In the series ‘Direct Talk’ we feature COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti where he airs his views on the latest developments connected with the Bond Commission Report. Following are excerpts of theinterview done with Handunetti.
Q An investigation into the Bond Scam was conducted by the COPE headed by you. The report on the Presidential Commission has also been released. Do you see any contradictions in these two reports?
No there is no difference between the COPE report released by me and the latest report. It has only elaborated on the COPE report. In my report I stated that Arjuna Mahendran is solely responsible for this transaction and the relevant company had earned undue profits.
I requested that these should be taken over again and that the culprits responsible for this be punished.
All these directives are mentioned in my report. Therefore there are no contradictions. Now what remains is legal action to be taken. The report I handed over is similar to a decision made by an umpire in a cricket match. The third umpire now has to give his ruling.
Q You once wanted to leave the committee saying that you cannot compile your report.Your response.
The latest report has no record of any one interfering and no footnotes by any one. I have mentioned in my report the intimidation I was subjected to. But this intimidation wasn’t stated in the latest report. These happenings didn’t in any way affect the decisions that were made during COPE sessions. My committee was a divided one. There was a group against this incident while there was another group that was protecting it.The group which was protecting it made footnotes while the others accepted the report.
Q The UNP maintained that this was a subtle move to attack the party. What do you say?
If any party interfered then it has to accept the blame. If one party brought in the Central Bank Governor and assisted in the transaction, no one can prevent such a party being targeted. Do you mean to say that this party had not done anything and its members weren’t involved? The COPE of course was represented by parties. What about the Presidential Commission? Does it belong to the opposition? These are absurd views.
Give us a chance; without which we cannot show you what we can do. We have faith in the masses. For those who have been battered all these years, now it is the opportunity to give us power so that we can make the change you envisage
Q The UNP maintains that they do not want to hide these facts and even the COPE Chairman’s post was given to a member of another party with the view of maintaining transparency.Your comments.
I don’t want to say anything about it other than laugh.
Q This Bond issue was brought to light by the JVP. What are you aiming at after the release of this latest report?
It isn’t the report that is of importance to the masses, but what action is being taken to punish those found guilty. The COPE findings were sufficient to take legal action, but interference by those wielding power caused a delay. Now it’s proved beyond any doubt and what’s recommended is taking action. It is time to punish the culprits and recover what was gained in an undue manner.
Q On the subject of Legal issues, the committee has suggested that certain regulations need amendments. But this is time consuming, isn’t it?
Just imagine a bank officer giving Rs 5000 to one of his friends. What is the law applicable? There cannot be double standards. If a Government servant does something wrong what happens is that he is given a sound beating and then put in remand custody. Questioning comes only thereafter. Why is the same procedure not applied here? Leave aside the law, it has been proved that Aloysius and Mahendran are involved in this. Their passports can be impounded and their bank accounts can be frozen. By such acts they can set up a barricade. A situation where you attempt to close the stable after the horse has escaped can now arise. We along with the masses are having doubts regarding this situation.
Q As COPE Chairman you may have had experiences of how the Government acts in a legal manner.Your response.
I am fully aware of such actions. The Government adopts a lukewarm attitude and both groups are bent on protecting rogues.
Q The president has said that the report had been forwarded to the Attorney General. Can we have any hopes regarding this move?
We have been harbouring hopes for a long time. During the past 69 years, commissions had been appointed and the masses eagerly awaited them being presented before Parliament. But what was the outcome? How many files have been referred to the Attorney General’s Department? How many of them keep on circulating? Have any of these files returned after necessary action was taken? I have given a COPE report, but there has been no reply for the past 15 months.
Q But SLFP Ministers are claiming that President Sirisena had done something which no other President had done. They reiterate that the follow-up action would also be carried out without a delay.Your comments.
It is very good. We never said that appointing the commission was bad. The President has said that he will use the sword and severe anyone’s neck. But just keeping the sword to the neck and saying that he will strike is not going to do any good.
Q The Government is taking steps to establish three special High Courts. Isn’t the Government working strenuously to establish the rule of law?
As the first case let them take this Bond scam. Once they deliver the verdict we will applaud the work and reveal to the media that establishing these High Courts is very result orienting. Let Rajapaksa’s issues also be transferred to these courts.
