Those who swindled billions talking about only one incident- Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne | Sunday Observer

Those who swindled billions talking about only one incident- Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne

Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne says, soon after the January 9 victory, if the Government was dissolved and went for an election, the UNP would have secured a landslide victory. Without going for that option, the National Government was formed to change the direction of the country as fought for by civil society organizations and religious leaders like Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka thera. The Minister, in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, it was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP which proposed to go for this National Government and negotiated with the SLFP to become a stakeholder. After President Maithripala Sirisena took over the SLFP leadership, definitely he has to defend his party and give leadership to consolidate victory. The President does not want to find fault with the UNP while the fact remains that the main enemies are the Rajapaksas. These two different aspects should not be mixed up.

Excerpts:

Q. According to the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the Treasury Bond issue, will the Government initiate legal action against the persons allegedly involved in the bond scam?

A. When I consulted two economic experts on this Treasury Bond issue, they told me those who are specialized on the subject of bond issue can only make a comprehensive analysis. Still, nobody knows the total loss of the Treasury Bond scam. When the Bond Commission was appointed, I categorically stated, it should first do a proper analysis with the assistance of foreign experts. At present, it has come to the position that a judicial financial inquiry has to be conducted on the Treasury Bond issue with the help of foreign experts. The Bond Commission has stated that the loss resulting from the Treasury Bond issue amounts to Rs.11 billion.

During the previous regime whatever irregularities and wrongdoings were made, no inquiry was conducted. However, the incumbent Government conducted an inquiry into the Treasury Bond issue with the backing of both, the President and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also asked COPE to investigate into this. Once the COPE report was released, the Premier referred it to the Attorney General to initiate legal action. If there is any involvement of the Prime Minister in the Treasury Bond issue, he would never have appointed an Opposition MP as COPE Chairman. However, the President appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate this incident. After the Bond Commission report was released, some political parties are making a big stir for releasing the report. Under the former regime, not even a Commission was appointed to investigate such issues. Assets worth about Rs.12 billion held by Perpetual Treasuries have been frozen by the Central Bank so that this entire loss can be recovered. The Bond Commission has said, a huge loss, much more than this has occurred in the issue of Treasury Bonds from 2008 to 2014, amounting to Rs.4,000 billion. Another Presidential Commission has to be appointed to look into this. If there are wrongdoers in the Government, we would certainly punish them.

Q. Some people as well as some opposition political parties allege, the National Unity Government which promised to eradicate the misuse of public funds has also resorted to the same old practice. Your comments?

A. The Treasury Bond scam is the only issue the Opposition parties can make a big hue and cry about. Those who have swindled billions of public funds are talking about only one particular incident. Those responsible for this Treasury Bond issue have been removed from their posts. We have to remember, there are no one hundred percent clean Governments in the world. Some wrongdoings occurred even during the tenure of Lichchavi reign. That is why Buddha had intervened to sort it out. We don’t say this Government is hundred percent correct.

There are some shortcomings. It is sheer irony of fate that the silent revolution of January 8 was a dream to some in the Government because most of them who went to sleep the previous night woke up as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MPs the next day. Such people have nothing to worry, as we were the beasts of burden. If we were defeated on January 8, we would have certainly been the victims, not those UNPers who make a big ado about nothing. We never let go this challenge but took every risk of life. Had we lost the election, it was crystal clear, the minimum punishment for us would have been imprisonment at Welikada at the hands of the Rajapaksas. Some politicians in this Government who know nothing about what would have really happened on January 8, today, make absurd statements in the political stage. While being part and parcel of the Government some UNPers and SLFPers are blaming each other, and the people question its legitimacy.

Q. The Joint Opposition and certain other sections allege that the President is only executing a UNP contract. Your comments?

A. The President has no need whatsoever to act in such a manner. Even the Prime Minister is well aware of this. The Bond Commission was appointed after discussing it with the Prime Minister. Who asked to form this National Government? We came to power not to form a National Government. Both, the President and I ventured into the Presidential Election campaign as non-political persons and we didn’t have a political party after we quit the SLFP. We didn’t even join the UNP but we won the election. It was the Prime Minister and the UNP which proposed to go for this National Government concept and negotiated with the SLFP to become a stakeholder.

