Senior lawyer S. A. Cader sayas that it was the responsibility of Parliament to enact legislation to enable the country to seek UN support for the recovery of stolen public assets.Cader, senior partner at Julius & Creasy emphasised the urgent need to address the issue at hand as part of the overall efforts meant to stabilise the economy.The lawyer said so responding to SLPP National List MP Prof. G. L. Peiris’ recent declaration that cash-strapped Sri Lanka should seek the intervention of the UN’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) run by the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Appreciating the former Foreign Minister’s call, Cader told The Island: “As far as we are aware, mere fact Sri Lanka being a signatory to a UN convention will not make the convention a part and parcel of the Sri Lankan Law, unless a local legislation is enacted by the Parliament to give legal effect to the said convention per se. In this case, pursuant to Parliament passing legislation, the country can look forward to the UN and the World Bank to assist it.”
The joint initiative encourages countries to implement Chapter V of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).Sri Lanka signed the Convention on March 15, 2004 and ratified on March 31, 2004. Attorney-at-law Cader said now that a member of parliament had publicly suggested that Sri Lanka should seek UN assistance to recover stolen assets, political parties represented in parliament should go the whole hog.
Referring to the Supreme Court judgment given on Sept. 15, 2006 pertaining to the high profile Singarasa case, lawyer Cader stressed consequently that the parliament had to provide legal effect to UN Conventions. Nallaratnam Singarasa, who had been arrested for allegedly conspiring between May 1, 1990 and Dec 31, 1991 with the LTTE to attack army camps in the North. Singarasa was arrested on charges under the Prevention on Terrorism Act (PTA).
Addressing the media early this week at SLPP rebels’ Nawala Office, Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka experiencing the worst ever post-independence economic crisis could utilize the StAR to nab those who had stashed away stolen funds, both here and overseas.Prof. Peiris, who served as Foreign Minister twice (2010-2015 and August 2021-April 2022), said that the assistance of the international community and local organizations, specializing in anti-corruption activities, was required as successive governments failed to take tangible measures in that regard.
The recovery of stolen assets should be a priority for the government as it was struggling to cope up with further deterioration of the economic situation, the MP said.The Island sought clarification from former top law academic Prof. Peiris, yesterday (10) as regards the responsibility of parliament to enact law here to provide legal effect to UNCAC, the academic said: “I do not think a parliamentary initiative is essential. The critical factor is political will. The entire process can be triggered by the government taking up the matter with the UN system. Prevailing public mood is very conducive to this.
Former Chairman of Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Prof. Charitha Herath while appreciating the push for recovery of stolen money stressed the need to expose those responsible for waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement over the years. The SLPP National List MP pointed out that the economy was in such a precarious state, those now exercising political power should keep in mind the pending USD 2.9 bn IMF loan facility alone couldn’t save Sri Lankan economy.
Lawmaker Herath urged political parties represented in parliament to reach consensus on how to use the Auditor General’s findings and recommendations pertaining to public sector enterprises as well as disclosures made by parliamentary watchdog committees. The academic alleged that the Parliament a few months ago blocked efforts made by the COPE during his tenure as its Chairman to secure approval for the outfit to submit reports directly to the AG.
Herath stressed that the appraisal of the Attorney General’s Department as well as that of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Corruption (CIABOC) as regards corruption cases was of pivotal importance as both institutions had been criticized. The MP noted that the Opposition requested information pertaining to the cases withdrawn by the AG and CIABOC as well as the outcome of judicial proceedings into high profile cases. Prof. Herath said whatever the initiatives undertaken with external support, the parliament should take tangible measures to ensure the environment required for genuine anti-corruption drive.
Responding to another query, Prof. Herath said there couldn’t be any dispute that anti-corruption efforts had failed so far though some shocking disclosures were made over the years. Actually required action hadn’t been taken on the basis of revelations made before parliamentary watchdog committees.