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Bribery Commission under attack

2015 Jan 19

 By  Sandun Jayawardana and Kishani Samaraweera

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti alleged that since 2002, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption had not withheld the passport of a single individual who had bribery or corruption complaints lodged against them. “This is despite the Commission having powers to withhold passports of those facing such allegations,” he added.

Speaking to The Nation, Handunnetti also acknowledged that there also other serious issues regarding the Bribery Commission, including allegations of corruption against the Commission’s Chairman, Justice Jagath Balapatabendi.

Several MPs and civil society organizations have lodged complaints with the Bribery Commission against former Ministers and MPs of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government after the conclusion of the presidential election.

“We are not going before the Bribery Commission because we have suddenly developed a deep trust in its functions. We do it because that is something we should do under the law to seek justice. However, we believe in the aftermath of the election, the officials there would have realized that they now have no choice but to diligently conduct their investigations into such allegations,” the DNA MP observed.

In the event that officials at the commission fail to carry out their duties in a responsible manner, action would be taken against them after the formation of the Constitutional Council, Handunnetti added. Any members of the Bribery Commission facing bribery and corruption allegations themselves would also be investigated, he stressed.

He further called on the commission to exercise the duties that he claimed it had largely neglected during the time of the UPFA government.

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told The Nation said that putting an end to corruption and investigating allegations are integral parts of the ‘100-day program’ announced by the Maithripala Sirisena Government and that the re-establishment of all independent commissions set up under the 17th Amendment was part of this exercise.

“All the commissions which existed under the former government acted according to the whims and fancies of the former President. He exploited the powers given to him under the executive Presidency. Therefore the commissions were never able to deliver the expected outcome.” he expressed.

Rajapakshe also pointed out that they are in the process of drafting the Constitution by making necessary amendments to the Constitution to enable the commissions to act independently.

“The Bribery Commission will function the same way, but with several changes to ensure justice is done. We will ensure that the commission functions independently.” he added.

Going by the promises made under the 100 day program, a special Commission is scheduled to be appointed on February 5 to investigate allegations while an independent commission will be established by February 18.

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