J.C.Weliamuna, the man heading the chapter of Transparency International in Sri Lanka is under the microscope for allowing himself to be compensated (a polite way of saying bribed) to the tune of Rs.3.5 million by the government of Sri Lanka to conduct a well-publicized which hunt of SriLankan Airlines’ previous management. In fairness to the government, it has been transparent in its objectives from the get go; find dirt on former Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and CEO Kapila Chandrasena at any cost. The government was quite forthright about the impending mud fest. Surprisingly, the lack of transparency has come from Weliamuna; the long self-declared conscience of the nation. Here is a man who has been perched on the pedestal of good, transparent and accountable government for a decade suddenly coming to the conclusion that it was all good and glorious to accept a paid appointment by a government to conduct an inquiry into the actions of certain targeted individuals close to the previous regime.
Even more damaging has been Weliamuna’s reluctance to provide the details of the payment to the public. Mr.Transparent has become Mr.Obdurate. The transformation has been swift, sneaky and snivelling. It didn’t have to come to this. Most reasonable people who have an idea about the goals of Transparency International will know that Weliamuna’s job was probably long on designation and short on compensation. The NGO world is quick and generous on bestowing accolades, titles and platitudes but tend to be less forthcoming when it comes to compensation. So, in fairness to Weliamuna, one should entertain the thought that it is more than likely that he was not adequately compensated for his professional services at Transparency International. While some may question the motivations and the selectivity of Transparency International and Weliamuna, it would be unfair to paint the whole Weliamuna canvas with a partisan brush. Weliamuna has done yeomen work with the organization to educate the public about the codependency of transparency and good governance. He and his organization have galvanized and motivated a whole generation to demand that our government be held accountable for their actions and that we the people are kept in the light about the processes of governing. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Weliamuna and his organization for those efforts.
Unfortunately, it seems as if Weliamuna stopped listening to his own advice about the importance of transparency and accountability in the public sector after the recent Presidential elections. Many of us are aware that Transparency International was deeply critical about the lack of transparency and accountability of the Rajapaksa regime. Many of us would agree with that assertion and are thankful that the issue never lost relevance due to the efforts of people like Weliamuna. Democracy and civil society are greatly indebted for individuals such as Weliamuna. They are the bread and butter of democracy. With that accolade comes some heavy personal responsibility. When one’s job is to highlight the ethical deficiencies of the public domain, that individual must be extra vigilant about the ethical obligations of self. In reality, a person such as Weliamuna must know that their behaviour and actions, both in public and private must remain above reproach. Their position demands it and that position cannot exist in spite of it.
In this particular instance, J.C.Weliamuna has made a colossal double blunder of judgement by agreeing first to oversee this particular inquiry and then accepting compensation for conducting the inquiry. The simple facts are Sri Lankan Air is a public entity and as such the management is accountable to the public. The allegations of wrong doing and financial malfeasance at SriLankan are for the law of the land to deal with.
Weliamuna was appointed by the Wickremesinghe government to inquire into the allegations. The committee had no jurisdiction other than to listen to individuals to confirm the suspicions. The committee’s findings have no standing in law other than to cast aspersions on the personal integrity of the individuals vilified by witnesses.
So, where does that leave Weliamuna in terms of this whole sorry mess? He could pretend as if he has not done anything unsavory by agreeing to conduct this sham of an inquiry and then accept compensation for same; he could explain his decision to undertake this obviously partisan venture and resign from Transparency International forthwith; or he could provide the details of how the Rs.3.5 million and any other expenditure was disbursed.
The ball is on Weliamuna’s court. Considering the ridicule factor etched in the public’s conscience regarding this issue, the decision should be simple and obvious.