Ranil accuses COPE Chief of breaching Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act
Writes to Speaker and Secretary General of Parliament regarding breach
DEW’s Jekyll and Hyde role must be exposed: PM
There is no official COPE report or COPE interim report released: PM tells Speaker
Says former COPE Chief had no authority to make statements about Parliamentary documents
COPE documents under lock and key in Parliament, PM claims
Ranil allows media to sit in on briefing by UNP COPE members
PM pledges full investigation into CB bond issue and other CB scandals within three months of assuming power
By Dharisha Bastians
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday slammed former Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Chairman and MP D.E.W. Gunesekera for violating the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act and using his position as head of the legislative oversight committee to gain political advantage.
Wickremesinghe has already written to the Secretary General of Parliament and the Speaker saying MP Gunesekera was in contravention of Section 22 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act by his conduct last week to make public documents under the purview of the COPE subcommittee probing the Central Bank bond issue.
“The Act prohibits the publication of any proceedings in any Committee of Parliament before they report to the House and also guilty of publishing a false and perverted report of the proceedings of a Committee of Parliament and punishable under Section 22 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act,” Wickremesinghe told the Speaker in his letter.
Wickremesinghe told reporters yesterday that with the dissolution of Parliament, Gunesekera had ceased to be a MP. “The only three positions still active and authorised to deal with Parliamentary matters are the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader,” he explained. “Other than these three, no one else has the authority to release documents pertaining to Parliamentary matters,” Wickremesinghe said.
He said the documents released by the former COPE Chairman were put forward by Gunesekera himself, and were not official COPE reports.
“The Jekyll and Hyde role that D.E.W. Gunesekera has played here must be exposed,” the Premier charged.
The Prime Minister pledged to conclude a full investigation into the Central Bank bond issue within three months of the new Parliament sitting, and that the probe would cover other scandals dogging the financial regulator since the time of the previous regime.
“A Parliamentary Select Committee will be appointed to go into the bond issue and other Central Bank frauds. We must protect public funds, otherwise there is no point in us being here,” the Prime Minister said.
He said that if Perpetual Treasuries, the company linked to Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s son-in-law Arjun Aloysius was faulted, the company’s license could be cancelled.
Mahendran and the UNP are under a cloud over the alleged bond scam, which the Opposition is keen to make a key campaign issue at the forthcoming Parliamentary poll.
The Prime Minister accused the COPE Chairman of acting in haste to protect the former regime. “That is why I was not summoned before COPE to testify,” Wickremesinghe said.
“There have been a great many scandals at Central Bank during the previous regime, at all those times the Chairman of COPE was in deep slumber,” the Prime Minister charged.
He also slammed Gunesekera for saying COPE was not empowered to summon ministers.
“This is not the case. Select committees can summon any minister and even prime ministers – in fact if COPE failed to summon me, I would have told Parliament that I wanted to testify in the Central Bank bond probe,” Wickremesinghe said.
“D.E.W. Gunesekera has lied to the press,” the Premier charged.
Wickremesinghe also charged that COPE findings Gunesekera had made public were not part of an official report by the committee. “All COPE documentation were under lock and key in Parliament by the Secretary General,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that the COPE Chairman had hurriedly summoned meetings of the committee on 25 and 26 June in full knowledge that several members were involved in election work and also had been summoned for meetings with the President.
Wickremesinghe insisted that he had insisted on reverting to the auction-based sale of bonds, after the previous Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal had pursued the policy of direct placements in contravention of Debt Department manuals.
“In this bond sale there was one direct placement and I pulled the Governor up for that,” Wickremesinghe admitted. “I told him ‘what are you doing when we have promised to set up transparent government?’” the Premier claimed.
At the UNP’s Sirikotha Headquarters yesterday, the Prime Minister allowed reporters to observe a briefing he had requested from party members who also sat on COPE – Eran Wickramaratne, Rosy Senanayake and SujeewaSenasinghe.