By Dharisha Bastians
Delivering a thinly veiled indictment against the UNP for failing to act on the alleged treasury bond scam, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday took full credit for sacking former Governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran in the interest of the country.
“It was I who kicked out Arjuna Mahendran. It was I who appointed Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy as Central Bank Governor, and that is an appointment the whole world has hailed,” he charged. President Sirisena said that the decision was made for the sake of the country.
The President strongly criticised both the Government and the Opposition over their handling of the adjournment debate in Parliament on the COPE report on the Central Bank bond transaction on Tuesday.
“Both parties messed it up. The answer to allegations of corruption is not to say what about the corruption that happened before. Corruption is wrong, whoever is behind it. ”
President Sirisena was making his remarks at a ceremony to mark the birth anniversary of Muththetuwe Ananda Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the Abhayaramaya temple in Narahenpita. Since January 2015, the Abhayaramaya temple has served as a de facto political headquarters for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. His speech was a response to several speeches by Buddhist monks that strongly criticised the current Government.
President Sirisena said his decision to appoint the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged bond scam had been on the advice of legal experts. “I was advised that any other investigation into this issue would take years,” he explained to the audience at the temple.
The Presidential Commission would complete work within a three month period, President Sirisena vowed.
He said the Prime Minister’s Office had sent the COPE report to the Attorney General, who had directed the CID to conduct investigations and gather evidence to prepare a case and that police sleuths were working on the premise that the case would not be a criminal investigation, but a civil one.
“I don’t agree with that. I want to do this investigation right. This will be a clean investigation,” the President asserted, in a measured criticism of the way the CID was conducting the Treasury bond probe.
Responding to criticism that he was appointing a new commission in order to bury the issue further, President Sirisena charged that he had walked out of a rampantly corrupt administration in 2014.
“I have no reason to delay this issue. I stepped out of a misguided Government that was plagued by corruption issues. Having left a Government like that, I am not ready to govern that way,” the President said.
The President said he was willing to act against corrupt individuals, whether they were members of the former Government or his own. “Thieves are thieves, and I don’t care who they are,” Sirisena thundered.
Issuing a warning shot to the Joint Opposition which has taken the fight to the Government on the Treasury bond scam, President Sirisena reminded the audience that while the most recent bond transaction was in the public domain, similar frauds had been ongoing in preceding years as well.
“Once this bond scam is investigated and action is taken, all the scams that happened in the last seven to eight years will also be investigated. I am quite adamant about that,” he charged.
President Sirisena also defended his National Unity Government, saying that no matter whatever criticism they were facing, the future was bright under the ruling coalition made up of both main parties. “We have to work within our constitution. We have to work with this current Parliament, it cannot be removed for four years,” President Sirisena explained.
Responding to remarks made by Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera who also made a speech at the event, President Sirisena made it clear that he had rejected sections of the National Human Rights Action Plan that were seeking to decriminalise homosexuality in Cabinet last week.
“Those papers came to Cabinet. I am the one who rejected them. Some of these papers also called for the legalisation of sex workers,” the President claimed.
Courtesy: Daily FT