National Integrity Award Winners
NIA 2008 Winners
Thusitha Pitigala is the producer of ‘Vimarshana’, the investigative programme broadcast over SirasaTV daily.
A student activist from the days he was an undergraduate in the Kelaniya University, he led a lone battle against the dictatorial attitude of the university hierarchy insisting that each student should have the right to express his or her view. He faced severe hardship when he acted against the freshers’ rag and was beaten mercilessly by political activists who did not like his attitudes. The university authorities forced him to leave saying he was creating trouble.
Having a flair for creativity, Pitigala joined the publication ‘Nidahasa’ and later Sirasa FM radio channel as a reporter. He was acting Regional News Editor when he decided to quit protesting against a decision taken by the management against a provincial media person, which he thought was unreasonable.
He then served in Rupavahini attached to the news desk but not for long. Alleging too much interference, he left the State TV channel.
Joining Sirasa TV in December 2005, he introduced investigative journalism to the Channel and started unearthing information about numerous rackets and deals. For nearly three years he has been successful in exposing a crooked deal everyday in the prime time news bulletin.
His exposures covered a wide area including large scale corrupt practices, miscarriage of justice, misdeeds of high officials, political interference, and misuse of public property. Through the programme ‘Vimarshana’, he was able to prevent certain corrupt practices being repeated and also draw the attention of the authorities to take corrective action.
The National Blood Bank issue where outdated plasma kits were used to collect blood samples, was highlighted by Pitigala creating a massive impact among government authorities, trade unions and the general public. It became the talking point in the whole country leading to an investigation by the
Ministry of Health and Nutrition resulting in the Director of the Blood Bank and a senior medical office having to relinquish their duties along with a number of junior staff members.
Pitigala’s contribution in respect of anti-corruption activities as a journalist has been considerable. His revelations through the medium of television have created a wide interest and have had a large impact on the community.
He is a winner of the National Integrity Award 2008.
S Priyantha Fernando
S Priyantha Fernando is a government school teacher who has played a significant role in initiating changes in the administrative setup in the sphere of education in the Raja Rata. He is a trade union leader and a human rights activist. As a student in the Advanced level class at the Horowpotana Madya Maha Vidyalaya, he was a victim of the much-talked about Rotawewa massacre in the aftermath of the Indo-Lanka Accord. That was in August 1989. He had a miraculous escape when a gang of LTTE terrorists opened fire inside the bus he was travelling and killed 29 persons.
Joining the Science Teacher Training College, he successfully agitated for an increase in the monthly salary of a trained teacher from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. His initial action was to boycott the march past of the trainees at the sports meet where the Minister of Education was the chief guest. He spearheaded the movement to form a common front encompassing trainees from all seven science faculties.
Having got an appointment in Billewa Vidyalaya in Tantirimale, where he was soon appointed acting principal, he became an active member of the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union (Lanka Guru Sangamaya) and over the years held all the responsible posts in its Anuradhapura District organization. Amidst severe political pressure and death threats, he sought redress for the many problems faced by teachers of the North Central Province (NCP). Also, he exposed many corrupt practices in the education sector making representations to the Governor NCP, the Bribery Commission and the Auditor General. He succeeded in getting the authorities to take corrective action in the process preventing many a corrupt practice thereby saving millions of rupees.
Among the many initiatives taken by him were a systematic scheme of teacher transfers, challenging unfair political decisions before the Supreme Court, taking action against corrupt practices in the Education Administrative Service examinations, protesting against the appointment of unsuitable persons on political influence to high posts including those of Directors of Education and getting the appointments cancelled, exposing several principals and getting them suspended for accepting bribes of Rs 25,000 to give appointments as voluntary teachers, unearth financial frauds, and preventing the loss of 5 million rupees by allocating 9.7 millions to print mid-year question papers in the NCP.
Although he was harassed in many ways including interdiction several times, he courageously continued on his mission of curbing corrupt practices.
Recognised as a person with strong personal leadership qualities, Priyantha Fernando has been responsible for many anti-corruption initiatives which have had a significant impact.
