President Maithripala Sirisena seems to be happy that unlike other Presidential Commissions which took several years to complete their probes and ultimately produced reports which were not worth the paper they were written on, the Bond Commission completed its task within a very short period of 10 months and produced a report, copies of which have been submitted to Parliament.
The President has forwarded one copy to the Central Bank, another to the Bribery Commission, and one to the most important of institution, the Attorney General’s Department. The Central Bank has already decided to implement, not a recommendation of the report but an observation the Bond Commission made about the period which is prior to the mandate given to them by the President. Ranil Wickremasinghe & Co were jubilant about these remarks and were referring to the massive frauds committed by Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government during Ajith Nivard Cabraal’s tenure as the Central Bank Governor. This also enabled them to point accusing fingers at the former regime and the result was converting Parliament to the Mustang’s tent of sorts.
The Central Bank announced they are seeking expert advice from professionals in the world who specialize in forensic audit with a digital footprint. But, what they would do to prevent recurrence of such a massive scam is yet to be known by the public.
On the other hand, the Bribery Commission has notified they have appointed five senior officials of the Bribery Department to study the recommendations of the Commission and to indict the officials and anyone else against whom a corruption charge could be maintained.
I believe Sarath Jayamanne, the Director General, will not let down the masses of this country by postponing action he ought to take and at least find the people whose names were mentioned and are indicted in the High Court.
It is also interesting to note whether the Prosecutors would hold the members of the United National Party, who were directly involved in the Bond Scam and whose names were mentioned at the Commission, responsible for striving to scuttle the publication of the Commission’s Report.
This matter came to light and became the focal point amongst those who knew about the Treasury Bonds, the manner in which Arjuna Mahendran acted at the first auction of the Bond, which resulted in the D.E.W. Gunasekera-led COPE summoning Arjuna Mahendran to give evidence before it, who mentioned the name of the Minister in Charge of the Central Bank, and said he followed the instructions given by him. The Minister in Charge of the Central Bank happens to be none other than Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of the present government.
It is necessary to understand the following facts and decide whether these items which I relate below could be construed as Circumstantial Evidence. For the reader, circumstantial evidence relates to a series of facts, other than the particular fact sought to be proved, and the party offering circumstantial evidence argues that this series of facts, by reason and experience so closely associated with the fact to be proved, so that the fact to be proved may be inferred simply from the existence of circumstantial evidence.
The fact to be proved is whether Ranil Wickremesinghe was involved in the Bond Scam and whether as the Minister-in-Charge, he did not take any steps to prevent the second massive fraud that took place.
The Bond Commission has elicited the following facts:-
1. The first COPE Report of D.E.W. Gunasekera (Chair) that inquired into the first auction scam reported that Arjuna Mahendran said in evidence that he did this on the instructions of Ranil Wickremesinghe.
2. Was Ranil Wickremesinghe the Minister-in-Charge of the Central Bank?
3. Has the Central Bank ever been under any other Minister other than the Minister of Finance before Ranil Wickremasinghe took over the subject of the Central Bank under him?
4. After the resignation of Ajith Nivard Cabraal, wasn’t there any qualified person in the Central Bank or in Sri Lanka to be appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank?
5. Did Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe publicly criticize the consulting fees paid to a French national who had connections with the IMF, hired by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government?
6. Did Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe know that Arjuna Mahendran is a citizen of Singapore, which does not recognize dual citizenship, and therefore was unable to take an oath of allegiance to the Sri Lankan Government?
7. Did Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe defend this appointment referring to Section 11 of the Finance Act and say that there was no impediment of appointing a non citizen as the Governor of the Central Bank?
8. Did the Prime Minister, even if he could have appointed a foreigner as the Governor of the Central Bank, when the Governor refused to take oaths, inform that fact to the President in order to remove him; as it is very clear under Article 170 of the Constitution, the interpretation to the word ‘public officer’ does not exclude the Governor of the Central Bank?
9. Similarly, Article 61D, very clearly states that a person appointed to any office shall not enter upon the duties of his office, until he takes and subscribes the oath described in the 4th Schedule, and further, the Establishment Code, under the 2nd paragraph Section 10:6:2, says that any public servant should take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution, if not he will automatically lose his position as the Governor of the Central Bank.
