UNP spokesman for Sectoral Oversight Committee on Legal Affairs and Media and Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P. Perera yesterday said that those who had been probed by the Presidential Commi-ssion inquiring into alleged Central Bank bond scams involving Perpetual Treasuries could be tried by the proposed Anti-Corruption High Court.
Attorney-at-law Perera said so in response to a query by The Island at a hastily arranged media conference at his ministry yesterday to explain recommendations made by the Sectoral Oversight Committee to expedite legal proceedings in respect of corruption cases.
The UNPer said the proposed Anti-Corruption HC would be established in accordance with Article 105 (1) (C) of the Constitution to hear cases through three benches each consisting of three judges of the High Court.
Referring to the bond scams that had taken place at the Central Bank in 2015 Feb and 2016 March as frauds, Deputy Minister Perera stressed the need for expeditious hearing of the case once the Attorney General served indictments on the basis of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry findings.
At the onset of the briefing, Kalutara District MP Perera asserted that in spite of the change of government waste, corruption and irregularities continued unabated. Without referring to any specific case, the UNPer, who had been also a member of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) said politicians, top public sector officials and the private sector perpetrated massive frauds. According to the Deputy Minister major fraudulent transactions couldn’t be carried out without their direct involvement. Some corrupt deals had been perpetrated by two of three categories, the Deputy Minister Perera said, tougher laws were required to tackle corruption.
The UNPer faulted the obsolete Bribery Act for the failure on the part of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) to fulfill its obligations. The Deputy Minister claimed that the situation was so bad that so far only four persons had been convicted for corruption over the past 23 years.
The Deputy Minister said that the Bribery Act would have to be amended soon. Explaining the process currently underway, Deputy Minister Perera said that the Sectoral Oversight Committee is of the opinion that there should be only one appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Deputy Minister said that their recommendations had the backing of President Maithripala Sirisena and Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale. The removal of former Justice Minister Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC had facilitated their efforts, he said. Expeditious and efficient administration of criminal justice couldn’t be achieved unless judicial and other obstacles were removed, Deputy Minister Perera said.
Asked by The Island whether Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s removal had really expedited the process, Deputy Minister Perera said that they were in the process of addressing the issues. He said there was no point in talking about the former minister.
The UNPer said that among the key recommendations were an unprecedented increase of the number of High Court judges from 75 to 110, setting up of new High Court each in the administrative districts of Anuradhapura, Kandy, Gampaha, Ratnapura, Matale and five in Colombo and mandatory trials at bar in terms of Section 12 of the Judicature Act No 02 of 1978 in respect bribery, undeclared assets, corruption, money laundering, fraud, criminal breach of trust and the preparation of forged documents and other similar irregularities amounting to over Rs 5 mn.
Asked by The Island for an explanation over the pathetic failure on the part of the parliament to ensure proper investigations into COPE reports that had dealt with large scale state sector waste, corruption and irregularities, Deputy Minister Perera described the situation as an inherent weakness of the Parliament.
Deputy Minister Perera refrained from commenting on the inability of COPE to summon ministers in connection with inquiries undertaken by the watchdog committee.
The UNPer said that Parliament lacked a system to direct the Attorney General to initiate inquiries into COPE findings. When The Island pointed out that the Attorney General could act on those reports and there was no requirement to bring them to his notice, Deputy Minister Perera explained the situation leading to the current crisis.