He is a winner of the National Integrity Award 2008.
Inspector Deshandandu Senaratne – Special Mention
Inspector Deshandandu Senaratne is the Officer-in-Charge, Potuhera police station. Serving in a department that faces severe criticism by the public, his mission is to adopt a completely new framework to minimize corruption.
Joining the Police Department in November 1992, he served in several stations until his appointment to Potuhera in March 2005. He is a firm believer that it is the duty of the police to ensure that the public is treated with utmost courtesy and politeness when they come to the police station to make a complaint or to attend to any other need.
He had the personal experience of being asked for a bribe when he visited the Matale kachcheri all by himself to get his birth certificate. That incident made an indelible mark in his young mind. He soon realised the hardship faced by the average person due to bribery and corruption and took a firm decision to work in his own small way towards building a nation of integrity.
His vision is to make the police a truly public institution. He has taken numerous measures towards achieving this objective. He has devised ways of creating a visitor-friendly environment in the workplace. The Potuhera police station is today very transparent in its activities.
Inspector Senaratne believes that ignorance of rules and regulations as well as one’s rights is one of the main hindrances faced by the public in getting a job done in a government institution. These are clearly displayed at the police station for the public to read and understand. The duties and the responsibilities of a public officer and a police officer are exhibited. Public awareness is also created through posters and handbills which are widely distributed. He also advises the public to be vigilant and if they face any hardship, he has clearly indicated a procedure to complain against any officer. Anyone is free to see him and complain too.
Clear instructions have been documented on how forms can be filled and the public is warned not to be intimidated by anyone. He has publicised that the public is free to complain against him too either to a superior officer or the Police Commission and the procedure to do so has been laid down.
Through a glass window in his room, he watches what’s going on in the office.
His openness and leadership qualities as a junior officer have been highly appreciated.
NIA 2007 Winners
A senior Class 1 officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), Mr Liyanage had earned a reputation as an officer with honesty and integrity. Joining the Administrative Service in 1974, he served as acting Deputy Director – Rural Development Department, Ayurveda Commissioner, Additional Secretary- Ministry of Home Affairs & Local Government, among others. He had an unblemished record for 30 years demonstrating himself as an officer worthy of emulation.
He was never shaken by problems confronting him in discharging his duties according to his conscience or by injustices meted out to him. He was never afraid of acting against persons the moment he heard of a corrupt practice.
While being a senior officer in the SLAS he brought the Secretary to the President before the Supreme Court on certain arbitrary decisions taken by him. He set an example to his colleagues by being able to get those decisions corrected.
He also has the record of having conducted the most number of sensitive disciplinary inquiries.
Shyamala Dharshani Fernando
A trade unionist, Ms Shamala Darshani Fernando stood up to the management of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority thereby exposing the dictatorship, bureaucracy and unfair promotions that took place within the organisation. Not only did she fight the management but also went before the law. She was a courageous person who fought the Ports Authority against bribery and corruption throughout her 35 years of service.
She started her campaign against the Authority in 1973 when she exposed a corrupt deal relating to shipping whereby unauthorized payments being made to middlemen. She succeeded in recovering a sum of Rs 112,000 for the Authority. For 35 years she struggled against corruption and malpractices amidst a lot of hardship.
Continuing her fight against unjust decisions by top officials, Shamala went before the Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court several times both as a trade unionist and as an individual and succeeded in obtaining redress. She contributed a great deal towards preventing misappropriation of government funds by alerting the Bribery Commission.
NIA 2006 Winners
Sarath C Mayadunne
Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne has been one of Sri Lanka’s most outstanding Auditor Generals. He transformed and strengthened the Auditing service which had become defunct and fallen out of public sight into a service that the people could see and feel. In this regard his work has been pioneering and of utmost importance to the people.
He drafted constitutional amendments to strengthen the Auditor General’s department, introduced a new Audit Act and restructured the impoverished department.