Q. Some UNP Ministers have expressed the view that the UNP should leave the Government and form its own Government. What have you got to say about this?

A. If the UNP was capable enough, they would have done it earlier. If they were not in a position to form a Government those days, how can they form a Government now? These are false statements by some UNP backbenchers due to their political immaturity. As we are the architects of this Government, naturally, we would take great pains to protect it. Others who made no contribution are at liberty to utter whatever they wish at political platforms. They think this Government was formed by their political catchers. It was a third party which filled the gap to form this Government and finally became the majority.

Q. Several SLFP Ministers have speculated that the SLFP and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) could get together after the LG elections. Will such speculations ever come true?

A. When some of the SLPP nominations were rejected and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was asked whether he would extend support to the SLFP to consolidate power at those LG bodies, he flatly refused. So the SLPP or Joint Opposition (JO) will never join hands with the SLFP. Former President Rajapaksa wants to clash with President Sirisena and defeat him. Rajapaksa knows some SLFP MPs sitting on the fence would rejoin him, so that later he can compete with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Whatever said and done, Mahinda Rajapaksa is an astute politician who knows the art of defeating both the incumbent President and the Prime Minister when the opportunity permits him. Both, the SLPP and JO are in the midst in this political conspiracy.

Q. What is your assessment on the outcome of the LG elections ?

A. I can’t comment on it right now. But there is a lot of enthusiasm among the voters. Due to various media speculations, there was some setback among our group. Once the LG polls were announced, the UNPers have come forward with much enthusiasm. The SLFP is also consolidating its position at each electorate in an unprecedented manner. Earlier, the SLFP was at a low ebb. But today, even those who think on traditional lines have rallied round the SLFP to ensure its victory. During my political career, I have also contributed to create a third political force in the country.

We could see the fate of such political parties. Even after the LG elections this SLFP-UNP Government will continue with no let or hindrance.

Q. What are the major highlights and achievements of the Government in the last three years and what is your comment on the allegation by the JO that this Government has not done anything during its tenure?

A. Except the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike Government, can you show a single successive Government which effected this kind of drastic changes within three years? Who was the Leader who took steps to investigate his own Ministers? The media doesn’t report these things and they only highlight fraud and other malpractices. There are no hundred percent corruption free governments in the world. Malpractices were there even in the Governments of Lenin and Mao Zedong. The late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike appointed the Thalgodapitiya Commission and sacked four Ministers, depriving them of their civic rights. After that who is the leader who took action against his own Ministers? Even the Prime Minister appeared before the Presidential Commission to give evidence. Earlier, did we have any such political culture in our country? You can witness the media freedom now prevailing in the country.

Are journalists being killed, like Lasantha Wickramatunge or being disappeared like Ekneligoda, or brutally assaulted like other journalists such as, Keith Noyahror Upali Tennakoon, today? Have any journalists like Sunanda Deshapriya, Poddala Jayantha and Anura Balasuriya, left the country due to death threats? Regrettably today, the media doesn’t utter a word about these incidents and we can’t find even a single journalist who says, those who killed Lasantha should be brought to book.

Q. It appears that talk about the new Constitution has now subsided. Is the matter progressing?

A. After the LG elections, the constitutional work will be in progress. The new Constitution will be introduced by the end of this year and as promised, it will be passed by a two thirds majority. The new Constitution will abolish the Executive Presidency and there will be a Prime Minister who will be held accountable to Parliament. It was SLFP leaders like Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who promised to abolish the Executive Presidency, but nothing happened. Therefore, the SLFP cannot oppose to abolish it. At present, the most adverse features of the Executive Presidency have been removed by the 19th Amendment.

Q. What led the President to seek Supreme Court determination on his term of office?

A. The President had to seek clarification because a view had been expressed that his term of office expires in 2021 and not 2020. So the President should clearly know whether he should declare the next Presidential Election in November 2019, or November 2020. When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa too wanted to clarify his term of office, he consulted the then Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva who decided the matter in his Chamber and gave the judgement. However, President Maithripala Sirisena followed the correct legal procedure. 

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