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Fraudsters must be dealt with fast - Champika

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Minister of Power and Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka warned that the government needed to act quicker in taking action against individuals who were facing corruption charges as the public would start to lose trust in it if more such persons were allowed to flee the country.

Speaking to The Nation, Minister Ranawaka said the government ‘had already been far too late’ in acting in some matters related to corruption. He said statements given by individuals such as former DIG Vass Gunawardena and Parliamentarian Mervyn Silva allegedly implicating various members of the former regime in corruption needed to be urgently investigated. “There are also credible charges regarding misappropriation of funds in the Samurdhi program as well as various schemes connected to Temple Trees where funds had been collected. In addition, there are many allegations of corruption connected to the ministries of Finance and Defence,” he further revealed. The allegation that private security firm Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd. had hundreds of unlicensed firearms in its possession was another matter that required urgent investigation, he stressed.

To this end, the new government has now established a high level ‘Committee against Corruption’ under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to investigate large scale corruptions that had taken place in the recent past. Minister Ranawaka, who is a member of the committee, explained that it would particularly focus on areas that may not necessarily come under the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and the Public Accounts Committee, both of which are Parliamentary bodies.

“For example, the COPE would investigate audit reports of various public enterprises. The Public Accounts Committee can investigate the Road Development Authority (RDA). But if we take something like the expressway, they are undertaken by private contractors. We will be looking into their dealings as well,” he pointed out. The new anti-corruption committee would also focus on the abuse of state resources during the recently concluded presidential election. Ranawaka said the government could explore setting up a body such as the Criminal Justice Commission that was established by the government in 1971 to prosecute those detained following the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uprising.

“The Criminal Justice Commission was established in order to speedily prosecute the detained individuals. However, we would have to pass through a special Act through Parliament to establish such a body. But that is one avenue we can look at when it comes to taking action quickly against those facing corruption charges,” the minister noted.

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