By Natasha Gunaratne
CCC discussion on JKH ongoing
The main committee of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) met on Thursday to discuss various matters including the issue of John Keells Holdings (JKH) consequent to a Supreme Court verdict against the privatization of LMSL, a senior official of the CCC told the Sunday Times FT.
He said CCC Chairman Jayampathy Bandaranayake had brought to the notice of the committee that the process to ascertain as to whether JKH as a member of the chamber has violated the code of ethics with regard to its role in the LMSL privatization deal, has not been completed.
The process is still ongoing. The official said members of the committee accepted this position clarified by the CCC chairman as well as matters relating to the appointment of a group of eminent persons to advice the chamber on this issue. Mr Bandaranayake was not available for comment as he is abroad.
State agency officials will appear before the Supreme Court tomorrow, pursuant to an order made by the Court over two weeks, and explain what action has been taken in response to the July 2008 judgment on Lanka Marine Services Limited (LMSL).
Expected to appear is the Inspector General of Police, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Chairman of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Attorney General. The Court overturned the 2003 privatisation of LMSL saying it was irregular and designed to suit one party –John Keells Holdings (JKH).
At the last hearing of a motion in the LMSL case, the Court noted that no action had been taken following to the judgment, as required, and a petition to tender notices was served on the above respondents. This comes on the heels of Dr. P.B. Jayasundera's resignation as Treasury Secretary last week after the Supreme Court had stated that he continued to hold public office despite the adverse findings made by the Court on his conduct and notwithstanding the fact that the Court has found that he violated the provisions of the Constitution and thereby breached the oath taken in terms of Article 53 of the Constitution. The Court had also stated that he is disqualified from holding public office.
Though Dr. Jayasundera stepped down as Treasury Secretary and was replaced by Senior Deputy Treasury Secretary Sumith Abeyesinghe, the former powerful Treasury chief has been appointed a Special Advisor to the President on Finance and is due to take up his appointment tomorrow, ironically on the day of the Court hearing. “While Mr Abeysinghe has moved into the Treasury Secretary room on the second floor of the Ministry this week, Dr Jayasundera will be operating from a room being prepared on the third floor which is being renovated,” a Finance Ministry source said.
The question of whether the new appointment is a violation of the Constitution is most likely to be raised in Court tomorrow. A lawyer told The Sunday Times FT that the new appointment might be a way of ensuring that he is kept in some capacity whereby he continues to run the system – particularly work connected to the November budget.
He added that advisors are not within the public service proper but depending on Dr. Jayasundera's responsibilities as special advisor, he may be given the task of continuing to do what he did which in effect would raise the same issues of accountability, transparency and the protection of the public welfare.
The lawyer further stated that it is up to the relevant authorities such as the Bribery Commission, the Attorney General and the police to investigate on whether there is enough grounds for the JKH Chairman and perhaps other directors to be indicted on criminal grounds of corruption. The Supreme Court findings show that a serious act of public fraud and an illegal process have been committed but as to who can be charged and for what, the authorities will have to investigate, the lawyer added.
One excerpt of the judgment said, “From the perspective of JKH I (Court) hold that the company has secured advantage and benefits through the illegal process and in specific instances by misrepresentation that have been made.”