10. Under these circumstances, by the action of Arjuna Mahendran, has the Prime Minister condoling the same, committed an impeachable offence and should he not be answerable?
11. When in evidence, before the COPE committee chaired by D.E.W. Gunasekera, Mr. Arjuna Mahendran stated that he changed the method of selling the Bonds on the instructions of the Prime Minister, what did the Prime Minister, as the Minister-in-charge of the Central Bank do to contradict the statement made by Arjuna Mahendra?
12. As Mr. Arjuna Mahendran who has no authority to take any instructions from the Minister-in-charge of the subject, had thereby clearly violated the Monetary Laws, what corrective actions did the Prime Minister take?
13. Did one of the junior members and a State Minister of the UNP Mr. Sujeewa Senasinghe, file an action in the District Court and obtain an interim injunction preventing the release of the D.E.W. Gunasekera Report?
14. Did the Prime Minister who always articulates the Supremacy of the Parliament, citing the decision made by the former speaker Mr. Anura Bandaranaike, reprimand his junior minister for having sought to prevent the issuance of the D.E.W. Gunasekera Report, and obtaining an order against the Supremacy of Parliament?
15. When this matter came up in Parliament and in answer to a question raised by Dinesh Gunawardena MP, did the Prime Minister say that he would appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee and handover the files to the Financial Crimes Investigation Division?
16. Is there any proof that he has done either. If the report was submitted to the FCID, did the FCID record a single statement from any of the people who were involved in this scam?
17. When the matter became very public and accusations were leveled against the Prime Minister, did the Prime Minister appoint a Committee comprising his followers and members of the United National Party (Legal Division) to inquire into these allegations?
18. Did the Prime Minister know that this Committee had no power to summon any officials and did not have the financial resources to carry out a thorough inquiry?
19. Did the Prime Minister absolve himself and Arjuna Mahendran by referring to the report tabled by the above Committee, headed by Gamini Pitipana?
20. Even this Committee, in all sincerity, has made a very poignant recommendation that as they were suspicious of the last transaction a forensic audit with a digital footprint should be immediately carried out.
21. Did the Prime Minister laugh at the recommendations and tell the Members of the Committee that the Sri Lankan public would soon forget the controversy when another controversy erupts?
22. Instead of flaunting the Pitipana Report why did he not carry out the only recommendation it made, if the Prime Minister was genuinely finding out whether there was scam in auctioning the bonds?
23. Did his protégé and the blue eyed handsome member of his party write a book in defense of Arjuna Mahendran, and on the manner in which the Bonds were issued, and an exposition to the public that there was no fraud involved? Was any government official present at the book launch, and was a copy handed over to the Prime Minister?
24. Did the Prime Minister request the President to dissolve Parliament so that the D.E.W. Gunasekera Report will never be made public?
25. When the second COPE Committee was established, headed by Mr. Handunnetti, did one of the supporters of the United National Party Ven. Kinyawe Palitha Thera file a Fundamental Rights Application seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the Second COPE report? What was the interest that Ven. Palitha Thera had on the recommendations of the COPE report, unless he was the representative of the Minister-in-Charge of the Central Bank?
There may be similar items of evidence known to the excellent team headed by Dappula de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda. Therefore, even on the matters enumerated by me, shouldn’t the Prime Minister be questioned thoroughly by an independent police team under the supervision of the AG’s department? Could one under the political culture in Sri Lanka question the second most powerful person in Sri Lanka, unless he temporarily resigns his position as the Prime Minister?
And finally, under whose pressure did Jayantha Jayasuriya, the present Attorney General, remove the elite team who did a magnificent job and earned the plaudits and accolades of the entire nation, and give its work to the Head of the Civil Section of the AG’s department?
The common excuse would be to tell the President he did this in order to ensure justice and fair play, and the new team will look at the recommendations more objectively and without bias. When this was told to a senior professional, he said, “Please tell this to the Chinese Barber, and he, without cutting your hair will die of laughter”.