Defence Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, was the Chief
Guest at last week's convocation of the Sri John Kotelawala
Defence Academy. The event was held at the BMICH. Among the
participants were Defence Secretary, Cyril Herath, Chancellor
of the Academy General (retd.) Denis Perera and Vice Chanceller
cum Commandant of the KDA, Rear Admiral Nandana Thuduwewatte.
perks cut, but politicos ride on
Some two weeks ago, 400 officers and sailors of the Sri Lanka Navy
crowded a gymnasium to hear of dangers posed to them by bribery
top officials of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery
or Corruption - Director General Piyasena Ranasinghe and his deputy,
C.A. Chandrakantha - spoke to them for four long hours. Even if
no one raised questions when it ended at the Eastern Naval Area
Headquarters in the Dockyard in Trincomalee, the message was very
drive against bribery or corruption in the armed forces and the
police is being stepped up by the Commission. The prelude is an
awareness campaign they have embarked upon. In the Navy, this was
the second one. The first was held in Colombo.
of the speakers in Trincomalee lamented that two awareness sessions,
one with the Army and the other with the Air Force, were not up
to their expectations. The reason was a lack of co-operation and
Commission has conducted 120 awareness programmes so far in Ministries,
Departments and statutory boards," Piyasena Ranasinghe, Director
General of the Commission told The Sunday Times. (See box story
on this page for interview). They are now focusing on the armed
forces. Besides ones for the Army and the Air Force, two have been
held for the Navy. More will follow soon, says Mr. Ranasinghe. Today
a similar awareness programme for the public will be held in Weligama.
of bribery and corruption being rampant in the armed forces came
to the fore when the then People's Alliance Government embarked
on "Eelam War III." This was after peace initiatives failed
in 1994 and a string of military offensives were launched starting
with "Operation Riviresa" to re-capture the Jaffna peninsula
from Tiger guerrilla control.
PA Government relaxed procurement procedures including tender formalities
to help armed forces obtain sophisticated equipment without delay
to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). What followed
is now history.
without any fanfare or the glare of publicity, the Commission has
been probing those who made it rich, both in uniform and outside
it. Many of their actions were highlighted in these columns since
1995. In a move to distract the public, some of the exposures were
covered up through a censorship. Others that came out were branded
as "information to the enemy" by some government politicians
and bureaucrats in a bid to prevent further disclosures by The Sunday
of those who acquired wealth through corruption had won wealth for
themselves. This is even if the wars the soldiers fought proved
otherwise. Many paid with their lives. Others were maimed or suffered
injuries. Even this week, members of the Army's Seva Vanitha took
the unprecedented step of walking the streets with the till to collect
money for the welfare of these soldiers.
now, the Commission's untiring efforts are yielding results. At
least 13 officers - from Lieutenant to Major General, both serving
and retired, who reportedly had enriched themselves are being probed.
Complaints against them range from amassing large sums of money
they cannot account for in their bank accounts, building luxury
houses, purchasing land or acquiring motor vehicles.
of the young officers had come under investigation for bribery.
An example is a major serving in an Army camp in the North Western
Province. A supplier deposited funds regularly into his bank account
in Colombo. The Major had withdrawn these funds by using his credit
card from a bank located near the camp.
Commission is also probing a series of complaints against policemen
and politicians. However, Commission officials say they have so
far not received many complaints from the Air Force or the Navy.
In the Police, allegations have been made from constables to those
holding higher ranking positions.
the case of politicians, some former Cabinet Ministers are among
those under investigation. Former United National Front (UNF) Minister
and one time strongman in the People's Alliance, S.B. Dissanayake
has already responded to a show cause notice issued by the Commissionon
on the acquisition of his assets. The three member Commission is
to now study the answers filed by Mr. Dissanayake's lawyers. That
is to determine whether they are satisfied with the answers filed
or whether the Commissions should proceed any further.
similar show cause notice over acquisition of assets by former Cabinet
Minister and one time Deputy Minister of Defence, General Anuruddha
Ratwatte is now returnable on November 2. Here again the Commission
will study the answers before determining further action.
term of office of the three Commissioners - Ananda Coomaraswamy
(Chairman), K. Viknaraja and Kingsley Wickremasuriya - ceases on
December 15, this year. The Constitutional Council will be required
to submit to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga the names
of three members to replace them.
by the Commission in most cases have been time consuming. For example,
inquiries into assets acquired by persons against whom there are
complaints, like houses, would have to be valued. Such valuation
would have to be both at the time of construction and current values.
In the event of an acquisition of a house, the value at the time
it was purchased and the current market value has to be determined.
