It is a national need to protect the whistleblowers. Concerted effort in one voice by the citizens would enable it to become a fundamental right at this juncture when a constitutional reform process is underway, the former Auditor General SC Mayadunne said.
He made this declaration on 26 July while addressing the press conference to mark the launch of the policy on encouragement and protection of whistleblowers. He called for action to develop this policy to be an Act of parliament and to incorporate all financial regulations in the establishment code and regulations under the local government Act.
At the launching event all trade unions, civil society organizations and social activists became signatory to the policy document prepared by the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) comprising of Transparency International, anti-corruption activists, professionals and academics.
Addressing the gathering, Saman Rathnapriya, a Co Convener of CAC said one of the obstacles in eradicating corruption in this country has been the lack of action on the protection of those who come forward to expose corruption. This was despite the building up of public opinion against corruption and the establishment of several anti-corruption bodies.
“There are serious issues about the safety of whistleblowers. In recent times the whistleblowers faced harassment and threats. They lost their employment, received punishment transfers, faced threats; they were even assaulted and murdered. These were the reasons that discouraged whistleblowers”. There is this belief that anyone can get away with corruption. This policy is just the start to change that perception. We had lengthy discussions with the Transparency international to compile this. The government must recognize this. It is the duty of the government to give legal effect to this without any further delay”.
Joseph Stalin the CAC Co Convener said the government is duty bound to protect the whistle blowers when what is being witnessed is action to undermine them.
“There is no protection for whistleblowers. They are given punishment transfers or indicted on false charges. In any ministry is it education, health or any other the chief disciplinary officer is the ministry secretary. He must protect the whistleblowers not undermine them. The provision as per clause 56 under section 47 in the establishment code is used by the officials to undermine the whistleblower. The whistleblower uses the media to expose corruption. In terms of the said provision in the establishment code whistleblowers cane be dismissed from service for exposing corruption in the media. We can give enough and more examples of such cases. There have been many who were interdicted for exposing corruption though media. Without repealing this section in the establishment code we will not be able to eradicate corruption. If the government has a genuine desire to curb corruption they must take appropriate action. They must protect the whistleblower. It is the absence of such governmental action that has made us to formulate this policy by consulting the experts and academics”. The government must give due recognition to this”.
Others who addressed the press conference were trade unionists representing over 60 trade unions in the CAC, Chiefs of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association and the Free Media Movement, Attorney at law AK Chandrakantha, the former Deputy Commissioner General of the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption, Shan Wijethunga, the Senior Manager,TISL, Ananda Jayasekera, the Program Manager, anti-corruption, TISL