- Relationships of this sort are found in white collar criminal gangs
- It was clear that they were on the side of Aloysius during the process
- The replacement of MP Velu Kumar by Sujeewa Senasinghe shows it was all organised
- I didn’t go to ask them if the phone calls were from their wives or from Arjun Aloysius, nor did we tell them to leave their phones outside when walking into deliberations
- In fact I had to leave the Committee in protest at how they conducted themselves.
- The Bond scandal is symbol of a failed system
- The attempt to derail the COPE report had few stages
- Tell me, what exactly is there to hide now?
- Now what has surfaced is the fact that these actions weren’t done in isolation. Rather they were actions which were committed by an organised group
- As we see now, the workings were wheels within wheels and all this was organised. They were hell-bent on scaling down everything that was to come out of it, but thankfully they could not do so
- You would remember how the Auditor General was abused
Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) Chairman Sunil Handunnetti in an interview with the said that the revelations of COPE members in constant contact with Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius was evidence of a “mafia” type organised crime ring. Following are excerpts of the interview done with Handunnetti.
QAs the Chairman of COPE, which investigated into the Bond Scam, what is your take on the recent revelations of phone calls between members of your committee and Arjun Aloyius?
I’m not surprised at all, really. If you look at the behaviour throughout the process and how they attempted to stall the process it was evident which side they were on. The only thing that has been revealed now is the evidence given regarding the side they were on throughout the process. The actions were clear and the evidence substantiates what was happening all along.
QYou seem to be only focusing on the times that they were in contact which is during the period when the committee conducted hearings. These are times during which there is actual evidence of the contacts going above and beyond the times of COPE hearings. For instance, Sujeewa Senasinghe had been in touch 227 times out of which he was in touch only 63 times during the COPE hearings. Dayasiri Jayasekara was in touch 18 times out of which two were related to COPE hearings. Did these people explain their relationship with Arjun Aloysius to you at any point?
None of them indicated of having any such relationship with the rest of the COPE members. What really is important here isn’t the number of times they had spoken to each other. What’s of real importance is what they had been discussing. During that investigation, which side they were on is the real question. Were they on the side of parliament or were they on Arjuna Mahendran’s side? These people were COPE members and are in parliament as representatives of the people. They aren’t in parliament because they were appointed by some individual right? The Mandate was that of the people.
If anyone has any doubt as to where these people stood during the process, you must read the COPE report in which their representations are recorded verbatim. That is enough evidence to know how hard they tried to derail the entire process
QWhy this question was asked is because Dayasiri Jayasekara had admitted that he spoke to Aloysius twice and met him once, specifically going by what was publicized- which was that he was in contact twice during the time of the COPE hearings. What failed to receive much publicity was the fact that he had been in touch with Aloysius 18 times in total. What is your take on this?
Again what I insist on isn’t to focus on the number of calls. Instead the focus really should be on the the contents of what was discussed which is why I have asked the Speaker to get a report on what was spoken during these conversations. Then we will know for sure what was discussed with whom and by whom. I called for these facts to be tabled in parliament, in writing.
Q In the COPE you (All members) sat as judges throughout the entire issue. However what we witnessed was that many members were accused of collusion. This issue, conflict of interest, emerges due to the fact that they were known to each other or were in contact. How do you view this?
Well, if you remember right, you would know that I was the first person accused of conflict of interest by the Leader of the House Mr. Lakshman Kiriella. The grounds on which this accusation was made was the fact that I was the first to make the revelation regarding the scam. That was how they tried to portray the issue of conflict of interest. Now I would like to know what he and the rest have to say about these conflicts? I would really like to know what Kiriella has to say now about members from his party who have acted like an organised gang of criminals ?
The grounds on which this accusation was made was the fact that I was the first to make the revelation regarding the scam. That was how they tried to portray the issue of conflict of interest. Now I would like to know what he and the rest have to say about these conflicts?
QWhile the investigation was in progress, and while your deliberations were happening, did you feel like there was something larger going on? Did these people walk out in a suspicious manner to answer calls ?
The members who are appointed to the COPE are appointed by their respective parties right? So they are deemed to be responsible enough to sit on this committee. For example, your editor won’t be checking your phone calls would he? He would assume that you are a professional and as such you are responsible enough to be writing for the newspaper.
Similarly, I never checked on the phone calls received. I didn’t go to ask them if the phone calls were from their wives or from Arjun Aloysius, nor did we tell them to leave their phones outside when walking into deliberations. This is because there is a common trust which prevails upon anyone walking into these deliberations. I actually can’t ask these questions.
This question arises after these revelations right? But if you ask me on which side they clearly were during these deliberations it was crystal clear that they were on Arjun Aloysius’ side and did everything in their power to stop the report from being presented. In fact I had to leave the Committee in protest at how they conducted themselves. You would remember how the Auditor General was abused.
Now what has surfaced is the fact that these actions weren’t done in isolation. Rather they were actions which were committed by an organised group. Like for instance UNP Parliamentarian M. Velu Kumar had to resign and Senasinghe was appointed.
