A day long debate was held in Parliament on Tuesday on the report of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on the questionable treasury bond auction that took place in February, 2015. Here are some views expressed by MPs from all parties: Anura Dissanayaka: Chief Opposition Whip and MP This Government came to power on [...]


Corruption charges tossed from one side to the other; Sampanthan hits all round

Parliament debate on treasury bond issue

A day long debate was held in Parliament on Tuesday on the report of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on the questionable treasury bond auction that took place in February, 2015.

Here are some views expressed by MPs from all parties:

Anura Dissanayaka: Chief Opposition Whip and MP

This Government came to power on an anti-corruption platform. The expectations of the people of the country who voted for President Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 were to see that the corrupt would be punished and that there was no repetition of the corruption that took place under the previous regime. But what happened within weeks of the President taking office? This highly questionable bond auction took place and it has tainted the Government.

COPE conducted a full investigation into the bond issue and said the former Governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran was responsible of wrongdoing in this instance. The COPE investigation was based on the report of the Auditor General who probed the matter. But what did some Government members do? They tried to undermine the AG as they wanted to defend the wrong doers. The attempts by those in Government particularly the Prime Minister who is trying to protect those who are named in this scam has made people lose faith in this Government. I think Parliament must take over the investigation into this matter. Otherwise I believe the culprits will never be punished.

Lakshman Kiriella: Highways & Higher Education Minister

Some have mistaken the role of COPE. No cases have ever been filed based on the findings of a COPE report. The role of COPE is naming and shaming, according to several British lawmakers who I interacted with when they visited here sometime back. The Government has done its best to get to the bottom of this to ascertain if any fraud has taken place. We have sent the report to the Attorney General. We are not afraid as we have nothing to hide.

R. Sampanthan: Opposition Leader & TNA MP

Corruption is endemic in this country. Every Government has been responsible for this situation. When an election is held, one party attacks the other party on the basis of corruption but corruption continuous. They blame each but they all do the same thing and don’t make any honest endeavour to bring it to an end. People are getting sick of this situation. If this situation continues, it might be the cause for the downfall of democracy. Nepotism and dictatorships have always been preceded in many countries by rampant corruption. We have been talking about corruption but who is the man who has been convicted in this country for corruption? The UNP and the SLFP are hand in glove with each in the matter of corruption. People are getting sick and tired of all of you. We have had great leaders in this country, Did anyone accuse D.S. Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Dudley Senanayake etc of corruption? I am not saying the Prime Minister or the President are corrupt but there is corruption. Much is talked about the corruption that prevailed during the previous regime but what have you done. Has anyone been indicted in court? Has anyone been convicted or is it that your charges are unfounded? The country is stinking with charges of corruption against both the UNP and the SLFP. The Central Bank has lost its prestige. During the last regime, the CB was accused of engaging in political propaganda. As far as this bond case is concerned, no one should be spared and those responsible should be brought to book. I would urge the government to appoint an independent commission of inquiry and find out the truth. It is imperative that the country must find out the truth. This money belongs to the poor people of this country and you have no right to swindle their money in this way.

Kabeer Hasheem: Public Enterprise Development Minister

We cannot limit this investigation into one bond auction but the transactions that took place before too have to be investigated. This is the first time that a report on COPE has been referred to the Attorney General. We allowed an opposition MP Sunil Handunnetti to head COPE. We support a presidential commission too. We are for transparency. We in the UNP will not allow any cover up. It does not matter who is involved. There are fundamentals in issuing bonds and these must be understood. Many are clueless about the fundamentals of bond transactions. It was the UNP that introduced the Financial Transaction Reporting laws to the country but the previous regime ignored these and acted in violation of all the financial laws of this country. The JVP did not speak on the deals that the previous regime was making. Maybe the JVP also had its own deals or did not have the guts to speak up at that times. COPE reports were presented to this House during the previous regime which found that the then regime was not complying with financial rules, on tender procedures etc. But none of these were referred the AG.