In the case of malpractices relating to tenders, the procedures
involved have to be carefully documented.
developments come at a time when Army Headquarters effected drastic
cut backs on transport facilities to all their officer cadres. The
move, The Sunday Times learns, followed a directive issued by President
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Shantha
note signed by Chief of Staff, Major General Chula Seneviratne and
circulated to all locations on October 25 sets out the new policy
on the use of vehicles. He has given two reasons for the move:
Army has been given limited financial resources for 2005 due to
the current financial crisis in the country. According to these
allocations we will not be able to provide for the high allocation
for fuel and for vehicles taken on rent.
into consideration the above situation, the Army Commander has directed
the implementation of a new vehicle policy. Accordingly previous
directives on this subject stand rescinded.
the highlights of the new transport policy are:
Officers holding the rank of Major General will continue to enjoy
the existing practice of one staff vehicle and one vehicle for the
appointment they hold. They will, however, not have an escort /
back up vehicle.
or officers holding office as a Director will be required to use
the one light vehicle assigned only for administrative duties. This
will mean the withdrawal of vehicles assigned to their appointments.
They have been called upon to request the Director, Supply and Transport
for their urgent travel requirements. Similar restrictions also
apply to Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and Majors (holding Lt. Col.
host of other officers serving in one time operational areas and
wanting to travel to Colombo on leave or on official duty will be
required to make a request to the Director of Supply and Transport.
They will have to provide in advance the date and time of travel.
This will mean they will be debarred from using vehicles assigned
to their appointments. Those covered by this rule are Security Force
Commanders, Division Commanders, their deputies, Divisional Commanders
(51 HQ, 52 HQ, 53 HQ, 55 HQ).
Officers have been told they should use the vehicles provided to
them for official duties. When they are on leave, they have been
called upon to use their personal issue. "All other officers
should make use of the vehicles provided, or the Liberty Bus service
maintained by the Army or make use of public transport to report
to duty or leave after their duty," says Maj. Gen. Seneviratne's
note circulated by Army Headquarters this week relates to the suspension
of two senior officers - Major General Sisira Wijesooriya (former
Director General-General Staff) and Col. Sumedha Perera (Military
Spokesman at the Op Hq of the Ministry of Defence and Director Media
at Army Headquearters).
officers concerned, Major General K.B. Egodawele, the outgoing Military
Secretary has said in an "All Lists" notification dated
October 28 "have been suspended from the exercise of duties
and functions of office as provided for in Regulation 2 (1) of the
Army Officers' Service Regulations (Regular Force), 1992 as mentioned
Maj. Gen. D.S.K. Wijesooriya RWP RSP USP with effect from 18 October
2004 without pay.
Col A.K.S. Perera WWP RWP RSP with effect from October 25 2004 with
virtue of the suspension of the above mentioned officers,"
Maj. Gen. Egodawele states "the following restrictions are
The officers under suspension are not permitted entry to military
establishments unless authorised for specific purpose. However,
they shall be permitted entry to military hospital for medical treatment.
The said officers are not permitted to attend any military functions."
Vehicles and escorts assigned to Maj. Gen. Wijesooriya and Col.
Perera have been withdrawn. They have also been called upon to return
any Army property in their possession.
Gen. Wijesooriya has been released on bail by a Magistrate's Court
pending indictments by the Commission to Probe Allegations of Bribery
Perera is indicted in the High Court of Colombo for aiding and abetting
in forgery. This is involving an allegedly fraudulent land transaction.
Maj. Gen. Egodawele retires from the Army today. He is to be recalled
from the reserve on pay and pension and posted to the Army's Training
Centre in Kukuleganga, Kalawana, where UN Peace Keeping troops are
put through their paces.
Army hierarchy cannot be faulted for effecting drastic changes in
transport facilities for their officer cadres. They are acting on
orders from above. But the move is clearly one that has not been
vast majority of the officers who are not corrupt enjoy only a few
perks. The use of transport facilities afforded to them is one such
major privilege. The fact that it has been withdrawn or curtailed
no doubt will cause them inconvenience, and in some instances, even
humiliation. It does not bode well for morale either. That cannot
be the reward for most officers who have courageously faced a 19
year long war and paved the way for politicians to talk peace.
fact that there is a ceasefire does not mean the war has ended.
Whether the UPFA or any other Government in power would have to
turn to the same officers in an hour of need to meet any threats
to national security, be it in the North and East or elsewhere.
politicians themselves have not set an example. Take for instance
the UPFA Government's recent move to increase the number of Deputy
Ministers leaving behind only three MPs of the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party (SLFP) without assignments.
these Deputy Ministers are entitled, besides other perks, on an
average, to five vehicles. Two are for their personal use and the
rest for their personal staff. This is in addition to back up security
vehicles. They are allocated on the basis of each person's security
needs. But not for some Army officers on whom threats from Tiger
guerrillas still remain.
is still not too late for President Kumaratunga to re-think this
drastic decision to deprive all officers of a rightful privilege
they have enjoyed. Of course, there is certainly a need to crack
down on abuse and misuse which is at peak level. It is not the withdrawal
of vehicles that can bring about a saving. It is a control on the
use of fuel. There are also many other ways in which the Army could
save millions by cutting down waste and stop paying more for their
Corruption threatens national security
Bribery or corruption in the armed forces and the Police
can not only endanger public lives but also national security says
Piyasena Ranasinghe, Director General of the Commission to Investigate
Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.
