Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is concerned by the lack of transparency surrounding the proposed investment in the Eastern Container Terminal of the Colombo Harbour. Key amongst TISL’s concerns is the non-compliance with provisions of the Right to Information Act which specifically outlines the duty of the subject Minister in charge of the project to communicate all information to the public in a timely manner.
Section 9 (1) of the RTI Act states, “It shall be the duty of the Minister, to whom the subject pertaining to any project has been assigned, to communicate, three months prior to the commencement of such project, to the public generally, and to any particular persons who are likely to be affected by such project all information relating to the project that is available with the Minister, as on the date of such communication”.
The concerns around the lack of transparency with regard to this project are further exacerbated by reports that the investment will be undertaken at least in part by the Adani group of India, which has been implicated in several allegations of improper business practices, fraud, and corruption globally and with alleged links to tax havens in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands. These links and allegations were further explored in the investigative report “Digging into Adani” featured on the current affairs program “Four Corners” which was aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in October 2017.
TISL Executive Director, Attorney-at-Law Nadishani Perera said, “The Government needs to note that all public resources belong to the citizens of this country and that the government’s role is to act as the custodian of these resources, in the best interest of the country. Therefore, the Government has a responsibility to the people and a legal responsibility as enshrined in the RTI Act, to proactively disclose all information relating to this proposed investment related to the Eastern Container Terminal.”
TISL views the involvement of the Adani group as a factor that necessitates enhanced scrutiny of the proposed investment by the relevant authorities, including the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Such scrutiny would also be in line with the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force which are the internationally endorsed global standards against money laundering and terrorism financing.
TISL also wishes to note that when the organization raised similar concerns with regard to the proposed Mirijjawila Oil Refinery project in March 2019, then opposition Members of Parliament who currently hold positions in the Cabinet of Ministers, saw fit to raise the issue on the floor of the house and sought to ensure the accountability of the Government at the time.
Perera added, “We hope that these legislators will now hold their own Government to the same standard of transparency and accountability. The Eastern Container Terminal is a national resource that belongs to the people of Sri Lanka and it would be unseemly to reach any agreement whether as a Government-to-Government deal or as a Public-Private Partnership, whilst precluding the public from accessing all relevant information relating to the project”.
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