Even when he was under threat and undue influence he chose to let his audit reports reflect the facts that had been uncovered during the audit process. He was responsible for putting before Parliament the Interim Report on the response to the tsunami and the special projects audit report containing information on the 3.6 billion rupee VAT scam. Mayadunne is a dedicated government official who has never feared to voice his opinion and raise awareness among the people.
B. A. W. Abeywardhana
B. A. W. Abeywardhana is a renowned internal auditor. He has held many investigations into issues of discipline in various government offices and ministries. In the past decade he has been involved in over 300 such investigations. He has maintained the standards of his profession and has persisted with investigations paying little heed to the stature or reputation of those being investigated. Through his exemplary work he has altered the very nature of internal auditing in this country.
Many leading politicians, department heads and senior government officials have been charged during his investigations. Even when these individuals have used threats and intimidation against Abeywardhana to stop their malpractices from being brought to light he has continued with unwavering commitment to his task.
Among the many incidents that he has investigated some of the key ones are the investigation into the Irrigation Department director who built a house with 15 million rupees meant for irrigation projects in Hambantota and Monaragala, the fraud of 15 million in fuel in the Eru Wewa development project and the investigation into the Central Province Social Service Department scam to spend 46 million rupees on purchasing spectacles.
Damayanthi Monica De Silva (Special Mention)
Damayanthi Monica De Silva is woman with ultimate determination who has been an example to all women.She was working as a female security officer at the National Housing Development Authority when she approached her Senior Security Manager regarding a transfer. When he asked her for a sexual favour in return for arranging her transfer she vehemently refused his advances and decided to confront the issue by reporting him to the Bribery Commission.
Subsequently, in a successful sting operation carried out with the assistance of the Bribery Commission her senior was arrested. After a lengthy trial his demand for sexual favours was interpreted as seeking a ‘gratification’ under the Bribery Act and the offending Senior Security Manager was sentenced to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. This was the first time such a judgment had been passed in Sri Lanka.
Even though her senior officer had powerful political connections, Damayanthi did not give into his advances. She ignored threats to her personal safety and pursued her cause with determination and ultimately changed the way the law is interpreted.
NIA 2005 Winner
Upananda Senarathne, the Director of the Department of Weights and Measures is a scientist.When there was a politically-motivated move to relocate the laboratory of the department without any concern for the sensitive nature of their work Senarathne decided to challenge it. Even though his resistance resulted in threats to his life he decided that protecting this national resource was more important. Unshaken by intimidation he pursued the issue all the way to the Supreme Court and defeated the move.
The Supreme Court decision brought this issue to public attention and political powers who were angered by this removed Senarathne from his post. Yet again Senarathne took the matter to court where he argued that political powers misused their powers. Setting an example for the entire government service, he was reinstated in his position till retirement by the Supreme Court.
NIA 2004 Winners
Audit Superintendent Lalith Ambanwela is a government official with integrity who has exposed incidents of bribery, corruption and graft amounting to millions of rupees of public wealth.
Ambanwela ignored various threats to his life and pushed forward with an investigation into 44 million rupees that went missing from the Education Department. The result was a vicious acid attack which cost him his sight in one eye. This incident spurred islandwide reaction from auditors and led to a professional strike. Because of the huge personal price that he paid for commitment to his work, the Government was forced to establish a scheme to pay compensation for state employees who were the targets of retribution due to their work.
Disregarding the threats to his life and carrying out his duty, Ambanwela protected public wealth with the utmost of dedication. He is an exemplary citizen and government official.
Poddala Jayantha is an investigative reporter attached to the ‘Silumina’ newspaper. Using various methods he has investigated incidents of fraud and corruption and exposed these in a way that has made the country listen.
He has carried out investigations into corruption and graft in state and private organizations. He even had to go into hiding for a brief period when his exposure of a employment opportunity scam that cost many young people their fortune resulted in serious threats on his life.
Approaching his profession with humanism, Jayantha has gone beyond merely exposing those involved in fraud and corruption, and gotten directly involved in registering complaints with authorities. Through this he has been able to bring to justice many corrupt individuals and prevent large amounts of money from falling into their hands.
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