Presidential commissions cost Rs 270M What has happened to their reports?

71266_feef1vdvdvdCurrently, the general public has been made to believe that special commissions of inquiry are a method used by the government to simply suppress dissent or Opposition by the people on certain matters, and as a time consuming method, when the government wants to avoid certain issues from being addressed.
As the time passes, one forgets what commission was appointed to look into what particular issue. A follow-up on such commissions was hardly carried out and whether the commission submits a report to the appointing authority or whether the government or relevant authorities have adopted recommendations made by such commissions, remain a lesser known fact.
 
 
On the other hand, while many decry such commissions as merely time consuming, what most people forget is they virtually drain public money from government coffers, which could otherwise have been invested for the betterment of the country and its people.
In this backdrop, a debate on amending laws pertaining to the appointment of special commissions of inquiry and tabling such commission reports in Parliament, took place last week in Parliament with the revelation that some 17 commissions of inquiry have been appointed by the President in the past nine years and these had cost over Rs 270 million.
 
 
Responding to an oral question, raised by DNA MP and the leader of the JVP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Chief Government Whip, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said some 17 Presidential Commissions were appointed from 2005 to 2013 and they had cost the Government coffers
Rs. 272,793,583.
 
 
It was revealed that 16 out of those 17 commissions had submitted their reports to the President except for the presidential commission of inquiry into the procurement of high-value weapons, other military equipment and services to the Sri Lanka Navy during the period 2001-2005 which had cost Rs 11,626,751.
JVP Leader Dissanayake demanded to know whether the reports of said commissions would be presented to Parliament or if not why.
 
 
Commissions to probe controversial issues
“Even though a list of 17 commissions was submitted, what about those various other commissions appointed from time to time? The commissions were appointed to look into the murder in Chilaw, the murder in Katunayake, the events that unfolded in Rathupaswala. A Presidential Commission is appointed whenever some sort of controversial situation occurs in the country. However, we have no right to know what the findings of these commissions are. Headlines are printed saying the President intervenes and appoints a three-man commission or a commission consisting of one person, or commissions consisting of retired persons or university lecturers. Honourable speaker, please present the reports of these commissions before Parliament, I would like to know why this isn’t being done,” Dissanayake queried.
 
 
A presidential commission is appointed by the President under powers vested in him or her by the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Act No 4 of 1978 which has no specific clause stating that the reports of such commission should be tabled in Parliament.
 
 
By law, the commission is only obliged to submit its report to the President who is the appointing authority.
However, Dissanayake queried whether it is only what was mentioned in an Act or Clause that should be disclosed in Parliament.
“On the other hand, this House has every right to know everything. These are not mere incidents. These commissions were about procurement of high valued weapons, controversial killings and Disappearances. It is okay to blow the trumpet when a commission is appointed but not a word is uttered when the report is submitted. If these commissions are appointed with public money and if the Parliament has a right to know monetary matters of this country, how come we do not have a right to know about these presidential commissions?” Dissanayake queried.
 
 
Commission to inquire into the occurrence of tsunami on 26 December 2004
The commission which was appointed on 7 February 2005 by then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was a two member committee. Retired Supreme Court Judge Hector Seneviratne Yapa was appointed as the president of the commission while retired Court of Appeal Judge P.H.K. Kulatillake was appointed as the other member.
The scope of the commission was to find whether the relevant authorities responsible had taken measures to forecast and pre-warn the possible occurrence of a natural disaster (tsunami). If so, whether those actions were adequate and also to find out steps to improve a pre-warning mechanism for disaster management.
 
 
Though the final report was not publicised and handed over to the President, a disaster management centre and a tsunami warning system was established in the country following this commission which cost a total of Rs 20 million.
Commission to inquire into the incidents of attacks on alleged LTTE cadres in East
The commission headed by High Court Judge J. Vishwanathan also had T.M.P.B. Warawewa as a member and was entrusted with the task of investigating the incidents of attacks on LTTE activists operating in the Eastern Province, mainly in the districts of Batticaloa and Ampara.
 
 
The commission which was appointed by President Kumaratunga on 3 March 2005 had cost government coffers more than
Rs 11 million at the conclusion.
Commission to inquire into the allegations made against Reginald Cooray
The commission appointed on 26 May 2005, once again by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, comprised a retired Court of Appeal Judge Chandradasa Nanayakkara as the president and Chairman of the Finance Commission A.S. Gunawardena as a member.
 
 
It was directed to investigate allegations mentioned in the no confidence motion against Western Province Chief Minister Cooray, by several councillors of the WPC and cost Rs 2.7 million.
The motion suggested that Western Province Chief Minister Reginald Cooray had acted against Regulations to secure political advantage.
 
 
Commission to inquire into the procurement of high-value weapons to the Sri Lanka Navy
President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed Justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga as the one-man Commission to inquire into matters arising out of the procurement of high value weapons on 6 March 2006.
The Commission was tasked with also looking into other procurements of military material and services during the period 2001 to 2005 by the Sri Lanka Navy. Sri Lanka Administrative Service retired senior officer Edmund Jayasuriya served as the Secretary to the Commission.
 
