Monday, October 27, 2014

The Asian Human Rights Commission - Impunity to do wrong..!

(Lanka-e-News- 24.Aug.2014, 7.00PM) Information has been received that the executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional NGO based in Hong Kong, has been telling falsehoods to members of his staff with regard to payments and other matters and that the management and chairman of the board have offered him impunity.

This is of particular concern as the issue of impunity has been at the forefront of the AHRC’s attacks on the Sri Lanka Police Service and other branches of the government, including ministers at high levels, for many years. It is therefore shocking that this organisation is hypocritical enough to allow the same impunity to its own executive in order that he can do as he wishes with his staff.

The information, as we have received it concerns three issue; the first was an application of a salary advance by one of their staff. In February of this year he applied for a salary advance from Bijo Francis, the executive director and was informed that he (Francis) was no longer in a position to grant such advances. He actually used the wording, “ it is no longer within my remit”, and that he would have to seek the approval of the board. However, within weeks of making this statement and in the full hearing of other members of staff he granted such an advance to one of his cronies, thereby proving that his earlier comments were obviously false. If Francis did not want to grant the salary advance he could have simply informed the staff member that, in his capacity as executive director, he had elected not to do so. However, that would have been an inconvenient truth. Sadly, he found it more convenient to tell a convenient lie.

The second incident involved a letter purported to be from the management committee in which he informed a member of staff that he was being reprimanded and that the committee had agreed on the content and the issuance of the said letter. However, inquiries made with two members of the management committee confirmed that neither of them had knowledge of either the contents of, or the issuance of the letter. If Francis had omitted the part about the letter being approved by the committee there would have been no problem. However, that would have been an inconvenient truth. By hiding behind the management committee Francis committed another convenient lie.

The third incident involved the long term service award of an outgoing member of staff. In the Hong Kong SAR there are two sums of money involved when an employee leaves a company. One is the long term award and the second is the Mandatory Provident Fund which all employers are required to contribute to. The staff member was informed of the amount that he was to receive as a long term award and was surprised as the employer has the right to deduct any contributions to the MPF. After making inquiries of Francis in the presence of the Admin manager he was told that his MPF award would NOT be affected. However, upon receipt of the payment by the relevant bank he found that the sum of HK$ 88,000 (USD 11,000) had been deducted. The staff member gave Francis every opportunity to explain the situation but the latter dodged the question and left the matter to Mr. Basil Fernando to explain. In an obviously contrived letter Fernando informed the staff member that they had done all in their power to pay the person everything he was entitled to. What he failed to explain was why Francis had once again been permitted to lie to a member of staff with impunity. 

Sadly the matter did not end there. It was shocking that Mr. John J. (Jack) Clancey, the chairman of the board of directors, having been made aware of the actions of his executive director, would take his side after being presented with documentary evidence. 

Another matter was raised personally with Clancy a few weeks later but, as it was of a very sensitive and personal nature involving several members of the staff, it cannot be revealed here for fear of causing embarrassment to the innocent persons affected. Suffice to say that rather than be concerned at the information presented to him so that he might take some form of action to avoid the potential of embarrassment to the AHRC, Clancy threatened the informant with legal action.

It is appalling that despite their very public stand for over 15 years on the issue of impunity for wrongdoing, the management and directors of the Asian Human Rights Commission are prepared to turn a blind eye to the actions of their own executive director.
-By a special correspondent-