The Parliament of Sri Lanka has recently enacted the Inland Revenue (Special Provisions) Act No. 10 of 2003 to be aimed at indemnifying persons from liability to pay certain outstanding taxes/dues and affording them protection from investigations, prosecution and penalties.Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) appreciates the rationale behind this scheme: to grant people an opportunity to comply with their obligations vis a vis the due revenues to the country and to give those persons a deadline to comply – so that those persons may thereafter carry on as honest citizens.
TISL however is concerned of the fact that the Government has attempted via this Act, to grant a blanket immunity which applies in respect of many other statutes outside the recognised tax statutes, such as the Customs Ordinance, Excise Ordinance and Exchange Control Act etc. Comparison may be drawn to similar legislation in countries such as Germany, where exemptions granted under such schemes do not extend to immunity from pending investigation and do not nullify existing court actions already instituted; as is contemplated in this instance.
TISL is of the view that the present law in its present form contains provisions, which are contrary to basic principles of transparency and accountability, which may be detrimental to the international fight against money laundering
In that backdrop, TISL is of the firm opinion that no legislation should be framed in a manner that encourages corruption. It is imperative that legislative steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka Act should not be seen by the world as steps that invite and protect illegal money, the origins of which are either unknown or questionable.
In view of the above concerns, TISL strongly urges the Government of Sri Lanka to conform to its international responsibilities in the light of recent international developments to fight global corruption and eliminate money laundering at all levels. Our Government is also urged to cooperate with the international community in their collective efforts to eliminate money laundering and global corruption.