In the aftermath of the revelations about Hon. Dayasiri Jayasekera MP receiving money from a company controlled by Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) wishes to once again raise the need to introduce interest registers for members of parliament and other public representatives as an important step towards preventing corruption.
TISL has consistently highlighted the existence of a nexus between business and politics and this has been exposed yet again by the revelation before the Fort magistrate’s court that Hon. Dayasiri Jayasekara MP, received a cheque of Rs 1 Million, as a campaign donation from Walt & Row Associates, a company closely associated to Perpetual Treasuries. The revelation before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Bond Issuances of the relationship between then Finance Minister Hon. Ravi Karunanayake MP, and the alleged perpetrators of the bond scam, underscores the fact that this nexus knows no party boundaries.
Speaking on the subject, TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere noted, “A cabinet decision has already been made on the need to limit election campaign spending and the government has rhetorically stated its commitment to amending the Asset Declaration law to ensure that wealth information can be shared publicly. Public oversight is an essential component of tackling opaque financial dealings. However, at every turn we have found lethargy among the leadership both in the executive and the legislature, when it comes to taking steps that will ensure greater accountability of public representatives. At this stage it is clear that lethargy is tantamount to complicity and urgent action to introduce interest registers needs to be taken”.
An interest register allows both monetary and in kind donations to be publicly recorded. This not only assists in holding MPs accountable, but also provides a standardised mechanism for public representatives to legitimately receive contributions from donors. This importantly can protect MPs from future sinister aspersions being cast over seemingly clandestine donations. This can also allow for potential conflicts of interest to be proactively disclosed.
Sri Lanka was an early signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2003, which compels State Parties to consider the adoption of legislative and administrative measures to enhance transparency in the funding of candidates and political parties. Article 156A of the Constitution, introduced by the 19th Amendment, enshrines the obligation to adopt legislation to implement the UNCAC and other international conventions relating to the prevention of corruption. The need to act on these constitutional obligations is long overdue.