In an interview with Daily Mirror, United National Party (UNP) MP for the Puttalam district Hector Appuhamy speaks about the current status of the government and allegations against him about the Bond scam. He shared the following:
- UNP backbenchers’ criticism is a spontaneous reaction to what they see as unreasonable
- We are worried whether our party is subjected to political discomfiture in the country
- UNP only elected him to office
- Yet, those who humiliated him enjoy perks today
- Nobody has been found guilty of Bond Scam
- My telephone calls with Arjun Aloysius not related to COPE inquiries
- I am a newcomer, and only learnt at COPE
- There is nothing Arjun Aloysius can get from me as a newcomer
Q The UNP MPs take on President Maithripala Sirisena openly. How will it affect the future of the unity government?
We all should read the mandate given to us at the 2015 elections. We should understand why people elected President Sirisena to office and gave us a mandate subsequently at the parliamentary election. There is a lot of work remaining to be done. Yet, the problems arose only because of some steps taken which were contradictory to the mandate.
As citizens, we are duty-bound to address burning issues of the country regardless of our political differences.
We expected the President to give leadership to achieve the intended objectives. He is the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). If he works for the unity of the SLFP, we will not be opposed to it. It is his right. We recognize it. Be that as it may, we, as the UNP backbenchers, are worried whether our party is subjected to political discomfiture in the country.
The Bond Commission did not make any allegation against anyone. Mud-slinging took place only through the media. The COPE is a committee carrying out investigations into financial matters of the public enterprises based on reports compiled by the Auditor General
Q You mentioned about ‘steps’ taken in contrast to the mandate. What are they?
The UNP ensured the President’s victory at the elections in 2015. The UNP, backed by the SLFP, did an arduous task to get him elected to office. Our party men endured harassment in the task. In fact, they sustained physical harassment and arson attacks on their houses. They were even put behind bars. That was how the UNPers made sacrifices. Nevertheless, some SLFP members, who not only worked against the President but also insulted him as ‘Hitan, Hutan’, enjoy ministerial perks in the government today. The conduct of these members only has created a clashing and contradictory situation. For the UNP backbenchers, it is an unhealthy development. That is what I see as steps contradictory to the mandate.
As a government, we were assigned the responsibility to clear the name of Sri Lanka in the international arena. That has to be done in engagement with the UN and the international community. We could not find a solution to the problem here through military means. We only crushed the terrorist group. Yet, their political course remains intact. We should have defeated it ideologically. We have to bring about economic revival.
Q Is this a general criticism of the UNP as a party or that of backbenchers?
You cannot take it as the position of the UNP as a party. Also, you cannot see this as individual criticism of the backbenchers. The UNP backbenchers have begun to feel why we are treated like this. This criticism originates from that feeling. Otherwise, this cannot be viewed as a general criticism of the UNP as a party.
As a party, we always protect the President. We elected this President, not anyone else. People gave us a mandate to live up to their aspirations. We are aware of what we are supposed to do. We get upset when our leader or the party is subjected to scathing criticism by the SLFP MPs while enjoying governmental perks. It is the spontaneous reaction of some of our MPs to such criticism. Otherwise, the party leadership is not party to what we do.
By the time I got elected to the current Parliament, the controversial Bond transaction had taken place. When I sat as a member of the COPE as a newcomer, I had a lot to learn
Q If you present your criticism as a party, it would be more result-oriented. Why don’t you do so?
As I said earlier, there is a duty cast upon us. We have compromised a lot for it. Today, those, who victimized the UNPers by subjecting them to various forms of harassments, work as the secretaries to the ministers and enjoy perks such as vehicles.
We compassionately bear with it. This is a sacrifice being made in view of the future of the country. Our party men have become helpless despite their hard work for the party’s victory. Is this what we get for our hard work? That is the question being put to us by our party supporters. We only ask them to be patient for a while.
If we want to act with political interests, we know what needs to be done. We know how to turn around everything. The UNP, as a party, is endowed with the capacity to do what is required to consolidate political power. We do not opt for it, though.
