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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1891

Is the Fraud & Corruption Investigation Division (FCID) agenda the mother of all political witch hunts in Sri Lanka?

By Raj Gonsalkorale

The Sri Lanka Gazette notification 1901/20 dated the 13th February 2015 setting up the Fraud & Corruption Investigation Division (FCID) within the Sri Lankan Police Department (as per copy below) is unambiguously clear that it will investigate complaints forwarded to it by the Secretariat established by the cabinet subcommittee under the patronage of the Hon Prime Minister, and any special complaints forwarded to it directly by the cabinet subcommittee which is headed by the Prime Minister.

The notification also says the Division shall have the powers to investigate within all jurisdictions established in Sri Lanka.

It is clear that the FCID has extraordinary powers to investigate when directed to do so by a political body that cannot be called an unbiased body. In this context, the FCID is not an independent division within the Police department where the IGP can direct them to pursue particular complaints and which could, within internal regulations and guidelines, make decisions as to which complaint is to be investigated.

Investigating any possible corrupt activities by any person however high the office that person holds or has held is not the issue. In fact higher the office, deeper and extensive the investigations should be as the trust placed on such a person by the people demands such investigations in order to establish whether that person has violated that trust.

However, there cannot be a policy of selectivity in pursuing such a policy, and investigations limited to political opponents of the regime in power. The activities of the FCID could have been deemed just and fair if they had total independence to make their own decisions as to which complaints should be investigated in some order of priority.

Considering that they do not have this freedom, some might say, “Pigs will fly” if they investigate a complaint they may receive against a UNP minister or Parliamentarian, as obviously they will not be asked to so by the cabinet subcommittee headed by the Prime Minister.

The FCID is unquestionably there to investigate complaints only against those who are therefore opposed to the Prime Minister and the members of the cabinet sub committee.

Naturally the Prime Minister will not pursue small fish and people who are not a threat to him politically even if they do not belong to the UNP. It is therefore not a huge intellectual exercise to guess who the big fish that are being pursued and who is the biggest of them all is.

The biggest political threat to the Prime Minister is the former President, and one doesn’t have to second guess who the biggest target of the Prime Minister is.

Discrediting the former President and those close to him like his family and close associates is therefore the sole purpose in setting up this flawed investigation division which is handcuffed and released only to do the Prime Ministers bidding.

So much for Yahapalanaya.

If the President and the government was genuinely interested in pursuing any misdeeds and misdemeanors of any member of the previous government, they should have made it a nonpolitical exercise considering that the old regime is well represented in the new regime, with the President himself heading the list of former old regime stalwarts now being part of the new regime, and none of them being investigated even if there were complaints against them unless the Prime Minister decided it should be done.

One wonders, in bewilderment, what would have happened if the roles were reversed and the Prime Minister today was the former President, and those being investigated were UNP politicians. The world’s conservative forces would have descended on Sri Lanka and the country would have been hurled before every possible world body and made a Pariah State, accused of being a totalitarian regime hell bent on destroying democracy and good governance.

One is reminded how the present Prime Ministers mentor, his uncle and former President, did something similar to a former Prime Minister and removed her as a political threat to him, managing as a result, to wield absolute power for 12 years. The great democrat he claimed he was, held signed, undated letters of resignation from his parliamentarians to make sure they did his bidding, with the threat that he would date the letters and forward them to the Secretary General of the Parliament if anyone stepped out of line.

The Prime Ministers action here in setting up a FCID that takes orders from him, is bound to undermine the very objective of addressing any misdeeds or misdemeanors of the past. While whoever who allegedly engaged in such activities should be investigated and held to account if found guilty by a Court of Law, it should have been done by an agency at arm’s length of the government. Especially so considering several powerful members of the previous regime, including the man who holds the highest public office in the land now, was an integral part of the higher echelons of the previous regime for 10 years.

As there is no way that neither the President nor any of the ministers of the previous government or their relatives will be investigated by the FCID even if serious complaints were brought against them, the current biased and partisan process is highly flawed and certainly cannot be labeled as a measure of good governance by any stretch of imagination.

If allegations being leveled against the political opponents of the Prime Minister cannot be proven in a Court of Law, the very act of harassing them by arresting them and remanding them, although these are civil cases and not criminal cases, and accusing them of corruption and misdemeanors without a basis, will boomerang on the Prime Minister, as his political opponents will use these unproven and unsubstantiated, therefore false accusations, as nothing but mudslinging, and use it to their political benefit.

The rule of the former President who mentored the present Prime Minister cannot be considered a successful one by any yardstick. His undemocratic governance, including the use of a simple majority at a referendum to extend his 5/6th majority in Parliament by a further 6 years, cannot be regarded as a good example to emulate.

The example of setting up a special court to try a former Prime Minister, the biggest political threat to him, when she should have been tried if at all by the existing courts of law, cannot be considered the work of a just democrat. The former Presidents failure to act initially to prevent the disgrace of 1983, and then to stop the organized violence against the Tamils when it happened, has to be regarded as being characteristic of a weak leader and someone who had no heart. 1983 was genocide against the Tamils and the former President has to take full responsibility for that.

His adversity towards an important and powerful neighbor, India, and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, cannot be regarded as a hallmark of a Statesman. The resultant growth of LTTE terrorism in the North and the East, and the growth of JVP terrorism in the South throughout most of his tenure were not hallmarks of a Nation at peace.

It is this mentor who the current Prime Minister is trying to emulate with his undemocratic governance style with a vendetta mindset very much like his mentor. He seems to be doing what he accused the predecessor President of doing, rather than leading Sri Lanka away from the totalitarian trajectory he accused the predecessor President of leading Sri Lanka to.

Sri Lankans recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the previous regime. They do not wish to have a new regime that tries to outdo the negatives of that regime, but one which could outdo their positives and negate the negatives. They do not wish to be pushed into the fire from the frying pan as it were, if indeed the Prime Minister considered the country was in a frying pan, although many would disagree with him on that.

Criticism of the present regime is not a hankering for the previous regime. If it is the people’s choice at a general election to hand back the political administration of the country back to the previous regime, that would be their wish. If this were to happen, the people will expect the previous regime to have shed their negatives, learnt from their mistakes and to have strengthened their positives.

Sri Lankans would wish to look forward to a future full of potential and not go backwards and fall back into the hole they came out from.

- Asian Tribune -

Is the Fraud & Corruption Investigation Division (FCID) agenda the mother of all political witch hunts in Sri Lanka?
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