Phone-gate scandal
Posted on September 23rd, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Tuesday 24th September, 2019

The leaked telephone conversation between Solicitor General Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe and Avant Garde Chairman Nissanka Senadipathi could not have come at a worse time for the government and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), which has embarked on a much-advertised campaign to raise public awareness of its five-year anti-corruption plan.

The leaked call refers to Dilrukshi’s action against Avant Garde, involved in the floating armoury controversy, while she was the Director General of the CIABOC. What one gathers therefrom is that the CIABOC actions were politically motivated. The critics of the anti-graft commission may claim they are justified in maintaining that the government has used the outfit to settle political scores.

The CIABOC has drawn heavy flak, under successive governments, for not taking action against politicians in power or for giving them kid glove treatment while cracking down on ordinary suspects. One of the main allegations against it is that it has not probed complaints against the heavyweights of the present dispensation. It continues to ignore calls for revealing the number of complaints it has received against government politicians and the progress in investigations thereinto, if any.

Unfortunately, the former CIABOC DG’s questionable conduct has allowed some Opposition politicians facing corruption charges to claim that they are victims of a political witch-hunt! The Joint Opposition (JO) has called for the resignation of all CIABOC members over the leaked telephone conversation, which, it says, is proof that they have not carried out their duties and functions impartially and independently. The Opposition worthies are elated that they have got hold of something to beat the government with, in the run-up to a crucial election. If only they had made a similar call for action while they were in power, for the allegations were made against the CIABOC, under the last government, as well.

President Sirisena has revealed that the government made an attempt to have Dilrukshi appointed as a Supreme Court judge, but he foiled it. He would have the public believe that he acted with foresight, but it is clear that he did so out of animosity. However, his action has stood the judiciary in good stead. If that appointment had come about, the reputation of the apex court would have been ruined by the leaked call.

Dilrukshi’s Facebook posts on the controversy make one wonder whether a minister had a hand in the leak. If so, the government may have been aware of the conversation she had with Senadipathi, when it requested the President to appoint her to the Supreme Court. The Opposition has been critical of Dilrukshi for her alleged links to the government. If this allegation is true, then why is it that a minister, of all people, is suspected to have recorded her conversation with Senadipathi? Politicians are notorious for having even their own friends spied on and using information so gathered against the latter if they fall out.

However, if a minister is responsible for the leak, at issue, then he has done something extremely counterproductive, whatever the reason for his action; the government, which claims to have rid the vital state institutions of political interference, has got exposed for meddling with anti-corruption investigations against its political opponents.

The 19th Amendment, which the government claims to be one of its biggest achievements, has manifestly failed to bring about the promised change. The Constitutional Council is packed with pro-government members. The Election Commission cannot safeguard the people’s franchise vis-a-vis politically-motivated polls postponements. The Delimitation Commission has become a big farce. There are numerous complaints against the Public Service Commission and the National Police Commission.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera has taken stern action against former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundera over the Easter Sunday carnage. How tough he will get with Solicitor General Wickramasinghe remains to be seen.

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