By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Joint Opposition on Tuesday (May 9) strongly denied that it had purposely voted for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, knowing that the Rajapaksa brothers, Basil and Gotabhaya would be debarred from contesting future elections.
The 19th Amendment debarred Sri Lankans holding dual citizenship from contesting polls. Parliament adopted the new law in late April 2015.
The media took up the issue at a briefing called by the JO at Punchi Borella to comment on the latest Central Bank annual report and the alleged government-Parliament conspiracy to oust Galle District UPFA MP Geetha Kumarasinghe on the basis of a Court of Appeal ruling on her dual citizenship.
Asked why the members of the JO, except the then Digamadulla electoral district MP retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, voted for the 19th Amendment, JO spokesmen Prof. G. L. Peiris and MP Bandula Gunawardena said that there was no basis for such an allegation.
Commenting on the on-going Central Bank bond scam probe, MP Gunawardena said they would like to know the status of the inquiry into a complaint lodged by the SLFP with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) in 2015. Former Education Minister Gunawardena alleged that the CIABOC was dragging its feet for obvious reasons. He claimed the undeniable truth is that the Central Bank hadn’t so far taken tangible measures against primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries allegedly involved in the bond scam.
MP Gunawardena lambasted the government for hounding its political opponents while turning a blind eye to corrupt activities perpetrated by members of the yahapalana administration. When The Island pointed out that MP Gunawardena’s allegation certainly applied to successive governments, an irate JO spokesman acknowledged that they had been ousted at January 2015 polls due to wrongdoings on their part. MP Gunawardena insisted that yahapalana rulers were acting contrary to their much touted promises.
MP Gunawardena said that Central Bank Deputy Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe’s shocking revelation before the Presidential Commission probing bond scams in respect of printing of currency notes in 2015 and 2016 had exposed the yahapalana leaders. There couldn’t be any dispute over Dr Weerasinghe’s declaration on May 4 that the Central Bank had never printed such a massive amount of currency notes as it did during the then CBSL Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s tenure.
MP Gunawardena pointed out that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted that the Central Bank had acted on his instructions. The UPFA MP questioned the UNP leader’s right to influence CBSL in respect of bond actions. Gunawardena insisted that politicians shouldn’t be allowed to engage in CBSL and Monetary Board decision making process under any circumstances.
Fielding questions, the MP acknowledged that the CBSL had been brought under the purview of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe though Minister Ravi Karunanayake remained in charge of finance portfolio and therefore his (Karunanayake’s) signature was on currency notes along with that of Arjuna Mahendran.