COPE dilemma

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) seems to have a couple of self-appointed spokesmen! Besides the officially appointed Chairman, Sunil Handunnetti, Deputy Ministers Sujeeva Senasinghe and Ajith Perera have announced what they call decisions of the watchdog committee.

Poor Handunnetti, following the last few COPE meetings and his dramatic walkout (or cop-out) looks as if he had seen a ghost. He has told Parliament that he will reveal his ordeal at stormy COPE sessions in recent times. He seems to have got an overdose of ‘yahapalanaya’ he and his comrades very enthusiastically together with the present-day leaders promoted before the last two elections.

Deputy Minister Senasinghe has told the media that there can be only a single COPE report. No individual committee member can issue a report, he has stressed. One is intrigued! There has been no separate report as such issued by any individual COPE member. The report we have been quoting from extensively in our recent news items is the one prepared by the COPE Chairman on behalf of the committee and endorsed by a majority of committee members present last Friday. There were 14 members and out of them eight endorsed the reports presented by Chairman Sunil Handunnetti; later three more members approved it. That is how democracy works.

Deputy Minister Ajith Perera claimed in Parliament the other day that eight MPs could not be considered a majority as the COPE had 26 members. If we are to conclude that nothing should be considered as being ratified by Parliament or a committee thereof unless it receives more than one half of the members then VAT (Amendment Bill) has not been passed. For, it has received only 112 votes out of 225. Resolutions, reports, Bills etc, supported by a majority of MPs present, are considered ratified unless the Constitution specifically mentions that they have to be passed by a majority of MPs including those not present. The bottom line is that the COPE Chairman’s report was passed last Friday and the UNP MPs resorted to strong-arm tactics to manipulate the committee process to dilute the document.

Let the COPE be urged to present to Parliament both its Chairman’s report approved by a majority of members present last Friday and the one with the UNPs observations, recommendations etc incorporated. After all, no less a person than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament the other day that everyone in the House had faith in the incumbent COPE Chairman!

Deputy Minister Perera, addressing the media last Friday, said the UNP MPs wanted to bring criminal charges against those involved in the alleged bond scams. He seems to have taken the public for suckers. If the government really wants to do so it ought to find out what has become of the file the UNP-led interim government referred to the Attorney General in June, 2015 on the questionable bond issues. That document must be gathering dust in the AG’s Department. Our information is that a pro-government bigwig in the department meddled with it to curry favour with the powers that be.

The big guns of the incumbent government, while they were in the Opposition, likened what the Rajapaksas were doing to the country after crushing terrorism to saving a damsel in distress and raping her. The damsel has again suffered a fate worse than death at the hands of those who ‘liberated’ her from the clutches of the Rajapaksas in January, 2015! The biggest ever financial crime has been committed on their watch with the champions of good governance shamelessly striving to shield the culprits.

Those who backed the present dispensation expecting a change for the better are disillusioned. The chief architect of the current administration, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera was disillusioned and disappointed towards the latter stages of his life. Had he been alive he would definitely have taken on the incumbent rulers. The movement he created to campaign for social justice is only a shadow of its former self after his demise. People are left with no one to turn to. Their choice at a future election will be between old thieves and new thieves!




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