President suspends officials arrested on bribery charges

President Maithripala Sirisena has called for the immediate suspension of the senior official of the President’s office and the Chairman of a state corporation who were arrested earlier today (May 3rd) on bribery charges. Isuing a media release the President’s media unit noted that the President has called on all authorities to implement the law against these individuals without fear of any obstructions.

The release goes on to state that this shows the commitment of the Government to crack down on fraud and corruption and the importance of establishing independent commissions. President’s Chief of Staff, I.H.K. Mahanama and State Timber Corporation (STC) Chairman P. Dissanayake were arrested by Bribery Commission officers yesterday evening while accepting a bribe of Rs.20 million from an Indian businessman.

This is with regard to a deal in the shares of the Kantale sugar factory. A Bribery Commission official said the suspects had solicited a bribe of Rs. 560 million from the businessman but had later agreed to reduce it to Rs.100 million. The duo had been arrested in the car park of a five star hotel in Colombo while accepting Rs.20 million as an advance payment.

A top official of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) said the present government under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe always gives direction and guidance to nab those involved in bribery and corruption irrespective of status and the above high profile arrests too were possible due to this fact. Mahanama was a former Lands Ministry Secretary, he added. The Indian investor is said to have presented a proposal to buy shares and develop the Kantale sugar factory recently.

The duo had allegedly solicited the bribe promising to get approval for the businessman’s proposal.It is said that after demanding Rs.560 million the suspects had brought the bribe down to Rs.100 million following negotiations with the businessman.The Indian businessman is said to have alerted the bribery officials later about the demand for the bribe from the two top local officials.The suspects are to be produced in courts.

Meanwhile CIABOC Commissioner C. Neville Guruge saidsuch high profile arrests were possible due to the present government allowing the commission to function independently without any interference. He said the present government has given wider powers to the CIABOC and is now planning to to give more powers in order to combat bribery and corruption. Guruge said the government was now planning to further empower the CIABOC.

Transparency International Executive Director J.C.Weliamuna PC meanwhile said during the former Rajapaksa regime those involved in controlling bribery and corruption feared to arrest or even question those in higher places accused of wrongdoing. Weliamuna said although the two officials arrested were highly placed public servants there was no attempt from government authorities to interfere in the investigation of the CIABOC.Weliamuna went on to say that the above arrests show the commitment and determination of the President Maithripala Sirisena and the Yahapalna government to combat bribery and corruption effectively.