Ex-President did not take action against corrupt elements around him – Sirisena



By Saman Indrajith

President Maithripala Sirisena said in Parliament yesterday that under the previous government some people had fraudulently obtained funds even when wreaths were sent for funerals from the Presidential Secretariat. That practice had ended on Jan. 08, he said.

President Sirisena said: "I do not say that the former President did so. It was those who were around him who were engaged in helping themselves to public funds. But, he cannot absolve himself of the blame for not taking action against them."

The President said so, participating in the third reading stage debate on expenditure heads coming under the President’s office in budget proposals.

He said he had done away with unnecessary expenditure and helped keep the allocation of funds for the President low. "I put an end to the practice of traveling overseas with a huge entourage. Time was when the SriLankan aircraft were used for the President’s foreign trips and kept for him to return home. Most of the times, the flight was filled to its capacity that is 280 persons for the entire tour at the expense of president’s office. Such flights were kept waiting for three to four days. We will not let such things happen again," President Sirisena said.

"As I promised before elections I do not use helicopters to transport my wife or children. There were more than 1,700 members attached to the President’s Office. I brought down that number to 700. Large number of vehicles were re-assigned to ministries."

The President said that the biggest benefit that had accrued to the country from the regime change was the establishment of independent commissions. "We have set up nine independent commissions and they are functioning now expediting the process of restoring democracy".

"I, too, was a member of the last parliament in which the then government had a two third majority. But that power was not used for the benefit of the people. It was used to vest more dictatorial powers in the executive presidency. I promised the people that I would either do away with executive presidency or limit its powers. I am so happy that with the help of the same two thirds majority we were able to get the 19th amendment to the Constitution passed. We wanted to reduce more powers and drafted the amendment in that manner, but the Supreme Court pointed out that we could not do so without a referendum.

The president said that the new government could unite the international community which was divided on Sri Lankan issues. "When I met British Prime Minister he pledged to intervene personally on our behalf to secure the GSP plus tax concession and to get the EU countries approval to purchase our fisheries products. I met the prime Ministers of Canada and Australia, who did not come to Sri Lanka to attend CHOGM. The British Prime Minister promised me that he would consider setting up of a 6.6 million sterling pound fund and a significant portion of it would be allocated to Sri Lanka.

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