A Supreme Court judge has said the public officer who was found to be responsible for the loss to the State and whose actions were held to be arbitrary and ultra vires in the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Lanka Marine Services Limited (LMSL) privatization and ordered to pay Rs.500,000 as compensation to the State will 'no doubt be an eye-opener not only to errant public officers but all members of the public service in general.'
Justice Saleem Marsoof made these comments at the recent memorial oration for former Attorney General, the late K.C. Kamalasabayson. Although not mentioned by name, the reference to the public officer is Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera. Justice Marsoof added that the failure on the part of an increasingly greater number of public officers to adhere to the principles of good governance have resulted in unfortunate decisions such as the LMSL judgment.
In his oration, Justice Marsoof described Mr. Kamalasabayson as being a 'very honest and straightforward public officer' who expected the same standards of honesty and integrity from every public officer. He described numerous occasions when Mr. Kamalasabayson refused to defend public officers who had acted with corrupt or sinister motives or had yielded to political pressure in the discharge of their duties.
Justice Marsoof said the late Attorney General always respected the concept of 'Sovereignty of the People' with its corollary that all government agencies, whether legislative, executive or judicial, are answerable to the people and must exercise their pwer in trust for the people and in accordance with the 'Rule of Law'.
"It is therefore imperative for good governance that the public has access to accurate, complete and timely information so vital for its decisions," Justice Marsoof said. "Most democracies now have legislation such as the Freedom of Information Acts of the United States and the United Kingdom or the Right to Information Act of India, providing a mechanism through which the public can have access to information and the proper implementation of such legislation has in turn resulted in greater transparency and accountability while reducing the level of corruption in these countries."
He added that although corruption is a global phenomenon, it has a greater impact on developing nations such as Sri Lanka than on more affluent countries, because Third World corruption results in further impoverishment and the diminishment of dwindling resources. Therefore, some legislative mechanism to give members of the public access to information is badly needed in our country.