Treasury bond scams probe:
Experts wonder whether findings and recommendations reflect evidence received

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Attorney General (AG) couldn’t initiate action on his own in respect of the recommendations made by Presidential Commission of Inquiry that had probed treasury bond scams involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) in Feb 2015 and March 2016, authoritative sources told The Island yesterday.

Sources emphasised that the AG had to go by specific instructions received from the President.

The Island sought an explanation from relevant authorities in the wake of Sports Minister and co-cabinet spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekera asserting that the AG could now file indictments against those who had been implicated in treasury bond scams.

President Sirisena appointed a three-member commission headed by Supreme Court judge K.T. Chitrasiri in January 2017. Its members included Supreme Court judge Prasanna Jayawardena and retired Deputy Auditor General K. Velupillai.

Addressing the media at SLFP head office on T.B. Jayah Mawatha on Tuesday, Minister Jayasekera, in response to a query explained how the AG could act on the recommendations.

Sources said that recommendations made by any presidential commission should be addressed to the President as he or she was the appointing authority. "The President needs to consider the recommendations and take policy decisions on their implementation. In case, the president referred the report to the AG, and if a request is made by him to implement the recommendations in respect of which the AG has power to implement, it’s incumbent on the AG to implement such recommendations only," a senior official told The Island.

"In other words, the AG or any other agency that may act on certain recommendations cannot move until the President issues specific instructions," the official said.

Responding to another query, the official pointed out there could be recommendations that required to be addressed by other institutions as well as implementation of policy decisions.

It would be the president’s prerogative to suggest the full implementation of Chitrasiri commission’s recommendations or partial enforcement, the official said.

The Island learns that the commission hadn’t sought the services of the AG’s team that assisted it in the preparation of the findings and the recommendations though some members assisted in finalizing certain other components of the report.

Well informed sources said that there hadn’t been discussions between the three-man commission and the AG’s team led by Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera as regards findings and recommendations ought to be in respect of oral evidence as well as submissions made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by way of affidavits.

Responding to another query, sources asserted that no one would be able to blame de Livera’s team of undue interference in finalizing the findings and recommendations.

Sources emphasized that all expected the findings and the recommendations to reflect the evidence presented as well as investigative material collected by the commission. Sources said that those who had followed nearly yearlong reportage of the treasury bond scams could easily determine whether the findings and recommendations reflected the actual proceedings.

In addition to PM Wickremesinghe, ministers Ravi Karunanayake, Kabir Hashim, Malik Samarawickrema and MP Hector Appuhamy appeared before the commission.

Of those who had been summoned by the commission, Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius last September declined to be cross examined by the AG’s team whereas his father-in-law Sri Lankan born Singapore citizen Arjuna Mahendran appeared before the commission on several days.

"The bottom line is whether the commission was ready to go the whole hog."

Veteran politician Dew Gunasekera, General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Chairman of the special COPE committee that had inquired into the first treasury bond scam of February 2015 told The Island yesterday he would soon call a media conference in that regard. Gunasekera said that he would meet the media within days after President Maithripala Sirisena made his stand on the bond commission’s recommendations and findings.

Gunasekera said that he would like to see whether the commission had especially dealt with the failure on the part of the government to take remedial measures in the wake of the 2015 scam. Had 100-day government allowed the COPE to present its report to parliament, the second treasury bond scam could have been definitely averted, Gunasekera said, pointing out that the 2016 scam was much bigger than the one perpetrated soon after the change of government.

Gunasekera said he had received interesting information regarding foreign role in the inclusion of footnotes by UNP members of the second COPE report. Gunasekera said he was in the process of verifying information before taking it up at the forthcoming media briefing.

The former minister said that the Chitrasiri commission’s findings and recommendations could prominently figure at the ongoing local government polls campaign.

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