publication of such reports although there would probably be no access to some of the relevant files or witnesses.  Prosecution, if warranted, would have to be delayed till the incumbent comes to the end of his or her full term of office.

If all adverse press reports are dealt with expeditiously by the PCIABC and the allegations contained therein are proven to be unfounded, it would help remove a serious stain on the character of a President who has been accused wrongfully.  The need to scotch false allegations against the highest in the land in a speedy manner is of the utmost importance for three reasons – (a) it would remove an unjust slur against an honourable person, (b) it would help to limit damage to the international image of the country, which is closely identified with that of its head of state/government, and (c) it would not give those in the lower rungs of state machinery an excuse for their own misdemeanours.

In the light of all these considerations, it was with much gratification that CIMOGG learnt from a recent newspaper headline that (former) President Chandrika Kumaratunga had called for a probe on those dealings of hers which had been the subject of allegations of impropriety or corruption.  She is to be complimented on her willingness to have her questioned actions investigated openly.

CIMOGG, however, believes that asking the Police or the PCIABC to carry out these probes in the desultory and secret manner that they are used to would be unjust to her and to the citizens of this country, who wish to clear the air of all these dark indictments.  The only credible machinery that could be entrusted with this task would be a Presidential Commission headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, supported by two well-recognised experts.  It is suggested that the first expert be a nominee of the Organisation of Professional Associations and the second expert should be nominated by Transparency International (SL).  The Secretary to the Commission should be a retired Auditor-General.

We call upon President Mahinda Rajapakse to take up President Kumaratunga=s request for a probe and provide the relevant Commission with all necessary resources to carry out their task.  In particular, CIMOGG would like to see its doubts regarding at least the following matters cleared by the proposed Presidential Commission -

1.        Tawakkal take-over of Puttalam Cement;

2.        Air Lanka take-over by Emirates;

3.        Shell Gas monopoly;

4.        Water’s Edge transaction;

5.        Rubber block factory;

6.        Alleged purchase of second-hand vehicles at new car prices;

7.        Giving Admiral Sandagiri an unprecedented 3-year extension after the age of retirement, considering that there had been serious allegations being made against him in respect of improper arms purchases;

8.        The French Locomotive tender;

9.        Irregularities in the administration of the President’s Fund.

CIMOGG has no independently verifiable information on these matters other than whatever its members have been able to glean from the press and, consequently, it would be a relief to have the truth established authoritatively.

Feb 04

 The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) welcomes the proposal made by Professor S.T.Hettige of the University of Colombo in a recent newspaper article to have an All Party Conference on Good Governance.  We fear, however, that where political interests predominate, the Conference is bound to be faced with immense difficulties in arriving at any kind of a consensus.  We suggest, therefore, that Professor Hettige’s proposal be modified slightly to achieve the same ends that he has in mind but with a greater probability of success.

We propose that Parliament should appoint a Select Committee of its own Members to function as a de facto All Party Committee on Good Governance and that it should create an autonomous AConsultative Committee for Good Governance (CCGG) to assist and advise the Select Committee, ie. to do the initial thinking and working out of details in a less politically-charged atmosphere.  Each registered party having at least one Member in Parliament, would be called upon to nominate two persons of eminence and integrity to the CCGG.  Every effort should be made to select persons who are knowledgeable and experienced in subjects such as constitutional safeguards, public administration, public finance, education, agriculture, health, employment, trade, the police service, and so on.  Appointments should be subject to approval by the Constitutional Council, which we trust will soon be appointed.  If this is done, there would be a high probability that the CCGG would collectively look at issues in a mostly apolitical and professional way.  It would not be moved excessively by emotions relating to race, religion, caste or conflicting political agendas and would concentrate on practical problems relating to governance.  Given permanent status, it would be an efficient force for arriving at consensual decisions, free of sectarian agendas, on a wide range of matters pertaining to the promotion of good governance.

A summary of the agreement reached by a two-thirds majority of the CCGG on any issue should be published in the Press and adequate time (say, two months) allowed for public comment.  Any amendments required to accommodate suggestions offered by the public would be made by the CCGG.  Its final report would then be communicated to the Select Committee, which would study the report and come to an AAll Party position on the contents of the CCGG’s report.  The original report and the AAll Party views would be presented to the Cabinet by the relevant line Minister for whatever follow-up action is required.  Thereafter, the Cabinet may recommend action by the Executive within the existing laws or the matter may be referred to Parliament as a whole for any necessary legislation to be passed.  By adopting this proposal, Parliament would have the benefit of good, expert advice and yet be able to keep ultimate control of what is to be done.

If something on these lines is implemented, we believe that hope will be rekindled in the minds of those uncountable number of Sri Lankans who feel that there is no way to halt the downward spiral towards national self-destruction that would be the inevitable consequence of continuing with our present very poor level of governance.  We, therefore, call upon the leaders of the various parties in Parliament to give earnest consideration to this proposal and to have the necessary legislation passed for its implementation.