TNA makes last minute demand for Tamil version of COPE report


By Saman Indrajith

National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa told Parliament yesterday that all sessions of the Committee on Public Enterprises probing the Treasury bond scam were nothing but a drama of which the last few acts remained to be enacted.

"At the end of couple of more acts, the country would be told that the COPE cannot release its report owing to technical problems and former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran would not be held responsible for the offences he committed thanks to Yahapalana bosses writing the script of the COPE drama," Weerawansa said.

He said that several MPs of the Opposition had signed the COPE chairman’s report while the UNP MPs were doing their damnedest to delay the process. "Now the TNA has come to the help of those saboteurs demanding that the draft of the COPE report be given to them in Tamil otherwise they would not give their opinion. It is evident that we have only this week for the presentation of the report. It has to be presented before the Budget debate commences. There are only three more days. The TNA now demands the Tamil version knowing well that it could not be provided at such a short notice. All these have been done with the intention of preventing the presentation of the COPE report, which found Mahendran responsible for the bond scams. We have justifiable doubts whether the said report will ever see the light of day."

The NFF Leader made this observation when a debate ensued between the government and opposition over the delay in submitting the COPE report to Parliament. Earlier in the day, MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena asked the government how and why the COPE could not present its report yesterday. COPE Chairman MP Sunil Handunnetti had gone on record promising to release his committee’s report on Oct 25, MP Gunawardena said.

COPE chairman Handunetti said that a section of MPs had signed the Chairman’s report on the investigation. Then a group of COPE members wanted to prepare their own report. The work was almost completed. The work which had already been completed would be sent for translation. "We will all meet again at 2.30 pm on Oct 26 and take a decision," he said. "We hope to present this report to the House as early as possible."

TNA MP MA Sumanthiran: "We have heard of a division within the COPE and two reports are coming. We know that only the Sinhala draft report is ready. There is neither Tamil nor English translations of the report. Without seeing the Tamil version of the report, we will not be in a position to say which report is right. You need to give the report in time for us to do so."

NFF leader Weerawansa said that majority of COPE members had concluded Mahendran was responsible for the Treasury bond scams and now efforts were being made to ensure that report would be swept under the carpet.

State Minister Ajith P. Perera said that only eight out of 26 members had signed the chairman’s report and that figure could not considered a majority. "Nothing has been finalised with regard to the COPE report. It is a process. There are some three to four thousand pages," he said. "We are still studying them."

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe: There is a group in Jaffna known as Aava Group. This parliament has a group that could be called Aava Giya Group (Came and gone group). That group is wondering how to come back again.

(Disturbances as opposition MPs shouting Thief, thief)

Prime Minister: "Do not call me a thief. Thieves are amongst you. Go before a mirror and you’ll see the thieves. We all like to know what happened in the bond issues. I have read in media reports that there are several opinions. That can be so. The committee is free to have several opinions. The COPE should submit its report to the House. Then Parliament can decide the future course of action with regard to COPE findings. We unlike the previous government did not keep the position of COPE and PAC chairmanships with the government. We gave them to the opposition. It is our wish that democracy should prevail and the working committee system should succeed. MP Handunnetti was appointed to the post of COPE chairman with the blessings of all parties. We have the fullest trust in COPE chairman and he will do his job properly."

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake: The COPE had a time frame for the investigation on Treasury bond issue. According to that time schedule, the report should be presented to Parliament within this week. COPE members have agreed to do so. Eigh of thirteen members of the COPE present at last Thursday’s meeting signed the Chairman’s report. That was the majority. Thereafter three more members have signed it by today. Now we have 11 members approving the Chairman’s report. There is another group preparing an alternative report. That is not the issue here. The chairman’s report approved by 11 members should be presented to the House.

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