Q Bandula Gunawardene says that he isn’t in agreement with the loss made on the sale of the Bonds, as stated by the commission. Gunawardene states that the loss is much more. Is it true?
What Bandula Gunawardene should do is reveal to the public his assumptions of the loss. We prepared our report and did the calculations without any support from the Central Bank. It was an ordinary audit. It is there even in the Auditor General’s report. The Presidential Commission has also accepted these figures as correct. Gunawardene must affirm now that they are accurate.
Q Since of late there have been many allegations that the JVP is protecting the UNP. Why is the Joint Opposition (JO) making such allegations?
How can they make such allegations? It is well-known that our relationship is with the masses and not with anyone else. This time the UNP supporters are going to vote for us. The UNP leaders at village level are now contesting from the JVP ticket. There are several from the Flower Bud also supporting us. What you said is correct, but we aren’t visiting them in the night in order to obtain settlements regarding legal issues or to enter into deals.
This time the UNP supporters are going to vote for us. The UNP leaders at village level are now contesting from the JVP ticket. There are several from the Flower Bud also supporting us. What you said is correct, but we aren’t visiting them in the night in order to obtain settlements regarding legal issues or to enter into deals
Q However much you argue, the JVP has faced a severe setback in the recent past.
Wait until February 10th. You will then realize. Don’t be hasty. We admit that there was a setback when analyzing the results of past elections. The electoral system greatly influenced it. There are only 06 JVP members in Parliament, but we received over 500,000 votes. The TNA has 16 members with a voting strength of 300,000. Is there any setback in our party? We never obtain votes by duping the public. These are valuable votes and they are not obtained through giveaways.
Q There is much talk both inside and outside Parliament that the duties of the opposition appears to have been carried out poorly.Your comments.
Not ours. The Opposition Leader’s task hasn’t been effectively performed. Sampanthan raises his hand in support of the Budget and when Ravi resigns he says it is not correct to do so. Even the members of the JO are also like him.When Hambantota Port was allowed a 32-year tax amnesty they refrained from opposing it. For what reasons did they not oppose this? Has the JO and Mahinda Rajapaksa ever voted against any single Budget? Why did they oppose the women’s representation when the Local Council Bill was passed?
- "I have mentioned in my report the intimidation I was subjected to"
- "In my report I stated that Arjuna Mahendran was solely responsible for this transaction"
- “How many similar files have been sent to the AG?”
- “My committee was a divided one”
- “It isn’t the report that is of importance, but what action is being taken to punish those guilty”
- “Once they deliver the verdict we‘ll applaud the work and reveal to the media that establishing High Courts is very result orienting”
Q There is a charge against you that you objected to youth representation.Your comments.
No. In our lists there is youth representation. There was a limit with regard to youth representation, but it was removed at the last minute.
Q Government Ministers blame you for inciting the public and students, specially on the SAITM issue. What is your response?
You only mention the few accusations directed at our party. But what about the good that we have done? You said early that we are having deals with the Government and now say that we are inciting the public against the Government. Why are these types of charges being made? When issues confronting the public emerged it was our party that stood up and not those who hold media conferences.
Q Despite you representing the party at each public issue, you have failed to achieve favourable results. Your comments.
We have never mislead the people. It is the Government that misleads them. Now see they are saying that SAITM will be abolished.
Q Why are you against private education? Is it bad for the country?
What about our Universities? Aren’t they good? Isn’t it better for the less affluent to receive an education along with the rich?
Q The Minister of Higher Education states that students go abroad in search of these Universities and our foreign exchange resources are getting affected. Your comments.
The country’s foreign reserves are not dwindling because of these reasons. The money that the Higher Education Ministers play out from the highways aren’t invested here. The undue gains made through the Bond Scam aren’t invested here. Are they trying to save the little foreign exchange they can make through a couple of students who migrate for studies? International schools have been opened here, but has that stopped students from migrating to continue with their studies?
Q The leftist parties had helped the rightists to assume power. Do these parties continue to win the confidence of the public?
The JVP has never helped such parties in that manner. Once it helped the UPFA Government in order to help them to end the war. During the past 69 years you have voted for them, despite being frustrated. That is why we are asking you to vote for the JVP. Give us a chance; without which we cannot show you what we can do. We have faith in the masses. For those who have been battered all these years, now it is the opportunity to give us power so that we can make the change you envisage.