More teeth, no bite?
Posted on February 13th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Thursday 14th February, 2019

A new law has been enacted to enable the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) to use the findings of presidential commissions of inquiry (PCoIs) for prosecutorial purposes. The government kept dragging its feet on the vote on the Bill concerned, but finally buckled under pressure. Parliament passed it unanimously, in the end, because no party wanted to be seen to be partial to the corrupt. The new legislation is aimed at saving the CIABOC the trouble of reinventing the wheel or conducting fresh investigations into issues that have already been probed by PCoIs.

One, however, should not be so naïve as to expect the CIABOC to get cracking simply because the new law enables it to use the PCoI findings against the bond racketeers. It has not questioned the ruling party politicians under a cloud in keeping with the bond probe commission recommendations.

Curiously, none of the anti-corruption activists have cared to pressure the CIABOC to release the list of government ministers against whom complaints of bribery and corruption have been made, and reveal whether investigations have been conducted into them.

The yahapalana government is all out to prevent allegations against its leaders being probed. It took to thieving while purportedly trying to catch thieves and got exposed for the biggest ever financial crime—the bond scams—within the first few weeks of its formation in 2015. Now, justice is being hurried, by way of high-speed trials against Opposition politicians in view of elections.

It is only wishful thinking that the incumbent government will allow its grandees to be probed over the bond scams as the UNF does not want its chances of winning an election ruined again. For a government that has rendered the National Election Commission impotent, preventing the CIABOC from probing its big kahunas is child’s play.

The so-called civil society is partial to the incumbent government and, therefore, does not care a damn about corruption and the abuse of power, at present. The TNA and the JVP are handmaidens of the ruling UNF. The UPFA and the Joint Opposition are scared of taking on the government because its leaders’ cupboards are full of skeletons. The PRECIFAC (Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges) report has revealed their wrongdoings; if they are prosecuted for corruption and abuse of power, some of them will have to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. So, the Opposition baulks at ratcheting up pressure on the CIABOC to institute legal action against the politicians involved in the bond scams.

Perhaps, the bond racketeers will be able to get away with their crimes easily if there occurs a change of government, for they are very close to the Opposition big guns who have a history of granting presidential pardons even to convicted murderers and drug offenders.

The only person who seems keen to bring all those involved in the bond scams to justice is President Maithripala Sirisena. He will spare no pains to inflict the maximum possible damage on the UNP in time for the next election. His war on drugs has endeared him to the people and his popularity ratings will increase further if he can see to it that legal action is instituted against those exposed by the bond probe commission. He should ensure that the recommendations in the PRECIFAC report are also fully implemented.

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