Mahendran to await COPE verdict


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera on Thursday night declared that President Maithripala Sirisena would not extend Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran's term under any circumstances.

Minister Jayasekera emphasized that a decision had been made in respect of Mahendran.

The announcement was made amidst a widening rift in the government over a second term for Governor Mahendran, accused of manipulating the issue of Central Bank bonds at a colossal loss to the national economy. The UNP has strongly denied what it called unsubstantiated allegations directed at Mahendran.

Governor Mahendran’s first term ends next Thursday (June 30).

The Kurunegala District MP was responding to JVP National List MP Bimal Ratnayake during a live debate on Derana on Thursday night.

Governor Mahendran yesterday morning told the Monetary Board that he would not seek a second term until the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) cleared his name. The watchdog committee comprises 26 members with the UNP having the majority. However, the COPE is empowered to have 31 members.

The Central Bank quoted Governor Mahendran as having told the Monetary Board at a meeting held on Friday (24) that he would not be seeking re-appointment as Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka when his term ended on Thursday (30) until the COPE revealed its findings in respect of issues related to the issuance of Treasury Bonds during 2015 and 2016.

MP Ratnayake said President Maithripala Sirisena hadn't so far taken action in spite of publicly faulting Mahendran for alleged bond scam in a televised address to the nation some time ago.

Ratnayake alleged that the UNP had launched a special project to discredit the Auditor General against the backdrop of a simmering dispute over the Central Bank declining to provide all details in respect of controversial bond transactions. Subsequently, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) had intervened on behalf of the Attorney General to ensure that he received the required details, MP Ratnayake said.

The JVPer claimed that the UNP had challenged the Auditor General's recent declaration that the government exceeded the authorized limit on borrowings in a bid to pressure. Bimal Ratnayake said that as members of the COPE both he and Minister Jayasekera were aware of those happenings.

Ratnayake alleged that the UNP action was meant to influence the Auditor General and pressure the COPE in an obvious bid to undermine the ongoing investigations. The MP vowed not to be misled UNP strategy; he expressed confidence in Attorney General's resolve to ensure successful conclusion of the investigation.

Those civil society organizations which campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena at the last presidential polls and the UNP at the general election inJanuary and August, 2015, respectively recently urged the government not to accommodate Governor Mahendran.

The Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF), too, launched an online petition campaign to push for Mahendran's ouster.

During debate on Derana, MP Ratnayake pointed out that MP Weerawansa's National Freedom Front (NFF), too, had targeted the COPE recently.

JVP National List MP Sunil Handunetti late last November succeeded General Secretary of the Communist Party Dew Gunasekera as the Chairman of the anti-corruption watchdog.

COPE comprises Sunil Handunnetti (JVP), Rauf Hakeem, Anura Priiyadarshana Yapa (UPFA), Dayasiri Jayasekera (UPFA), Ravindra Samaraweera (UNP), Wasantha Aluvihare (UNP), Lasantha Alagiyawanna (UPFA), Dr Harsha de Silva (UNP), Ajith P Perera (UNP), Ranjan Ramanayake (UNP), Ashoka Abeysinghe (UNP), Anura Kumara Dissanayake (JVP), Lakshman Seneviratne (UPFA), Chandrasiri Gajadeera (UPFA), Bimal Ratnayake (JVP), Weerakumara Dissanayake (UPFA), Mavai Senathiraja (TNA), MA Sumanthiran (TNA), Hector Appuhamy (UNP), Velu Kumar (UNP), Dr Nalinda Jayatissa (JVP), Harshana Rajakaruna (UNP), S Sritharan (TNA), Abdulla Maharoof (ACMC), Gnamutthu Srinesan (TNA) and Mahindananda Aluthgamage (UPFA).

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