Speaker urged to take swift action

* COPE members’ nexus with Aloysius

Dismissing UNP’s claims that parliamentary privileges of its COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) had been violated by the releasing of telephone data pertaining to ongoing treasury bond scam probe, the Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya not to drag his feet on dealing with those who had been in touch clandestinely with Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries under investigation.

UNPers, Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, Harshana Rajakaruna, MP, Hector Appuhamy, MP and Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera have been named by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as those who have been in touch with Aloysius. In addition to them, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera has been named as the only SLFPer contacted by Aloysius.

Top JO spokesman MP Bandula Gunawardena yesterday emphasised that it would be Speaker Jayasuriya’s responsibility to take action as regards the conduct of those COPE members in accordance with the Powers and Privileges Act of Parliament.

Gunawardena pointed out that the Act recommended that the conduct of COPE members should be dealt with according to the practice in similar matters in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Alleging that the UNP project had been uncovered in spite of its efforts to derail the investigation, MP Gunawardena discussed the role played by Deputy Minister Senasinghe in the overall attempt to scuttle the inquiry. MP Gunawardena recalled Deputy Minister Senasinghe authoring a special booklet defending treasury bond transactions.

The MP reiterated that Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had been asked to come before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing treasury bond scams, today (Nov 20), forced President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve parliament in mid 2015 to thwart presentation of the first COPE report on Feb 2015 treasury bond scam.

The JO spokesman said that it would be Speaker Jayasuriya’s responsibility to restore confidence in COPE.

Quoting Bloomberg report titled ‘Bloomberg rates Sri Lanka in high risk zone’ released in late January 2017, Gunawardena said that treasury bond scams had caused irreparable damage to Sri Lanka’s reputation abroad. Who would consider investing here when the party in power faced corruption charges, the MP asked. Pointing out that Sri Lanka has received 12 marks out of 100, Gunawardena stressed that the country never received such adverse reports even at the height of the war.

The JO economic affairs spokesman said that Bloomberg report dealt with countries on the basis of financial, economic and political risks facing investors.

Gunawardena warned of dire consequences unless the Attorney General acted swiftly and decisively on the recommendations of the bond commission.

Colombo District MP Gunawardena said that the SLFP couldn’t continue its marriage of convenience with the UNP in the wake startling revelations in the bond commission. Gunawardena said for God’s sake arrest bond racketeers. How could those who had been exposed to varying degrees remain free when UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa was remanded for alleged misuse of vehicles maintained by the government.

Responding to a query, MP Gunawardena said basically their stand vis a vis treasury bond scam could be explained in three demands, arrest those who had been involved, take action against COPE members named in the CID report to the bond commission and the SLFP should quit the government.

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