Posted on January 31st, 2023

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and President Ambassador’s Forum

Bribery and Corruption spread as air

This is a current and a hot topic that will not be stale anytime anywhere as the issue continues worldwide in different degrees in different eras. Bribery is current with historical significance prevalent in all generations due to excessive greed of the human that defines in various ways with no clear definition today due to the complex nature in today’s context, most simple definition for bribery being the ‘’gift offered to influence a person to act in favour of the giver’’ is not as simple as it reads. It is rampant, cancerous and has spread country and worldwide as air. Almost all nations and institutions worldwide are finding difficult to eradicate if not minimize this menace that has retarded the growth of nations and retarded developments of countries, institutions including the world body charged on corruption and extravagance which amounts to corruption. It is prevalent all over including the United Nation organization, governments and other organizations in some scale but not at the magnitude unbearable as in Sri Lanka.  This timely topic was broached by His Excellency ‘’Mizukoshi Hideaki’’ the Ambassador of Japan in Sri Lanka in an article published on Daily News on 27th January 2023 in which he says that the Sri Lankan Executive must take measures to curb bribery and corruption as a prerequisite to development and recover from the economic crisis the country is faced with today. We thank the Ambassador representing an    economically sound developed nation of a member of the world family that has successfully emerged victorious after the unpleasant memories of the world war that shattered Japan during the war. We thank him for bringing this to the notice of the Executive branch of the Sri Lankan government as a friend who has quite correctly and diplomatically put it across due to long and close friendly connections historically as economically for a long time. It is nice of him to think of Sri Lanka and this timely topic as a friendly advice to the donor country in grave danger and we are sure the Sri Lankan executive will take serious note of.

Executive of Sri Lanka international relations and diplomacy

Executive of Sri Lanka consists of the President, Cabinet of ministers and the administrative machinery. They face allegations and counter allegations of bribery corruption and nepotism in different degrees. Sri Lanka is under the microscopic eye  of the World Bank demanding transparency as a pre requisite to give the much needed IMF loan to Sri Lanka  debt ridden in the crisis. Whether the Ambassador has a right to comment on bribery and corruption a matters which is compactly confined to Sri Lanka is interesting to note in terms of the Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations both countries are bound by is an interesting issue when the Ambassador making such remarks in good faith as a friend representative of a friendly that has close and long friendly ties when Japan is a main contributor to Sri Lanka in various ways. ‘’Rupavahani’’ is such a gift by the Japanese government that has helped immensely financially varies occasions. Having said on the issues pertaining to international law diplomacy and international relations the Ambassador’s statement has to be taken seriously in the correct context as in fact Sri Lanka is a corruption full nation going through economic and political hardships may be mainly due to bribery corruption and mismanagement of successive government for a long time. But right thinking Sri Lankans are grateful to the Ambassador for pointing out the truth many including the media has not touched on. Ruwanda has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that if Executive has done it by raising a poorest country struggling with poverty and ethnic was for years have now become the economic tiger of Africa with fast developments, reforms, in all areas and sectors as a pride and an example to the African continent realising an impossibility with the correct, honest and strong and powerful leadership with an aim as the current leader of Ruwanda. Therefore it is  easier to achieve this in Sri Lanka better with the resources, education and the resources and it is only needed a  proper leadership as the Japanese Ambassador kindly reminded us politely and diplomatically.