Magistrate for eleven years, Mr. Ranasinghe is now spearheading
an awareness campaign on behalf of the Commission. That is to make
those in the armed forces and Police aware of the dangers of bribery,
corruption and the consequences that follow when they are caught
Here are excerpts from an interview he gave The Sunday Times:
The message to the armed forces and the Police:
explain the consequences that follow if one is found engaged in
corruption or bribery. We explain to them in detail how these evils
affect basic human rights, the environment, the health of the people,
how it poses threats to the public, how they encourage terrorism…
were reports of sale of maps (during military offensives) giving
locations of military camps. If that really happened, lives of soldiers
would have been endangered. The nation's sovereignty would have
been placed in danger. Such things are done for money. We want to
educate them to refrain from such acts.
know some deserters are engaged in armed robberies. We have also
got to know some of them have gone beyond, even to sell information.
During our awareness campaign to the Navy in Trincomalee, we spelt
out the dangers that arise from bribery or corruption. We cited
the recent revelations at the Registration of Persons Department
where National Identity Cards were issued reportedly for bribes.
Now, this is a clear case of how bribery affects national security.
This matter is now under investigation. I cannot therefore say anything
the conduct of investigations:
We conduct investigations on public complaints. At present 98 per
cent of the complaints are anonymous. We do not throw away a complaint
just because it does not bear a name or address. We carefully study
the contents. There are occasions when some of the complaints are
frivolous. An example - when a Police officer is promoted, there
are complaints against him. We have found such complaints sometimes
contain personal allegations that turn out to be incorrect. But
we do not discourage anonymous complaints. Acting on them, we conduct
our own discreet inquiries before taking the next step.
want to create greater public awareness so citizens will be courageous
enough to come forth with more complaints. I also believe this will
lead to citizens bodies committed to deal with bribery and corruption
to join hands to help us. They could do so by becoming parties to
a common forum. Such a forum could use the print and electronic
media to generate public debate on the need to deal with these two
issues. One avenue is TV talk shows which interest the public. That
will become a strong weapon against those engaging in corrupt activity.
the Commission works:
There is a link between the Commission and the investigators who
are Policemen. There are 98 Police officers under the charge of
a Senior Superintendent of Police. There is also a Superintendent
of Police and an Asst. Superintendent. Our task is to investigate
(a) Corruption (b) Assets, and (c) Bribery.
the Commission receives a complaint, it is sent to the Legal Division.
That is to ascertain whether there is sufficient material to conduct
an investigation. There are 17 Legal Officers. If the Legal Officer
feels there is sufficient material, they refer it back to the Director
General. He in turn sends it to the SSP, the head of investigations
to conduct the inquiry.
Upon completion of the inquiry, the file returns to the Director
General. He refers it again to the Legal Division to determine whether
any offence under the Bribery Act has been committed. If they confirm
an offence had been committed, the Commission institutes legal proceedings.
the Commission gives a directive, the suspect is arrested and produced
in Court. At a later date a charge sheet or indictment in the Magistrate's
Court or the High Court is made.
the awareness programmes:
It is not easy to eradicate bribery and corruption. We
can only ensure preventive measures are taken to minimise it. Most
public officers and even those in the armed forces or police are
unaware of the consequences of corruption. This is why the Commission
decided to go ahead with an awareness programme. So far 120 such
programmes have been conducted in Ministries, Departments and statutory
boards. In the Navy, two such programmes have been concluded, one
in Colombo and another in Trincomalee.
have dealt with 30,000 cases - from a peon to Secretary - in the
public service. Last year we handled 13,500 cases.
Difficulties faced by the Commission:
We are hit by the lack of funds. This causes difficulty in reaching
out to the public. We have investigation officers from only the
Police Department. At any time they have to revert to their department.
Like in Singapore and Hong Kong, we need to have our own investigators
too. We need a multi disciplinary team conversant with various aspects.
Financial constraints prevent us from doing so at present.
their own the Commission cannot fight corruption. Complaints from
the armed forces are not commensurate with public revelations about
corrupt activity. There should be greater public co-operation.
role of the media:
Commitment of the media is vital. That is an important
area, as important as the commitment of the political leadership.
Investigative reporting is important. That helps us when they investigate
and expose corruption. When such exposures are made, there is a
greater public awareness. If for example politicians are exposed,
they will not be elected by the people.