PA against Select Committee on arms procurement corruption

The PA will not positively respond to UNP’s demand for a Parliamentary Select Committee [PSC] to probe corruption in arms procurement, political sources said.

"There is no likelihood of the government even considering the matter," one source said accusing the UNP of making wild accusations.

Both the PA and the UNP have accused each other of corruption in arms procurement.

The UNP proposed the immediate establishment of a PSC to probe arms procurement after Justice Minister Batty Weerakoon speaking on the budget debate on March 13 admitted that there is corruption at the "highest levels of administration" in arms deals. The minister declined to name persons involved in these corrupt deals.

UNP Assistant Leader Gamini Atukorale on April 5 reiterated their call for a PSC. Atukorale challenged the government to appoint a PSC immediately vowing that he would place details of several corrupt deals before the committee.

He particularly attacked the government on the acquisition of two Hercules C-130 medium lift transport aircraft and plans to acquire the third one. Atukorale stressed that these aircraft were useless.

Asked to comment, a government spokesman denied Atukorale’s allegations. The spokesman said that the C-130s built by Lockheed Martin of the USA were acquired from the Royal Air Force.

"The aircraft were capable of operating off short runways," he said adding that the aircraft would be able to serve SLAF for many years. He described the aircraft as some of the finest medium lift transport aircraft.

Airforce headquarters said that the No 2 Heavy Transport Squadron took delivery of the two C-130s in March and September last year. "These acknowledgedly top flight transporters introduced a quantum leap in payload capabilities, upping the 25 ton capabilities of the Chinese Y-8s and the Ukrainian AN 32s to the over 60 ton capabilities of the US built C-130s," the headquarters said.

Over the past several years, the UNP had demanded PSCs on various issues including battlefield reversals, tenders and cabinet leaks.

The PA said that UNP’s call for a PSC on arms procurement has been prompted by what was happening in India where the ruling BJP was under heavy pressure as a result of a devastating arms payoff scandal that forced the Defence Minister to step down recently. — [SF]