Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
By Ashwin Hemmathagama
The establishment of independent commissions under the Unity Government has elevated democracy to new heights and garnered global accolades, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday while seeking House approval to increase the allowances of the members of all commissions appointed by the Constitutional Council of Parliament.
According to the motion, Cabinet approved revising the emoluments and other allowances, with effect from 1 June 2018, paid to the chairpersons and members of the nine independent commissions stipulated in the schedule of Article 41B of the Sri Lankan Constitution as amended by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Accordingly, the motion sought to increase the monthly allowance of Rs. 100,000 paid at present to the chairpersons of independent commissions other than those of the ex-officio chairpersons to Rs. 135,000 and to continue to pay the other allowances paid in addition at present unchanged; and whereas pay a monthly allowance equivalent to 50% of the monthly allowance paid to chairpersons of independent commissions to ex-officio chairpersons of independent commissions in addition to the salaries and allowances of their substantive posts.
It was also proposed to increase the monthly allowance of Rs. 75,000 paid at present to the non-ex-officio members of other independent commissions other than the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruptions, to Rs. 90,000 and to continue to pay the other allowances paid in addition at present unchanged; and continue to pay to the ex-officio members an allowance of Rs. 10,000 for attending a meeting of the commission in terms of the provisions of the Public Enterprises Circular No. 03/2015, dated 17 June 2015; and whereas since the powers have been delegated equally to the Chairperson and Members of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruptions under Section 8 of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption Act, No. 19, of 1994, increase the monthly allowance of Rs. 95,000 paid at present to the members to Rs. 130,000 and to continue to pay the other allowances paid in addition at present unchanged; and pay to the Chairperson and Members of the Election Commission a special allowance equivalent to three-fourths of their monthly allowance during the period from the day an election is declared to the day the results of that election are announced.
“These motions are moved to increase the allowances of the members of the independent committees we have established. Today we are able to maintain democracy as a result of establishing these independent commissions. The Elections Commission proved that there is an independent election in this country. Be it the 2015 election or the recent election we had, in reality we were able to establish a proper Constitutional Council, which was able to appoint independent commissions. Appointing an independent Judicial Commission is there to provide necessary protection to the entire judicial service. But there was no protection in this country, not even for the Chief Justice then,” said the Prime Minister, despite the interruption from the UPFA Joint Opposition.
Highlighting the roles the commissions have played to establish democracy in the country, the Prime Minister said: “Secondly there is an Elections Commission, which takes all decisions. We are unable to influence the Elections Commission. The integrity of the state employees is also upheld by a commission. A Bribery Commission is also established. There is a Human Rights Commission as well. Our measures to uphold independent mechanism are commended globally. We wanted this system before but it was not allowed by the previous Government. We held elections at times when it was unfavourable for us.”
“Look at the media freedom prevailing in the country. You can stage protests simply because white vans are not operational to abduct and kill. Soon after Maithripala Sirisena became the President, the Government was able to establish democracy. Please accept the facts. Don’t worry, we are going to hold elections. What we are discussing now is the system to be followed – the old system or the new system. There can be issues with these independent commissions now in function for the first time. Let us get together and increase the allowances of the members of these commissions,” he added.
However, former president and current UPFA Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa brought up the case of a police officer being denied promotion due to two charges sheets held at the Police Commission. Asking the Government to be lenient over the promotion of the officer despite the charges levelled against him, Rajapaksa said: “There is no point in increasing the salaries of the members of the Police Commission if the IGP is not allowing the decisions the commission has taken to be executed. The promotion of Palitha Siriwardena is one such example. This is not a political issue. You need to be more sensitive with regards to his charges.”
In response, Public Administration and Management and Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said: “Do let us know which decision of the Police Commission was not allowed to be executed as recommended. There are two charges against Senior Superintendent of Police Palitha Siriwardena who is expecting a promotion to Deputy Inspector General. The charges sheets have been sent to the Police Commission. According to the establishment code, promotions are not allowed for those who have charge sheets against them.”