Sri Lanka's independent commissions toast of the world: PM

COLOMBO ( The Island/ANN ) - The independent commission system in place in Sri Lanka had received admiration from the entire world, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday.

Moving a resolution to increase the emoluments and other allowances of Chairpersons and Members of the Independent Commissions, the PM said democracy had been established in the country and people were enjoying their freedoms as never before due to the government’s commitment to upholding independence of state institutions.

"Today, all these strikes are mushrooming because people have freedom. Those who are involved in them know that they won’t be abducted in white vans and killed. The media freedom is thriving. Can you imagine what would happened to journalists had they clamoured against the previous regime as they are doing now?

"You all are asking for elections today. Public confidence in democratic elections was restored only after the setting up of the independent election commission. It has more decision making powers today," the Prime Minister said, replying to the JO MPs who complained about delays in conducting elections.

"We will definitely hold provincial councils elections. Have no doubts. We held the Local Government Elections even when the situation was not favourable to the government. We could have delayed the LG elections by citing various reasons, but we didn’t do that. We lost and we accepted it. The PC elections will be conducted as soon as possible and we have to agree on the electoral system.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa intervening at this point said elections must be held soon under whatever system. The PM replied that the government preferred the elections to six PCs on the same day, but added that the Elections Commission Chairman would decide whether to conduct the elections to five or six provincial councils.       

"Today, the entire judicial service is independent due to the establishment of judicial service commission. Those days, not even the Chief Justice was spared. The independence of the public service has been restored. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, and Human Rights Commission are doing a commendable job. We asked for these independent commissions even when we were in the Opposition, but those were not given."

The revision of emoluments of independent commission members will be retrospectively effective from June 1. The monthly allowance of Rs. 100,000, paid at present to the non ex-officio Chairpersons of Independent Commissions, has been increased to Rs. 135,000. Ex-officio Chairpersons will receive 50 percent of the monthly allowance paid to the other Chairpersons in addition to salaries and allowances of their substantive posts.

The Chairperson and Members of the Election Commission will be paid 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 is announced.   

The monthly allowance of Rs. 75,000 paid at present to the non ex-officio members of the Independent Commissions (other than Bribery Commission) has been increased to Rs. 90,000. The monthly allowance of Rs. 95,000 paid at present to the Chairman and members of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has been increased to Rs. 130,000.  

Ex-officio Members of the Independent Commissions will be paid an allowance of Rs.10,000 for each meeting they attend.

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