Nimal Siripala De Silva: Transport Minister

I must thank the members of COPE as well as the Auditor General for the immense work they have done to investigate this bond transaction. President Maithripala Sirisena too has acted to address public concerns regarding this issue. We can see from these reports that there has been a massive fraud in this while the conduct of some officials in the CB, the EPF as well the Bank of Ceylon is questionable. We as the SLFP have made some recommendations to the President on what action should be taken to probe this matter. The appointment of the Presidential Commission  too was recommended by us. The SLFP, even though we are part of this Government, have acted to safeguard the interests of the public. We will not put the commission report in the deep freezer. Once the report of the commission is completed, action will be taken against those who are found guilty.
Wimal Weerawansa: UPFA MP

The Government brought in a Singapore national as the Governor of the CB to carry out this massive fraud. This is the biggest fraud that has taken place in the country. The Prime Minister has a direct involvement in this. Today there is day light robbery in this country by a Government that came to power saying that they came to fight corruption. Today we cannot expect any fair play from the Attorney General’s Department.

Mahindananada Aluthgama: UPFA MP

There are many investigations done into this bond scan and even now some in the Government have refused to accept it. There is overwhelming evidence against three persons in this. One is Arjuna Aloysius who started accompany with Rs. 331 million and now has profits of Rs. 23 billion after the bond transaction; there’s the former Governor Arjun Mahendran who is the one who broke the rules to facilitate his son-in-law Aloysius to make massive profits. The third is the Prime Minister who brought in Mahendran a foreign national to be the Governor and who has for the past two years continued to safeguard Mahendran. We know that UNP MPs have been prohibited from speaking on this issue. After many years, the UNP has managed to set up a government but a few outsiders are ruining it. Not only that even the SLFP is being ruined by them. The President must take over the CB. Having it under the Prime Minister is a hindrance to an ongoing investigation.


Mahinda Amaraweera: Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister

The President is committed to fight corruption and take action against those who are corrupt and action will not be restricted to what happened during the previous government. It is not only the SLFP but the majority in the UNP too want to end corruption. It will not happen overnight but we have to gradually do it. We will not backtrack from punishing those who are guilty of wrong doing. These are all public funds. Eventually the contributors of the EPF will be affected. We must also look at the culpability of officials in this kind of processes too.

Rauff Hakeem: City Planning and Water Supply Minister

The primary duty of Parliament  is to be the watchdog of financial management of the government but it is important that saner counsel prevail when approaching a debate of this nature. We must take a look at how we are going to proceed once a report is filed by an oversight committee. I must congratulate the Chairman of COPE Sunil Handunnetti as he did not allow political interference to impede its work. The Speaker must take charge once the report is tabled in the House. The CB and its credibility too must be protected.
Sunil Handunetti JVP MP and COPE Chairman

There is consensus among all of us that if the country has suffered any losses, measures must be taken to recover the monies. COPE’s report on the bond issue gave rise to a wide discussion on corruption among members of the public. We have to see where we go after this debate. We must not stop here. Parliament must execute its full responsibility of its control over public finances.

Ravi Karunanayake: Finance Minister

The Government has shown that it is transparent by allowing ample investigations into this issue. We have had several investigations and now there is a debate. This is an attempt to cover up the corruption in the opposition. There is lot of false propaganda to defame the government and these are not based on correct facts. There is a problem with three to four officials in the CB. These jokers in the CB are the ones who were working with the former Governor Nivard Cabraal.We lost millions in Greek bonds and in Entrust. What about the Pyramid scheme under the former regime? They don’t talk a word about these things.

Eran Wickramaratne: State Enterprise Development Deputy Minister

We in the government agree that those who are guilty must be punished. There is a circle of corruption with dealers and some CB officials that is why we have asked the COPE chairman to investigate all transactions since 2008. We have all agreed in the COPE report that the primary dealer in question must be investigated while the role of the former Governor too should be investigated. We have sent this report to the Attorney General’s Department and the matter has now been handed over to the CID to investigate. The CB Governor has also taken some steps to restrict trading by Perpetual Treasuries as well as on the movement of their profits out of the country.


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