Capture

A couple of weeks back I suggested that the Speaker introduce a provision whereby all Members of Parliament should be required to get Tax Clearance Certificates, when they enter Parliament and then subsequently each year. I do not think any Member can claim they were not liable for tax when they were elected, given the amounts they spend to get themselves elected. Even if this is supplied by their parties, they are still liable in that they accept such largesse and then spend it.

And certainly Parliament should make provision to ensure they pay tax on the salaries they receive, since unlike other government institutions Parliament does not deduct tax. Even when I was in Parliament, our earnings as Members put us well within the tax paying range, and now, given the massive amounts added on to salaries, Members will definitely fall into the higher categories of tax payers.

Of course there has been no response from Karu, and when I did get a call from his office, it was indicated that they were not interested in my suggestions. This is on a par with his responses early in 2015, when he was supposedly Minister for Democratic Governance, something which he obviously was not interested in though he concealed his contempt for the notion better in those days.

I suggest then that the Assets Declarations of Members of Parliament should be publicly available, with provision for anyone to question the accuracy of what was stated. At the time I was also worried that the claims of the new government about eliminating corruption would be vindictive rather than corrective, and I also suggested that there be no prosecutions provided restitution was made with regard to assets that could not be explained.

Despite my abhorrence of what has happened with regard to the bond scam, I still hold to that principle. I am sorry therefore that the opposition has started talking about jailing people. Though the criminality that occurred does deserve jail terms, what is more important is getting the money back. It makes sense then to introduce legislation to grant an amnesty to those who admit that they have improperly obtained assets – or have received untoward benefits from those with greater responsibility for the plundering – provided they make restititution.

This should be accompanied by a ban on public positions for a specified period. Three years back I was uncertain about whether this too should be mandatory, since I felt that there would be less willingness to come clean if further politics were stopped. But in the present instance I have no doubt whatsoever that those who perpetrated such an insidious scheme should not be allowed any chance to get into the act again.

For they not only plundered the state and enriched themselves outrageously. They also created a climate of corruption, so that it seems even individuals who seemed decent before have been destroyed morally. I was shocked to find Sujeewa Senasinghe so involved with Aloysius – though we had been told that he had been contracted as it were by Ranil to stymie the work of the first COPE investigation.

His preposterous legal intervention to stop publication of the report was clearly an attempt to show his leader how clever he was at fulfilling the responsibility cast upon him – though, as DEW Gunasekara said, he provided us with an opportunity to table the draft report in the Courts and thus make it a public document. Unfortunately, in the boost the government received from the President’s hasty dissolution of Parliament, that Report was forgotten, and hardly any media outlet publicized the horrendous tale it contained.

How the monsters used what seemed the immunity they obtained by that unfortunate dissolution is an even sorrier tale than the first crime. They repeated the process in 2016, with Ravi having the gall to tell the State Banks to bid at a low rather of interest – instructions those partners in crime, I would claim, followed not once but twice, concealing this till now. And Aloysius was able to win the allegiance it seems of those like Ajith Perera who had seemed relatively decent before.

Ceylon Today 21 Nov 2017

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