Sri Lanka: Law to protect the actions of whistleblowers is a must
Nagananda Kodituwakku from London - Attorney at Law & former head of the serious fraud investigations [Customs]
In Sri Lanka, persecution of whistleblowers, who refused to give into illegal demands of the politicians is a matter for concern, particularly in a situation where the ministry of finance has conceded that some enforcement officers has left the country in fear of life. Whereas in the Europe there is a legal protection provided to protect the whistleblowers it appears that the civil society is unconcern about the importance of this matter, particularly where services of such people is badly required by the country.
Lesson to learn from Europe where the public opinion is respected
In the UK, Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, provides legal protection to workers who are victimised by employers for "blowing the whistle" about wrongdoing at work. The peace of legislation which has been described as the most far-reaching "whistle blowing" legislation in the world, provides clear protection to the officials who are dismissed or subjected to detriment by their employer for making certain categories of disclosure, i.e. a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, concerns:
" criminal offences;
Legal protection under this law is also provided if disclosure is made through the media, but only where the matter is exceptionally serious, was not raised in the workplace because of fear of victimisation or cover-up, or where the matter was pursued internally or with a prescribed body but not dealt with properly. The aim of the legislation is to encourage workers to raise their concerns through the appropriate internal channels.
Under this legislation, where a worker has made a protected disclosure and is either dismissed or subjected to any other detriment by his or her employer as a result of the disclosure, the employer's action will be unlawful and the worker may seek financial redress from an employment tribunal. Dismissal will be regarded as automatically unfair if the reason for dismissal, or selection for redundancy, is because the employee made a protected disclosure. There will be no limit on compensatory awards in cases of dismissal, a provision intended to ensure that employees at all levels of an organisation, from the shop floor to the boardroom, will be fully compensated if they lose their jobs for blowing the whistle.
Another important feature of this peace of legislation is that any term in a worker's contract, which purports to prevent the worker from making a protected disclosure will be void. However, a disclosure will not qualify for protection if by making the disclosure the person commits a criminal offence.
This act has put in place to end the "cover-up" culture, where workers fear victimisation if they disclose wrongdoing committed by powerful officials, which include politicians. The UK government believes that this legislation can help ensure that potential disasters are averted and could prevent financial loss.
What Sri Lanka can learn from this peace of legislation
Recently for the first time the government of Sri Lanka acknowledged
that, so far, at least five Customs Officers had left the country
in fear of life, in connection with revenue fraud investigations they
refused to drop under pressure brought in by the politicos.
In fact, in Sri Lanka it is well known that corrupt politicos openly
condone those who are found concerned in wrongdoing, whilst the revenue
officers who refuse to compromise with politicos are subjected to
persecution. In these circumstances it is believed that people or
political organisations that fight for the rights of the people should
take the initiative. For in Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the people,
that include executive, legislative and judicial power. Therefore
they have every right to demand for a similar legislation like in
the UK to protect the interests of the whistleblowers who sacrifice
their life in upholding the law and order.
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