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TISL seeks critical amendments and public consultation on proposed Anti-Corruption Law 

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Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) says that it welcomes the government’s initiative to bring to the forefront the Anti-Corruption Bill that has been in the making for several years. A TISL release said: The Bill (made public at www.tisrilanka.org) contains many laudable provisions that seek to improve upon existing law. TISL notes, however, that no public comments have thus far been incorporated, and remains seriously concerned that what proposes to be a seminal piece of legislation may be rushed through Parliament, with very little room for public intervention on its critical details and implications.   With news of the proposed Bill being sent for the Attorney-General’s assent, TISL and several others have provided their comments on the Bill to the Ministry of Justice within the very short period that was indicated. However, it remains unclear whether any public comments on key policy and procedural choices are being considered prior to the Bill being presented in Parliament. This law seeks to replace the Bribery Act, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption Act and the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law.

While appreciating the need to address the issue of corruption in the country as a priority, TISL notes that Sri Lanka does not lack laws to deal with bribery and corruption even at present. It is the enforcement of these laws that remains woefully inadequate. Law enforcement has demonstrated to be ineffective in prosecuting instances of grand corruption on multiple occasions, where key cases have been discontinued due to technical errors, coupled with deeply problematic withdrawals that have led to critical concerns being raised regarding the independence, resourcing and expertise of law enforcement agencies. It is in this background where Sri Lanka is struggling to effectively and equally apply even the existing anti-corruption laws, that a new Anti-Corruption law is being proposed by the government. TISL seriously notes that the independence of any proposed anti-corruption body from the Executive could only be assured, if any forthcoming Constitutional amendment adequately provides for the same.

TISL’s observations on the Bill includes ensuring that public access to declarations of assets and liabilities is made mandatory, taking steps to prevent the abuse of investigative powers of the proposed Commission, ensuring the independence of the Commission, increasing the penalties, effectively addressing private sector corruption and ensuring that the proposed Commission has the liberty to coordinate with other law enforcement entities and to make information publicly available about the progress of investigations. TISL also notes that the proposed law does not cover significant parts of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) that Sri Lanka is a party to, such as international asset recovery and the regulation of election campaign finance.

TISL Executive Director Nadishani Perera stated, “It is important that laws are not enacted in a vacuum. They must take into account the context in which they are brought in. Corruption in Sri Lanka cannot be “solved” instantly by law alone. It takes political will, genuine commitment of multisectoral actors, essential systemic reforms and a cultural change to root out corruption from the highest to the lowest level.”

In view of the above, TISL earnestly calls upon the government to prioritise law enforcement, using the existing law to maximum effect against perpetrators of corruption.  TISL also calls upon the government to ensure a transparent, consultative process prior to bringing the proposed Anti-Corruption Bill into Parliament at this crucial juncture of the country, in order to gain public ownership and to avoid technical or procedural shortfalls.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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