QI want to stop you there. The data that was presented shows that MP Sujeewa Senasinghe was in touch with Arjun Aloysius even during the time of the DEW Gunasekara committee. The contacts were established on July 7, 2015. It was thereafter that he was appointed to your committee, following the resignation of MP Velu Kumar, also from the UNP. In hindsight do you think that this was all planned?
We are able to know the difference between the sound of a drum and the sound of a door right? similarly, the fact that Senasinghe was appointed midway and the manner in which they all behaved, suggests clearly which side they were on. The attempt to derail the COPE report had few stages. The first was to stop the investigation from taking place. The second was to try and make a mockery of the investigation. Then came the attempt to stop the report. Thereafter they tried to make a mockery of the report itself. Finally when all attempts failed, the fact that they put ‘footnotes’ and the attempts made to absolve the wrongdoings highlight the different stages during which these people tried to scuttle the process.
If anyone has any doubt as to where these people stood during the process, you must read the COPE report in which their representations are recorded verbatim. That is enough evidence to know how hard they tried to derail the entire process.I have no doubt, but anyone who is in doubt must read the representations made by the persons, who have now been exposed, to have been in touch with Arjun Aloysius. That would make it clear as to what they were doing in the committee.
QNow you have called for the recordings to be provided. But we all know that giving such recordings are next to impossible due to the technicalities involved. In fact even Dayasiri Jayasekara has made the same call as you have and asked for the recordings to be tabled. Isn’t this a ruse to hide the entire thing behind the rhetoric of ‘give the recordings?
Tell me, what exactly is there to hide here? Everything is out in the open. The fact that there was a scam where its loss to this country can’t be calculated, the interest rates were affected because of this scam and that the the Central Bank and State Banks and the EPF suffered incalculable losses as a result is crystal clear as daylight. There is really nothing more to be exposed. What’s now being exposed is the mafia behind it. What else is there to hide when everything has now been exposed.
These sort of relationships are relationships which exist in criminal white collar gangs. Not in normal ethical industries and people. All of this is evidence that supports what we have said all along. This evidence substantiates what we really have been saying throughout this time
Q Arjuna Mahendran during his evidence said that he had no knowledge of a person by the name of Kasun Palisena, the CEO of Perpetual Treasuries, nor that he had intimate dealings with Saman Kumara, who was in the charge of the EPF, and Pathmanathan, a rather junior officer of the Public Debt Department. But now it transpires that he in fact was in constant contact with all of them during the period of the Bond issuance.
Once you open a sack and see what’s within, you don’t need to tap it again and feel what’s inside, do you? This sack is open. Mahendran was the Governor of the Central Bank. Why does he need to speak to brokers? In fact Palisena is the only broker he had spoken to during his entire reign. Why? the reason is crystal clear isn’t it? These sort of relationships are relationships which exist in criminal white collar gangs. Not in normal ethical industries and people. All of this is evidence that supports what we have said all along. This evidence substantiates what we really have been saying throughout this time.
Q Also about Karunanayake who during his evidence said that he only knew Arjun Aloysius as a family friend and that he had met him ‘occasionally’. It now transpires that he had been in touch over 350 times and his wife over 320 times during this period..
All I have to say is let us take Karunanayake’s testimony for a moment as true. Then he really must have some concern regarding the relationship between Aloysius and his wife. Isn’t that something he needs to worry about? The fact that she was in touch 320 times while he had admittedly not knowing Aloysius very well, is something a husband should be concerned about isn’t it?
QFinally Mr. Handuneththi how do you view this entire scam in terms of the capitalist economic system? The fact that people with a few computers and phones were able to amass such a large amount of wealth without adding or contributing to the manufacturing or production process. How do you analyse it?
Prior to that, I must say that I am proud to have been able to present the report to parliament despite the enormity of pressure applied to stop me from presenting the report. As we see now, the workings were wheels within wheels and all this was organised. They were hell-bent on scaling down everything that was to come out of it, but thankfully they could not do so. I wish to say that it was our report that gave rise to the Bond Commission. If it wasn’t for our report and the public outcry that followed, the commission would never have been appointed. It really was a victory for the people who oppose corruption. The dirt the people, who present themselves as Mr. Cleans, carry is now exposed and I am glad that I contributed to this expose.
Secondly and more importantly to your question on the system, what we are witnessing now is not free market capitalism. Rather a crony capitalism, in which brokers and dealers rob wealth. It’s the stage of daylight robbery. What we see is the personification of greed. Capitalism now doesn’t exist in the manufacturing process, rather it exists today in the capital itself; where the capital robs the capital. That is what has happened. The industrial capital is being robbed of the owner of the capital.
So to explain this further, what happens is the wealth taken in by Industrial Capital is first robbed by the Banks through the processes in place. It is that wealth thus taken in by banks that is being robbed by the brokers and the dealers. The entire bond scam is a symbol of the failure of this corrupt and dirty system.