President Maithripala Sirisena speaks at the closed door meeting with representatives of the UNP-led United National Front following the swearing-in ceremony of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister
- Reaffirms that choice of Ranil is against his personal political conscience but proceeded respecting parliamentary traditions and democracy
- Reiterates actions since 26 October were sincere and well-intended and history will record it so and if no one does, he will include it in his upcoming book
- Says dissolution move was to benefit over 11 million voters and not give into interest of hundreds of MPs as people must be given a chance to elect clean politicians replacing the corrupt ones in current Parliament
- Raps Ranil and UNP over appointment of Arjuna Mahendran as CB Chief and bond scam
- Says forensic audit yet to be done by current CB to find out actual loss; Economists put the figure at Rs. 17 b
- Describes FTA with Singapore as detrimental; wants it to be revisited to decide whether it must be revised or scrapped
Soon after restoring Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday launched a fresh attack on the former and his party, exposing the continuing rift between the two.
In a speech made at the closed door meeting with representatives of the United National Front (UNF) led by the UNP and later televised, the President said the reappointment of Wickremesinghe was against his personal political conscience and he still maintained the view that even if 225 MPs backed Wickremesinghe as per his personal political opinion, he would not appoint him.
“However, I did so respecting parliamentary traditions and in the true spirit of democracy,” Sirisena added.
The President also justified all his actions since 26 October following the removal of Wickremesinghe as Premier, saying: “My intentions were sincere and well-intended.”
Sirisena said that he dissolved Parliament for the benefit of over 11 million voters and not give into the interests of hundreds of MPs.
He said dissolution was warranted since there was a large number of corrupt MPs in the current Parliament and a fresh election would give the people the opportunity to select honest politicians.
“One day my sincere and well-intended actions will be recorded in the history of Sri Lanka. Even if no one does, I will do it as I am currently writing a book and I will bear all,” Sirisena revealed.
Focusing on some of his Executive actions, including issuing multiple gazettes, the President said there has been criticism that they were “childish and foolish” but if they were such, a team of President’s Counsels and other senior and eminent lawyers would not have taken up the case on his behalf.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe came under direct attack by the President over the appointment of Arjuna Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor and the bond scam. Sirisena said that as an act of gratitude he allowed Wickremesinghe to make the appointment although he was personally against it. However, the appointment and the bond scam and corruption led the Yahapalanaya to a major crisis and rocked the very principles on which the new Government was elected in 2015.
“Today the main suspect (Mahendran) is absconding and the Yahapalanaya Government and the UNP partners have been slow to act, thereby protecting the corrupt. They stifled investigations or subjected those investigating to threats,” charged Sirisena.
He said that early last morning he asked Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy whether the forensic audit as recommended many months ago by the Presidential Commission probing the bond scam was done and the answer was not yet. The President said this audit was critical to ascertain and recover the actual loss from the bond scam.
“Certain economists have estimated the loss from the bond scam is Rs. 17 billion,” said the President, who also faulted the UNP for delaying the passage of key legislation in Parliament that would have strengthened authorities to take quicker and sterner action against those responsible for the bond scam.
Charging that the Cabinet had corrupt members, the President also faulted Wickremesinghe and the UNP for rushing the FTA with Singapore without due consultation and advice. He said that the Presidential Commission had made a series of recommendations and stressed that the Sri Lanka-Singapore FTA must be reviewed with proper consultation and advice to determine whether the country should revise it or scrap it altogether.
The President also found fault with the appointments made by the Constitutional Council, saying that his recommendations were ignored while junior officers had been appointed to the positions. Another criticism from Sirisena was of the arrest of army personnel accused of various allegations, noting that Sri Lanka must only consent to release Tamil political prisoners if military personnel were released as well.
Though noting that he personally preferred to avoid confrontation within the Government, the President during his speech also raised questions over the honesty and sincerity of the UNP members in delivering the promises made in 2015 and the new administration faced a daunting challenge ahead.