Everyone is equal before the law | Sunday Observer

Everyone is equal before the law

Several high ranking Ministers of the Government who spoke to the Sunday Observer on the Treasury bond issue opined that the manner in which it was investigated demonstrated the democratic and law-abiding nature of the Yahapaala Government. They said, President Maithripala Sirisena too has done the same thing that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did in 2016 , i.e. referring the Presidential Commission report to the Attorney General, and pointed out that there is no difference between the positions taken by the Prime Minister and the President.

The UNP fully supported the investigation on the bond issue and the Premier voluntarily appeared before the Presidential Commission to give evidence. The UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and TNA Jaffna District MP M.A.Sumanthiran welcoming the Presidential Commission inquiry and its report, said the Treasury bond issue was investigated as a result of the Yahapalana Government coming to power.

Ready to present Anti-corruption High Court Bill

Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy, Ajith P. Perera

“In the COPE, we basically agreed on a few recommendations on the bond issue. In fact, the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission are basically the same. After the COPE inquiry, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe referred the COPE report to the Attorney General to take legal action. Thereafter, President Maithripala Sirisena also appointed a Presidential Commission. However, the AG didn’t take any action on the COPE report. The President has also done the same thing the Premier did in 2016, by referring the Presidential Commission report to the AG. The most important thing is that there is no difference between the positions taken up by the Prime Minister and the President. Both are on the same lines.

In addition, the Presidential Commission has cleared the Prime Minister. There is no allegation on appointing Arjuna Mahendran, nor any evidence or comment to link the Premier with this financial fraud. That is a very important aspect that the Commission has cleared the Prime Minister. No one can put the blame on the Prime Minister on this issue. We are ready to present the Anti-corruption High Court Bill, and will be able to pass the Bill probably during the last week of this month or the first week of February. Thereafter, we will have three separate Anti-corruption High Courts in the Judicial system, which will work full time to deal with anti-corruption cases. The bond scam could be referred to one of these Anti-corruption High Courts and thereby conclude its trial within a few months. We will ensure a proper and transparent legal process, and the court will decide who is guilty and who is not.

The UNP fully supported the investigation on the bond issue, and the Premier voluntarily appeared before the Presidential Commission to give evidence. That clearly shows that the law is above everyone. Even the most powerful people are answerable, that is the change we expected in 2015. We knew how difficult it would be to eradicate the corrupt culture of this country. But within a short time we established a system and showed that everyone is equal before the law. Of course, the wrongdoers will have to answer. Now, it is up to the AG to take action on this issue, as he is the supreme authority on prosecution. The Commission can only make recommendations, prosecuting them is entirely within the AG’s purview.

Parliament should debate this issue

TNA Jaffna District MP M.A.Sumanthiran

We never had this kind of thing under the previous regime. It is one of the promises given to the people. The fact that there has been an inquiry even against Government Ministers and its recommendations are a welcome sign. We welcome the inquiry as well as its report. We want all the recommendations in the report to be fully implemented. It is important that previous transactions from 2008 to 2015 should also be investigated. Any prosecution has to be done by the Attorney General.

Earlier, the COPE report on the bond scam was also sent to the Attorney General. So, he has to examine the evidence and take appropriate action for prosecution. Definitely, Parliament should debate this issue. If there is a request to convene Parliament we will certainly support it.

Committees on Bond issue

A three-member Committee was appointed by the Prime Minister in March, 2015 to probe into the Treasury Bond issue. The Committee chaired by Gamini Pitipana was mandated with investigating into the allegations and submitting a report including their findings.

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) also finalised a report on the controversial Bond issue and was presented to Parliament by its Chairman Sunil Handunneththi on October 28, 2016.

A Presidential Commission was appointed on January 27, 2017 to investigate Treasury Bond issuance from February 1, 2015 up to March 31, 2016. The report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Issuance of Treasury Bonds was handed over to President Maithripala Sirisena by the Chairman of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chithrasiri at the Presidential Secretariat on December 30, 2017.

President took necessary steps

UPFA General Secretary and Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera

We agree with the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office stating that the manner in which the bond issue was investigated and the commitment to identify those responsible demonstrated the democratic and law abiding nature of the Yahapalana Government. This transaction was exposed as a result of the Yahapalana Government coming to power. We have no issues on that, and the SLFP also says, immediate steps should be taken to identify those responsible. Therefore, it is up to the Attorney General to take action.

We have requested to call for a special parliamentary session to discuss the bond report. We would make the highest possible intervention on behalf of the SLFP. The President has already taken necessary steps in this regard.

Good governance ideals demonstrated

Minister of Lands and Parliamentary Reforms Gayantha Karunatilleka

The Presidential Commission report on the bond issue has clearly proved that this is a Yahapalana Government. Earlier whatever allegations were made or whatever happened to the country, were all swept under the carpet, without any investigations. Some who made complaints on wrongdoings disappeared, while the media which criticized the then government were attacked. When the bond issue came up, the Prime Minister appointed a three member committee (COPE) to probe it and the committee report was submitted to Parliament. An Opposition MP was appointed as Chairman of COPE to ensure its transparency, and opportunity provided to debate the COPE report on the bond issue in Parliament.

The report was then referred to the Attorney General for legal action. Later, the President appointed a special Presidential Commission to investigate this bond issue. The Prime Minister voluntarily appeared before this Commission and gave evidence. That was also reported to Parliament. Therefore, all the investigations and relevant activities of the bond issue have been conducted in a very transparent manner. Unlike the previous regime, immediate steps have been taken to investigate any allegations levelled against the government. Also, a Minister resigned in order to facilitate the investigations. This is what the people expected on January 8. A situation has also been created in the COPE to investigate previous bond transactions. All these demonstrate the core ideals of good governance, which is what the people anticipated.

AG will take action

Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga

The Committee report has now been referred to the Attorney General to scrutinize and study what action should be taken. The manner in which the Government investigated the bond issue demonstrated the democratic ideals of good governance. The Treasury bond matter was referred to an independent Commission which has put forward a report sans any political influence. The report is now being examined by the AG to ascertain those responsible. The public is well aware that although many incidents happened during the previous regime, no action had been taken even to investigate them. The President has proposed an investigation on the SriLankan Airlines as well. We have to appoint such Commissions to probe the many atrocities that took place during the last regime, and take them up one by one. There would be endless Presidential Commissions to go into what they did during the last regime. According to the evidence, the AG will decide on who is responsible for the treasury bond issue.