The Government says the efforts taken to fight corruption, from the time it took office, was not rhetorical.
Addressing the high level segment of the Conference of State Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in the Russian City of St. Petersburgh, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva stated that the Government of Sri Lanka, under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, has taken a host of measures to prevent corruption, to seek out stolen assets and to build the capacity for effectively curbing corruption and bribery, in an effective, comprehensive, result-oriented manner.
“In Sri Lanka, the current National Unity government was elected to office earlier this year on the policy platform of Good Governance under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. Transparency, accountability and the rule of law characterize our current approaches to governance and are in line with Sri Lanka’s international and domestic obligations. Accordingly, the Government policy is to foster a society with zero tolerance of corruption. This also includes in particular the obligations that Sri Lanka has assumed as a State Party to the UN Convention against Corruption. In fulfilment of the mandate received at both the Presidential and parliamentary elections, the Government has taken a host of meaningful steps to ensure that the public service remains free of corruption and service delivery is carried out effectively, independently and with integrity,” he said.
The Deputy Minister outlined the independent institutions that have been put in place, especially following the adoption of the 19th Amendment to Constitution, as well as other investigation mechanisms, pursuant to the mandate received by the Government at both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
“I am happy to inform this august forum that, with the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, certain principles of the UN Convention against Corruption have been given effect to. We are in the process of taking legislative measures to be in line with UNCAC. With the establishment of a Constitutional Council, several independent Commissions have been established and have been given additional powers to strengthen their mandates, including the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, the National Police Commission, National Audit Commission, National Procurement Commission to name a few,” he said.
Dr. Harsha de Silva stressed that in a country where anti-corruption was only a rhetorical commitment under the last government, all these measures, aimed to contribute towards a culture of good governance, represented a paradigm shift. He also stated that the National Unity Government was encouraging the civil society and the business to assist in combating corruption.
“Currently, investigations into allegations of bribery, corruption and money laundering are being proactively pursued by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, the Financial Crimes Investigation Division and the Criminal Investigation Department. The Presidential Task Force on Stolen Assets Recovery was also established to recover stolen assets belonging to the State. The Government of Sri Lanka is also encouraging the participation of civil society and businesses to assist in curbing corruption. In a country where the pursuit of anti-corruption measures was only a rhetorical commitment under the last Government, the number and scale of anti-corruption efforts and mechanisms in place today undoubtedly represents a paradigm shift. With all these measures taken, the Government and the people of Sri Lanka are justifiably proud that the ongoing drive against corruption continues unabated at all levels so that, in a corruption free environment, Sri Lanka will realize the full potential of economic advancement, consistent with SDG16 that calls for an inclusive society with access to justice. At the international level Sri Lanka’s commitment to contributing to efforts to combat corruption remains strengthened as never before specially following the democratic changes in Sri Lanka this year. In the coming months our Government will intensify these efforts including enhancing the existing domestic legal framework. Already the UNCAC Gap Analysis has been completed and we have identified the areas in the law and policy, which need to be addressed, as a matter or urgent priority,” he added.
He also noted, with appreciation, the support and cooperation already extended to Sri Lanka by several countries to assist in the recovery of stolen assets. He said that further, the assistance provided by some of these countries, the World Bank and UNODC have also contributed to capacity building of all agencies.
“The international cooperation would no doubt assist Sri Lanka to thaw the malaise of corruption. It is pertinent to mention that in the demonstration of Sri Lanka’s strengthened commitment to transparency, accountability and the rule of law and given our abiding interest in contributing to, and learning from, good governance practices, the Government of Sri Lanka joined the Open Government Partnership at its Global Summit in Mexico City last week as the only new member to do so. This no doubt is in line with the broader objectives of the UN Convention Against Corruption, which seeks to ensure that beneficiaries of development, are, the citizens,” the Deputy Minister said.
Participating in the 6th Session of the Conference of the State Parties hosted by the Government of Russian Federation, Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva also held a number of bilataral consultations on the sidelines of the meeting.
The Sri Lanka delegation included Ambassador A.L.A. Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Vienna, Mrs. Dilrukshi Wickramasinghe, Director General of the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption, J.C. Weliamuna, President of the Task Force on Stolen Assets Recovery, Wasantha Bandara, Additional Solicitor General and Samantha Pathirana, Minister in the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Moscow.