The release of information on the phone calls of COPE Members by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Central Bank bond scam was a breach of privilege of the MPs, Several UNP MPs said.
UNP MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe told a media briefing Saturday that privileges of MPs had been breached by the divulgence of details pertaining to COPE Members’ telephone conversation to media during the sessions of Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the bond scandal.
Professor Marasinghe said a group of UNP MPs, who met the Speaker yesterday drew the latter’s attention on the breach of privileges of MPs.
“As a country which hails democracy, we are of the view that telephone conservations of the MPs should not be tapped or publicised in such manner as it was a breach of their privileges. The Speaker also agreed to look into the breach of privileges,” he said.
“We could witness as to how the telephone conversations were tapped during the tenure of the former regime. There are accepted telecommunication norms. Telephone or computer data can only be obtained through a Court Order. However, such information should not be exposed to the media until that judicial process is completed.
“Even if a court order is issued, the data pertaining to a telephone conservation of an MP can only be obtained with the permission of the Speaker,” he said.
While stating that privileges of all 225 Parliamentarians should be safeguarded, he said there should be a proper understanding on as to how Parliaments of other countries act in similar situations.
“Both the media freedom and privileges of MPs should be safeguarded. If the information is gathered by tapping telephone conversations, it would have a serious impact on the country’s democratic process,” he also said.
UNP Kurunegala District MP J. C. Alawathuwala said COPE took measures to investigate on the Treasury Bond scam and it was decided later to refer the report to the Attorney General.
“All the Government and the Opposition MPs extended their support to conduct this investigation. Earlier, there was no occasion ever that a COPE Report was referred to the Attorney General. Therefore, the Government has acted in a more transparent manner. The Government set up series of new Committees,” he said
UNP Colombo District MP Mujibur Rahuman said the Prime Minister would voluntarily go before the Bond Commission today to give evidence.
“After this Treasury Bond incident, an Opposition MP was appointed to the COPE.
“During the former Government, all those appointed to the Committees were Government MPs. When MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was the COPE Chairman, then Government prorogued the Parliament and appointed D.E.W. Gunasekara as the COPE Chairman,” he recalled.
“Allegations have been levelled against a few MPs in the COPE that they had telephone conversations with Arjun Aloysius. If these allegations are true, then the Government should attempt to defend them. But all MPs in the COPE endorsed that report and referred it to the Attorney General,” he added.
Recalling the previous regime he said that the Police was scared to even to arrest a Pradeshiya Sabha member.
“Therefore, the credit should be given to the incumbent Government for creating this new political culture in the country. Whether it is right or wrong, today media has the freedom to openly discuss and report it,” he said. (Yohan Perera)