By Himal Kotelawala
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the controversial bond issuance concluded its hearings yesterday, noting that additional hearings may be held if needed, and witnesses including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called in the event further testimony is required.
Making a statement at the conclusion of yesterday’s proceedings, Chairman of the Commission Justice K. T. Chitrasiri said that the Commission had forwarded a questionnaire to the Prime Minister’s Office expecting a response in the form of an affidavit.
“If required, a list of further questions will be forwarded to the Prime Minister. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the Commission of Inquiry will peruse its contents and, if necessary, request the Prime Minister to attend a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry to give evidence or request the Prime Minister to provide further clarification, as this Commission of Inquiry considers necessary,” said Justice Chitrasiri.
If any further hearing is to be held, he added, a notice to such effect will be displayed at the Office of the Commission of Inquiry before the day of any such hearing.
Speaking on behalf of the officers of the Attorney General’s Department assisting the Commission, Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera said that the job is not yet over for his team of counsels. de Livera referred to a list of 20 additional witnesses dated 10 October, some of whom have already testified, and requested the Commission to allow the AG Department to call them in order to realise its mandate.
The Prime Minister is also listed as a material witness, said the ASG, adding that his team had given reasons in their document as to why the PM ought to be called to testify.
Some interviews are already underway, he said, expressing the AG department’s desire for an opportunity to present more evidence.
Commissioner Justice Prasanna Jayawardena assured de Livera that in the event material does come up, the Commission will definitely have another hearing.
Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda, making some closing remarks said, the AG department was in the process of unearthing some more material through data extracted from telephones.
“If we don’t get that opportunity, it will be a half baked cake,” said Kodagoda, adding that his team would like the President and the public to receive a full baked cake in the form of the report.
Recalling that he was shouted down by attorneys representing Perpetual Treasuries (Pvt) Ltd (PTL) for calling it a criminal organisation several months ago, DSG Kodagoda submitted to the Commission that, as at yesterday, the AG department had placed before this Commission cogent evidence in support of the fact that PTL is a criminal organisation in that they were engaged in insider dealing, unlawful and inappropriate contacts with persons in authority including certain politicians and have bribed informants.
The full statement made by Justice Chitrasiri is as follows:
The recording of evidence before this Commission of Inquiry commenced on 21st February 2017. All hearings have been held in public. There have been 120 days on which hearings were held. 63 witnesses have given evidence. The evidence of some witnesses spanned several days. Over 450 documents have been produced in evidence, with several of these documents consisting of a large number of pages.
In the event that, after today, any new material is identified and the Commissioners are of the view that, such new material must be placed before this Commission of Inquiry as formal evidence, a further hearing will be held.
Subject to that, the Commission of Inquiry has now completed the hearing of evidence, except for recording the evidence of the Prime Minister, if it is required.
In that regard, we consider it relevant to state that, the Commission of Inquiry has previously forwarded a list of questions, in the nature of interrogatories, to the Prime Minister and has requested the Prime Minister to provide his answers, by way of an affidavit. If required, a list of further questions will be forwarded to the Prime Minister. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the Commission of Inquiry will peruse its contents and, if necessary, request the Prime Minister to attend a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry to give evidence or request the Prime Minister to provide further clarification, as this Commission of Inquiry considers necessary.
If any further hearing is to be held, a notice to such effect will be displayed at the Office of the Commission of Inquiry before the day of any such hearing.
The Commissioners now have, before us, the task of carefully studying and analyzing all the oral and documentary evidence that has been presented and preparing our Report to be submitted to the President. This will be a complex, arduous and time consuming exercise. Therefore, we will be compelled to request His Excellency to extend the warrant issued to the Commission of Inquiry which, at present, is due to end on 27th October 2017.
In the meantime, counsel who have appeared before the Commission of Inquiry are given the opportunity to tender their written submissions, if any, on or before 25th October 2017. In the event the warrant issued to the Commission of Inquiry is extended before that date, any written submissions may be tendered within a further week from 25th October 2017.
The Commissioners wish to thank the team of officers of the Attorney General’s Department, who assisted the Commission of Inquiry. They have worked long hours and have demonstrated sustained dedication to their task of presenting evidence, which had to be gathered from a very large amount of documents and after consultations with many persons. The Commissioners deeply appreciate their efforts and thank these officers.
The Commissioners wish to thank learned counsel who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry on behalf of persons who wished to be represented under and in terms of section 16 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The Commissioners appreciate the cooperation given by these counsel to the Commission of Inquiry in completing the time consuming and often difficult task of conducting these proceedings.
The Commissioners wish to thank the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department who carried out investigations and recorded the statements of witnesses and other persons. They have made a significant and valuable contribution to the efforts of the Commission of Inquiry.
Finally, the Commissioners wish to place on record our gratitude to Mr. S. Udugamasuriya, Attorney-at-Law, who has functioned as the Secretary of this Commission of Inquiry and to all the members of the Staff of this Commission of Inquiry for their cooperation and hard work, which has enabled this Commission of Inquiry to function.