JO defends its call for special parliamentary session on bond report


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition yesterday defended its decision to call for a special session of parliament to discuss treasury bond scams involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena’s address to the nation on January 3.

President Sirisena dealt with the Commission of Inquiry report on bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016.

JO heavyweights Prof. G.L. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and MP Bandula Gunawardena reiterated the need for a special session ahead of the scheduled re-opening of parliament on January 23.

They said so when The Island sought an explanation at a press conference at Punchi Borella as to why the JO sought a debate in parliament instead of demanding a guarantee from President Sirisena in respect of full implementation of the recommendations. Asked whether they now felt the UNP had taken advantage of their call for a special session by immediately granting one on January10, MP Gunawardena explained various measures adopted by the JO since the disclosure of the first scam.

Gunawardena said the JO intended to get the parliamentary backing to implement PCoI recommendations.

In addition to MP Gunawardena, Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, on behalf of the SLFP and the JVP respectively called for a special session. Premier Wickremesinghe immediately requested Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to grant their request.

In response to another query by The Island, MP Gunawardena said Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake had quit his ministerial portfolio because the JO moved a no-faith motion against him. The Island pointed out that Karunanayake quit the portfolio in the wake of the bond commission inquiring into the Karunanayake family living in a penthouse at the expense of PTL owner Arjun Aloysius.

At the onset of the briefing, Gunawardena alleged that President Sirisena had sought to dilute the PCoI report by calling for an investigation into the issuance of treasury bonds during the tenure of Ajith Nivrad Cabraal as the Governor of CBSL.

Prof. Peiris said the JO was happy to have special parliamentary session even though the PCoI report was yet to be released. The former Law Professor accused President Sirisena of suppressing section of PCoI report on Premier Wickremesinghe though MP Karunanayake was exposed.

He expressed grave doubts as to President Sirisena’s readiness to let the law take its course.

The former External Affairs Minister said that proper investigation was certainly not possible as long as Wickremesinghe remained in office. The JO spokesman urged Premier Wickremesinghe to quit temporarily to allow the Attorney General to initiate legal action.

Commenting on abortive bid to reach a consensus between warring SLFP factions to enable them to contest February 10 local government polls, SLPP leader Peiris said President Sirisena wanted to run local government authorities while governing the country with the UNP. That despicable strategy was certainly not acceptable to the JO and SLPP, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out the absurdity in the SLFP remaining in government in the wake of PCoI revelations.

MP Gunawardena said that at a meeting chaired by former President and JO leader Mahinda Rajapaksa recently, they decided to move a no-faith motion against Premier Wickremesinghe. The MP said that the leader of the Joint Opposition parliamentary group Dinesh Gunawardena had written to President Sirisena requesting for a copy of the CoI.

MP Karunanayake, too, on Monday requested a copy of the PCoI from the Presidential Secretariat.

Alleging that every effort would be made by the UNP to delay and stifle the judicial probe, Prof. Peiris said that its strategy should be examined against the backdrop of the Attorney General being summoned to Temple Trees several months ago. Prof. Peiris alleged that the government wanted to use the Attorney General, Auditor General and the FCID to carry out its perverse strategy.

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