May 05, 2018

LfD hails signs of non interference in high profile arrests

As the Commission to Inquire into Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (Bribery Commission) arrested the Chief of Staff of the President yesterday, the Lawyers for Democracy (LfD) wishes to make this initial statement.

The stage was set for the bureaucracy to deal with corruption fearlessly only after the fall of the Rajapaksa administration in 2015. It is vital that the people recognise the courage displayed by officials in the Bribery Commission in the recent past where corruption cases were filed against powerful former officials like Gotabaya Rajapakse and a serving Court of Appeal Judge. Still, rogue elements mobilise supporters to protect the corrupt with the active support of the previous regime.

In this moment, when President Sirisena's chief of staff has been netted by an independent commission during a sting operation, as he was soliciting a Rs 20 million bribe, there is only one pertinent question to ask: Given the impunity the former regime showed to crimes by its inner circle, would the arrest of Gamini Senarath, former Chief of Staff to President Mahinda Rajapaksa ever have been possible during his reign?

We have no hesitation recognising that in this instance, the head of State has practiced good governance, by refusing to interfere in the raid or the investigative process. It is our fervent and sincere hope that this shall be the course of future anti-corruption action in Sri Lanka going forward and other politicians in power will follow the exemplary conduct and precedent set by the President in this instance.

The elimination of corruption requires serious political commitment and courageous investigators who have the unwavering support of the public at large. We urge the people of Sri Lanka to take serious note of the urgent need to support institutions that are battling corruption within the system, and investigators in both the Bribery Commission and the Police Department.