With the UN country review on corruption due next year, Sri Lanka, which is a signatory to the Convention against Corruption, could be subjected to international pressure, since its Bribery and Corruption Commission was not independent of the Executive.
Eran Wickremeratne, MP told The Island yesterday that the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which
has been ratified by 140 countries, required that anti-corruption bodies be vested with total authority to perform its duties including financial freedom free of the Executive’s reach.
Sri Lanka’s Bribery and Corruption Commission, which was under the thumb of the Executive, was last allocated around two million rupees. Such a paltry sum was totally insufficient to investigate scandals involving very powerful persons and running into billions of rupees, the MP observed.
Wickremeratne said that the Government which abolished the independent Bribery and Corruption Commission along with the independent Police, Elections, Public and Judicial Service Commissions, by bulldozing the 18th Amendment through parliament in the most unethical manner, had placed the country in a precarious position, since it was a signatory to UNCAC.
The UN Convention also stipulates that members of anti-sleaze mechanisms should have multi-disciplinary teams with fixed terms and its members drawn from among top serving professionals, unlike in Sri Lanka where retired people are appointed, he said.
The MP said that countries which had complied with international law had capacity built into their anti-corruption bodies, which enabled them to mete out justice, prevent sleaze and also create awareness about the issue.
Corruption was a global issue and those who thought that ill-gotten wealth could be stacked safely abroad were mistaken, because just like in the case of human rights, the international legal mechanism would eventually track them down, Wickremeratne observed.
Sri Lanka has its limitations since it talked of only corruption among public officials while ignoring the private sector, the MP said while noting that Hong Kong, which has the lowest level of corruption in the world, found that 65 percent of the cases, it had dealt with in 2008, related to the private sector.
Civil society and Non-Governmental Organisations should also be brought in to assist the fight against sleaze, since it was a gigantic task that required the widest assistance possible, Wickremeratne added.