Most corrupted Institutions functioning freely in the firing line today

Having admitted that we have a problem as a country infested with bribery and corruptions what do we do to curb and prevent for the benefit and betterment of the people suffering from many ways due to bribery and corruption. This writer has raised this topic previously on Colombo Telegraph on 26th October   2004, Lanka Web on 10/3/2018, Daily Mirror on 6/5/17 and Sunday Observer on 10/1/2021 on the grave danger of the crisis and a possible and a viable solution before we are immersed in the troubled ocean of debts in today. Unfortunately the situation today is precarious and uncontrollable many institutions have become institutionalised bribe taking centres and corruption centres openly functioning with no fear with the assistance of corrupt officials and funds they accumulate illegally. Let us find few institutions naming in the public eye as main targets in action in the public office today obtaining information from media web and the social media. Court offices and the system in extremely correct due to congestion of mainly in district and Magistrates courts and it should be misunderstood on the judges who are responsible for the conduct of cases when the court registers are responsible for the management of the office with the custody of productions which includes drugs, firearms, money and others in the court custody with lot of responsibilities’. This applies to District Courts with the custody of vehicles, property, act with a limited staff and assistants exposing them to danger and corruption picking from the media that court officers ( not court houses to be specific and for our protection) Then comes the motor traffic and identity card offices and the staff pointing at with the categories  of customs, police ( especially drug related matters) district council offices and it must be stated that we have missed a lot as it is so rampant going over our heads which is a sad state known to the public and governance unable to control the menace spread like wide power. What do we do to destroy the known and see enemy a most everywhere omnipresent with no fear which is the main enemy which is no exaggeration at all. The nation as one must give priority to this matter as prevention corruption and bribery will definitely a solution for all the ills that has ruined the nation to this extent today. These are only few institutions listed amongst many dis functioning as bribery dens and brought daylight despite the existence of a sound legal system on paper that is not properly utilized for obvious reasons as cancer has spread all over. We boast of a strong judiciary, legal system with excellent lawyer’s bribery law not second to any other system yet the bribe takers are acquitted so frequent on technical and slimy grounds that we hear so often on media. It may be an interesting topic for the Universities to compute the loss and the damages to the nation on corruption and d bribery to ascertain the loss and as an incentive for steps on eradication of this menace. The list goes on and on endless until it is clamped down jointly with the government with the direct participation of the citizen out of realization of the extent of the menace.

The law on bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka

The law and procedure on bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka is strong, straight, and powerful on paper though the implementation is slow ineffective with inefficient agency and the network. The main agency today is (CIABOC) a product set up with the amendment to the Constitution as 19th and 20 th3 amendment to set up independent commissions including Bribery and Corruption mails senior judges on the top. Prior to independence during Kings Rule King is the head of the judiciary who is expected to rule the country subject to ‘’Dasaraja Dharma’’ –Ten Royal Virtues in practice by the king – the ultimate ruler who ruled and made judgments on the issues before him to resolve, based on [‘’Dhana’’ Generality, ‘’Sila’’ Morality, Comfort – ‘’Pariccage’’ making sacreficies Ajjive Honesty Maddave Kindness Tapa Restraint ‘’Akroada’’,  Non hatred, ‘’Avihansa’’ Nonviolence , Kanthi kindness, ‘’Aviorada’’ Non Enmity,] The subject ruled by the ruler by the virtues mentioned will be treated properly and impartially when bribery and corruption is banned and  punishable with severe punishments. Citizen ruled by the above virtues may be definitely safe from arbitrary rules and this kind of rule is welcomed.

Law on bribery and corruption in in brief

As at today the catalogue of legislation on the subject is  given here as penal Code 2/1882- Bribery Act 11/1954- 1/75- 2/94- 19th and 20 the amendment that created (CIABOC) the main anti-bribery agency with the Bribery Commissioners and the Bribery Commissioner the CEO of the agency. The legislative structure is intact and as powerful as any other jurisdiction yet appear to be ineffective with bribery and corruption increasing at a terrible rate. The laws are straight and the issue is the incompetence or lack of will of the applicability to the last word which is the need of the hour. It is worrying that the rate of acquittals and failing conditions on technical issues despite the powerful legal system and learned judges legal experts and professionals. What is needed is to strengthen the procedure and implementation process forthwith.

Way forward and plan of actions

Who is responsible and who should initiate and work on the implementation process of cleaning up of bribery and corruption?  Is in the hands of the citizen activists and social organizations sponsored by the governance with a genuine deed out of realization of the danger and need of the hour. It is a difficult task as those in power including   the Executive may not be willing to sacrifice shedding the excessive benefits power and greed in all areas and sectors. Could this be possible on realising g the danger? Or some kind of compulsion is a matter to the citizen to decide on a plan of action for a better developed and prosperous new Sri Lanka to emerge.

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