Govt to probe Treasury bond issuance from 2008 to 2014 - Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe | Sunday Observer

Govt to probe Treasury bond issuance from 2008 to 2014 - Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

While various controversies have cropped up and differences of opinion expressed on the Central Bank bond scam demanding to bring the culprits to book, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe disclosed in Parliament the Government’s decision to launch a special probe into Treasury bond issuance from 2008 to 2014, when the ongoing Presidential Commission investigation into the bond issue is completed. The Premier said, he saw hardly any difference between the Pyramid System and the methods followed in Treasury Bonds issuance till 2015.

Making a special statement in the House, the Premier said, the President and he were committed to usher in a new political culture and described it as a novel experience and a complicated process. The Prime Minister in his remarks said, sometimes mistakes may happen, but let the Government move forward rectifying them. He assured the House, that unlike the former Rajapaksa regime, they are not ready to cover up wrongdoings, trample the supremacy of the law and bury social justice.

The Premier pointed out how the bond sales had been made from 2008 to 2014, on direct private placements without even informing the Monetary Board of the Central Bank or Parliament. Ninety percent of those bond sales had been done on private placements using EPF, ETF and National Savings Bank funds as captive sources, and that process seriously lacked transparency. The Premier who tabled a Central Bank Report on the Treasury Bond issuance from 2008 to 2014 pointed out, of the Rs.5,147 billion worth bonds issued during this period, Rs.4,702 billion had been direct private placements.

Transparent mechanism

The Prime Minister who pledged to investigate the massive scam behind bonds issuance from 2008 to 2014 said it could be termed the largest pyramid scam. Assuring the Government’s commitment to strengthen Parliament’s control over public finance, the Premier said the transparent mechanism put in place has paved the way for credible investigations. The Premier in his speech drew attention to the fact that it was the first time that a Government had appointed a Commission to probe an alleged fraud which had taken place during its term of office and added that the Government fully backs the Commission.

The Government and Opposition lawmakers then complained in Parliament about delays on the part of the Bribery Commission to investigate their complaints. During the oral question session, JVP Parliamentarian Bimal Ratnayake said the Bribery Commission had remained lethargic after the removal of the former Director General and added, the process of setting up special courts to hear corruption cases should be expedited. Citing examples, several Government and Opposition MPs pointed out that the Bribery Commission has not taken any steps regarding their complaints. UNP Matara District MP Buddika Pathirana said the Bribery Commission has not done anything regarding two complaints made by him in 2015 and 2017. Similarly Joint Opposition MP Ranjith de Zoysa said the Bribery Commission has failed to take any action on his complaints against two Ministers in the present Government. UNP Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri and JVP MP Nihal Galappatti too made similar accusations against the Commission. Chief Government Whip and Lands Minister Gayantha Karunatilake found fault with the CID for failing to take action against a person engaged in slinging mud at him on social media alleging he had distributed bananas to the flood victims.

Heated exchange

A verbal blow ensued between Joint Opposition MP Gamini Lokuge and Regional Development Minister Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka during the Committee Stage debate on Thursday, which finally ended up in using unparliamentary language. The heated exchange of words erupted when MP Lokuge attempted to make insulting remarks against Minister Fonseka on personal grounds while he was speaking at the Committee Stage debate of the Financial Heads of his Ministry. Both were seen accusing each other and resorting to offensive language. This led presiding member JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake to order the expunge of the unparliamentary words from Hanzard. Presiding member Ratnayake told Minister Fonseka and MP Lokuge that they are insulting Parliament and the people who elected them and warned them to go out and have their argument elsewhere. MP Ratnayake requested MP Lokuge to stick to the subject being discussed in the House without provoking other members to respond.

Responding to various allegations levelled against him in the House over the past couple of days, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha told Parliament that he was not responsible for the delay in holding Local Government elections. Denying any involvement in the petition filed in the Court of Appeal to delay elections, Minister Musthapha said the LG delimitation Gazette was flawless and that he tried his best to do justice to all political parties, including the minority parties, in the delimitation process.

Musthapha vs Musthapha

Categorically denying claims made in Parliament that he went abroad without officially informing Parliament, the Minister said he had been in Malta attending the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and added that he went to Malta with the approval of the President and the Cabinet.

Minister Musthapha told the House there was a case filed against him and an interim order given. He said there were allegations that he was a party to this case and some people dubbed it as ‘Musthapha vs Musthapha’ as the lawyers assisting in the case worked in his father’s chamber at a particular time. Lawyers appear for various purposes, he said, stressing that he would at no point sell his integrity as a lawyer and a President’s Counsel for the sake of politics.

Commenting on two No Confidence motions against him, the Minister said he is not afraid to go before a people’s court to prove his case as his intentions were clean. Any citizen can go before the court and file a petition. There can be different interpretations on the motives behind a case. We cannot waste time finding such motives. Neither the President nor the SLFP has any involvement in the case.

If an interim order has been obtained you cannot blame the Legislature or the Executive. We should respect the court and obey its order, he said.