 
The scope of the commission was to see whether there was a real requirement for the purchases, whether proper tender procedures were followed or in the event it was not adhered to, whether there was any legal rationale. The commission was to also investigate and report to the President whether the government has incurred any losses as a result of these procurements and if so who was responsible.
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament that the final report on this commission has not been submitted yet even though it had cost Rs 11.6 million.
 
 
Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into procurement of High Value Weapons by GOSL
The Presidential Commission appointed to Inquire into Procurement of High Value Weapons, other Military Equipment and Services during 2000-2005 by the Government of Sri Lanka was a three-member committee headed by Supreme Court Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane.
 
 
Mandate of the commission was to inquire and report on matters relating to the procurement of weapons, other military equipment, material and services closing in excess of Rs 100 million each by the Government of Sri Lanka during the period 2000-2005. The commission was also mandated to find out whether government tender procedures were violated in the process and whether any losses were incurred.
 
 
The commission appointed on 24 April 2006 costs the government a sum of
Rs 12.4 million and the final report was submitted to the President in January 2007.
Commission to inquire the killing of TNA Parliamentarian
A two-member Commission of Inquiry to probe the murder of Batticaloa district Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham headed by former Judge Mahanama Tillekeratne and had former magistrate S.V.P. Munidasa Nanayakkara as a member.
 
 
It was mandated to inquire into and obtain information in respect of the circumstances relating to the assassination of the late Joseph Pararajasingham in Batticaloa on or about 25 December 2005 and the person or persons directly or indirectly responsible for such killing. The ommission also examined whether the manner in which the investigations were carried out by the Police and other security personnel was adequate and impartial having due regard to the proceedings established by law.
 
 
The commission, which was appointed on 24 April 2006 concluded sessions in March 2007 and submitted the report to the President but the findings remain unpublicised.
 
 
Presidential Commission on the Disappeared
The commission headed by former judge Mahanama Tillekaratne was vested powers to examine the circumstances that led to such incidents of abductions, disappearances, unidentified dead bodies and unexplained killings as were reported throughout Sri Lanka in the few months till 13 September 2006.
 
 
The commission was also mandated to identify any armed group or groups, any other forces or persons who were directly or indirectly responsible for or involved in these incidents, to identify the causes and motives for such incidents, to assess the adequacy of the security arrangements made by the police and the security forces to prevent such incidents. Commission was appointed on 15 September 2006 and the mandate was extended and changed on 11 July 2007. It had submitted two interim reports on 12 December 2006 and 23 March 2007 before submitting the final report.
 
 
The Commission of Inquiry into serious HR violations
This commission appointed to investigate and inquire into serious violations of Human Rights which are alleged to have arisen in Sri Lanka since
1 August 2005 to 16 October 2006 is popularly referred to as the Udalagama Commission as it was headed by SC Justice Nissanka Udalagama. “To cause independent and comprehensive investigations into incidents involving alleged serious violations of human rights arising since 1 August 2005, specifically including serious violations of human rights specified in the schedule of the warrant of the commission.To examine the adequacy and propriety of the investigations that were conducted pertaining to such incidents amounting to serious violations of human rights and to present a report or such Interim Reports to the President, as may be appropriate containing the findings of the commission’s investigations and inquiries and its recommendations,” the mandate of the commission stated.
 
 
In this regard the CoI was mandated to look into the facts surrounding the incident, the identity of the victims and the nature of their injuries, the circumstances that led to the incidents, the identities of the perpetrators, the efficacy of the investigations into the incident, and recommend measures to be taken against the perpetrators in accordance with the laws of Sri Lanka and appropriate measures of reparation to be provided to the victims of serious violations of human rights investigated and inquired into by the CoI and to their next of kin.
 
 
It was also asked to recommend measures to be taken by the government to prevent such incidents in the future.
Presidential Commission of Inquiry on failed finance companies
The commission presided by retired SC judge Priyantha Perera was mandated to examine the individual conduct for the deficiencies associated in connection with the items highlighted in the COPE (Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises) report, dated 22 June 2005, by relevant officials of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), who were in charge of the regulation and supervision of banking and non-banking financial sectors during the period 1991 to 2005 and to inquire into and report on the payment of advances to the failed finance companies by the CBSL and whether the recovery of such payments could be made from the failed finance companies and what action could be taken against the directors of such failed finance companies.
 
 
The commission appointed on 28 February 2007 concluded its work on 15 December 2008 and submitted the report to President Rajapaksa. The total cost borne by the government was Rs 25 million.
JVP Leader Dissanayake said when the commissions complete their work and submit reports, a proper discussion should have been initiated to create awareness among people but what happens today is these reports end up as bulky documents and remain a costly exercise that helps administrations to buy time and sweep matters of concern under the carpet.