We know how to trust our political clout. The UNP is known for it. Yet, we have a vision for the good of nation.
Q When you say the UNP knows how to thrust its political power, is it through violent means?
It does not mean violence. One cannot bend the UNP to suit one’s interests. We cannot be trampled upon. We are flexible as we see. It does not mean thrusting our power through violent means.
Q However, criticism targeting the President started only after the appointment of the Bond Commission and some revelations made about it. You also represented the COPE committee. What is your response to these allegations?
The Bond Commission did not make any allegation against anyone. Mud-slinging took place only through the media. The COPE is a committee carrying out investigations into financial matters of the public enterprises based on reports compiled by the Auditor General. We make inquiries from officials attached to these public enterprises. Otherwise, the COPE has no mandate to inquire into the activities of a private venture. Yet, the COPE can deal with some nominal matters exceptionally when a public enterprise has transacted with a private firm or venture. That is it.
By the time I got elected to the current Parliament, the controversial Bond transaction had taken place. When I sat as a member of the COPE as a newcomer, I had a lot to learn. I only learn. I did no try to cross examine anyone. I observed and listened more. We, the COPE, only asked for the appointment of this Bond Commission. So, the Bond Commission is ours. There is nothing to be questioned about from us.
Q Yet, the COPE in its report legitimized allegations about a financial fraud in the bond issue. But, you are saying there are no allegations against anyone. Doesn’t it look paradoxical?
Nobody can be considered guilty until proven in a court of law. Everybody is entitled to presumption of innocence until a court decides otherwise. So far, no one has been convicted by a court of law. Unless there is any dereliction of duty on the part of the Central Bank officials, how can another get involved in any wrongdoing in this regard?
If an outsider robs the Central Bank of its money in safes, it will be something different. In this instance of the bond issue, the Central Bank is the first accused.
We should have been held guilty if we had blocked the COPE report on investigations into the bond issue. It did not happen that way. We only made this report. We have acted properly. Then, what is wrong with us having telephone conversations?
Q How legitimate are these allegations on the bond scam?
The COPE of the seventh Parliament made a report on the bond issue. We, in the eighth Parliament, had nothing much to do. We noticed that investigations are being confined to bond issues within a certain period only. The COPE focused on bond transactions that took place after the President assumed office in January, 2015. We had doubts whether this was done to bring the UNP to disrepute. We sought to investigate such transactions starting from 2008. That is what we asked for in footnotes. It did not happen for some unknown reason. Therefore, the UNP team of the COPE was earmarked separately.
Nobody thought about where the actual fault lies. There are those who would have done business with the officials for a period. There was no inquiry into all these matters. We regret it.
Q You mentioned that the COPE could not inquire into matters related to the private companies. Do you mean to say that Perpetual Treasuries cannot be touched by the COPE in its investigations?
We have to inquire into what the Central Bank officials did. We have to do it first and go for the next step. The COPE is mandated to watch on financial activities of the Public Enterprises.
The COPE has not made anyone guilty. But, we are branded as fraudsters today. If we are not allowed to talk to anyone, we cannot talk to Central Bank officials even during investigations.
As a government, we were assigned the responsibility to clear the name of Sri Lanka in the international arena. That has to be done in engagement with the UN and the international community
Q Your name is among those who had telephone conversations with Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius. What is your response?
These telephone conversations were not linked to COPE inquiries at all. We should have been held guilty if we had blocked the COPE report on investigations into the bond issue. It did not happen that way. We only made this report. We have acted properly. Then, what is wrong with us having telephone conversations?
This person in question has had links with the leaders of this country for a long time. What is there for him to contact us and get any help? Who are we for him to contact?
We are newcomers. We still learn COPE affairs. It is a joke if someone says we were contacted for help. We assert that those responsible for the scam should be penalized through legal means. There is no second word about it. We, as COPE members, are happy about it.
I feel sad that my name was dragged into an unnecessary problem. I get frustrated about politics when I see my name is associated with these allegations. Some bankrupt politicians in my district make use of this to tarnish my image in the tussle for preferential votes in future.