With the principle of openness, transparency and accountability working as it should, parliament will meet in a special session today to debate the nearly 1400-page report and recommendations of the Presidential Commission which probed the Central Bank bond issues from February 2015 to March 2016.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya called this special session at the request of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who positively responded to appeals by the joint opposition and other party leaders, but there are complaints that with the huge report not having been read even by the Prime Minister the debate may not go much beyond the surface because even eminent lawyers would need a few days to study and analyse the report, annexures and recommendations.
Last Wednesday, in a 20-minute address to the nation, President Maithripala Sirisena gave a summary of the report. The Presidential Commission, which held sittings from February last year and submitted its report on December 30 has severely reprimanded the Central Bank’s former Governor Arjuna Mahendran for unethical conduct in at least two of the bond transactions which led to the plunder of a staggering Rs. 11.1 billion by Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL). The main PTL operator has been identified as Arjun Aloysius.
During the Commission’s sittings, the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was also questioned and allegations were made that Mr. Aloysius had given him a huge sum to lease out a luxury penthouse apartment in Colombo. The Commission also said Mr. Karunanayake had lied under oath. On Wednesday, Mr. Karunanayake, who later resigned as Finance Minister, went to the Presidential Secretariat to get a copy of the Commission report under the provisions of the Right to Information law. He told reporters he was a victim of character assassination and denied the charges against him.
President Sirisena said the report had been sent to the Attorney General’s Department for court action to be taken and he hoped this would be done urgently and effectively. Though the President did not give a copy of the report to the Prime Minister and informed him of his address to the nation only hours before it was broadcast live, the President and the Prime Minister appear to be getting on well and are keen to continue to work together. The President and the Premier were together at the opening of the overhead bridge at Rajagiriya and the Moragahakanda project on Monday. They both pledged that the national unity or consensus government would continue to work together and the focus this year would be on sustainable, all-inclusive and eco-friendly development.
The Prime Minister speaking at the UNP convention last Sunday also called for a probe on Central Bank Treasury bond transactions from 2008 to 2014 when the Rajapaksa regime was in power. He alleged that the total amount plundered during the period amounted to an astounding Rs. 4000 billion. The Presidential Commission also has recommended a probe on the bond issues from 2008 to 2014. On Monday, the Central Bank’s then Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said he would welcome such a probe.
Earlier, the President also appointed a Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption (PRECIFAC). According to reports, 34 major cases highlighted by this commission are now with the Attorney General’s Department
With legal action now being expedited in cases of major fraud and corruption involving VIP politicians and top officials, we hope this would lead to a major clean up and those who want to do business will not be allowed to come into politics at the national level or at the local councils for which elections are to be held on February 10.