The future of the Anti-Corruption Secretariat, which primarily directed complaints to be investigated by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), still remains uncertain as the government leaders could not see eye-to-eye on it at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
The Secretariat, established after the new government assumed office in 2015, was entrusted with the task of referring cases of corruption and frauds to the FCID for investigation and prosecution.
Its period lapsed. Amidst uncertainty over its future, President Maithripala Sirisena took a swipe at the law enforcement authorities saying the cases involving mass scale corruption and frauds were being swept under the carpet due to political influence. Also, he charged that the law enforcement authorities were acting with political interests in mind when dealing with allegations of corruption and frauds involving the higher-ups of the former rule. Instead, he charged that some people responsible for minor or negligible offences, were taken to task for political ends.
- Law enforcement body acts with former rulers’ whims
- Sprats netted; sharks at large
- Anti- Corruption Secretariat - a white elephant?
- FCID, AG’s Dept should have been sharper in dealing with cases involving former regime
- WHO stresses swift, tangible action to curb spread of dengue
- Dengue affects tourism industry
- SLFPers to quit Govt.?
- NFF wants JO to quit Constitution-making process
The President’s prime concern was the failure on the part of the FCID and the Attorney General’s Department to dispense with cases involving his erstwhile colleague and predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family members. A week after the presidential tirade, a Cabinet paper was presented to the meeting on Tuesday seeking the extension of the Anti-Corruption Secretariat to function further under the purview of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
President Sirisena is reported to have refused to grant his nod to this move. He took the position that the investigative authorities like the Bribery Commission would be able to proceed with the current lot of cases referred to them, and therefore there was no need to have the Anti-Corruption Secretariat. Most Cabinet Ministers subscribed to this stance of the President.
The President remarked that if the Anti-Corruption Secretariat were to function under the PM further, it would give rise to the perception that the anti-corruption drive of the government had been politicized.
The paper, presented by the PM, was deferred to the next week for consideration. According to sources close to the President, the Anti- Corruption Secretariat would die a natural death as most viewed it as a white elephant not serving the intended purpose.
Dengue stings CabinetWith the spread of Dengue viral flu reaching alarming proportions, the govt is grappling for containing the escalation of it. The situation is so alarming that the representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) made a presentation to the Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday detailing out the current trend and stressing for action forthwith.
According to statistics available with the hospital system, there are as many as 83,000 cases reported so far. However, the WHO representatives said the number could be much higher. In fact, they said it could be well over 100,000 with cases not reported to the hospitals so far.
The hospitals are packed with Dengue patients in the Colombo district. In some instances, the hospital authorities refuse to admit patients for treatment during the initial days of the disease.
After the presentation, the President stressed the need or a continual, concerted effort to curb the spread of Dengue. Finally, it was decided to declare a Dengue eradication week. The President suggested that all the politicians should be actively involved in the clean-up operations to destroy mosquito breeding grounds. The Cabinet decided to focus more on abandoned or unoccupied premises as they could have unattended mosquito breeding places.
For this purpose, the health authorities initially conducted fogging operations. It has not worked properly as transpired during the presentation, because Dengue larvae can thrive in tiny covered spots. It stings during daytime, and as such, precautions taken after nightfall are also not effective.
Dengue hits tourism industryThe Dengue crisis has hit the tourism industry with cancellations of hotel bookings by some foreign nationals. It has triggered fears as to whether the govt would be able to reach the target of 2.5 million arrivals this year.
Tourism is a thriving industry. Despite setbacks due to the flood disaster and Dengue outbreak, over one million tourists have already visited Sri Lanka so far this year.
“I learnt that some foreign nationals have cancelled their hotel reservations. We believe it is due to Dengue. We have to curb the spread some way or the other. Otherwise, the industry would suffer,” Tourism Promotion Minister John Amaratunga said.
SLFPers to quit GovtThe unity government will be completing two years in September, outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed for the purpose. Ahead of it, the fissures between the UNP and the SLFP have widened on most issues. It is more so with regard to the anti-corruption drive and the constitution-making process. In fact, some of the SLFP ministers, deputy ministers and state ministers are so disillusioned with the govt that they insist on quitting it on the earliest available day for the move.
These MPs have already held several rounds of talks with the Joint Opposition at different levels. The exodus from the government is planned on three possible occasions. One is the completion of the two year period outlined in the MoU for the unity government. They believe such a moment can justify their action for parting ways with the UNP. Or else, they contemplate on leaving the government to join hands with the opposition in the event of declaration of any election - be it the local authorities or the provincial council polls.
As the third option, they believe there would be a point for them to part ways with the govt when it presents the draft of the proposed Constitutions. That is bound to have areas for disagreement between the UNP and the SLFP. Then, it would offer the chance for them to decide whether to be with the government or not. In this manner, these MPs await any of these justifiable moments to make the political move.
National Freedom Front (NFF), led by MP Wimal Weerawansa, has taken the position that the JO which it represents should stay away from the constitution making process. On behalf of the JO, its parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardane and MP Prasanna Ranatunga participated in the deliberations of the Steering Committee appointed for working out proposals for the new Constitution.
NFF wants JO to quit Constitution-making processWimal Weerawansa announced his stance to the country at a recent press conference. Afterwards, it came up for discussions by the leaders of the JO this week. MP Jayantha Samaraweera who attended the meeting said the govt had worked out an interim report on constitutional proposals regardless of what was discussed at the Steering Committee. Also, the NFF believes that the Mahanayake Theras of the three chapters stressed that there should not be a new Constitution, and their position should be honoured. The JO has not taken a final position in this regard as yet, it would be taken up for consideration next week.
Dinesh Gunawardane, who is the parliamentary group leader of the JO, said the Constitution- making process was in an utter mess with the govt leaders making contradictory statements. Alongside, he said that he had noted the position taken by the Mahanayake Theras in this regard.
“We are considering our position seriously. The final decision will be taken after discussion with all the parties of the JO,” he said. Besides, he said the JO would not cooperate with the govt on any matter if they kept postponing elections over and over again.