Written by Lahiru Fernando
25 Oct, 2016 | 6:38 am
COPE ( Committee on Public Enterprises) Chairman MP Sunil Handunnetti has left the committee meeting held in Parliament on Monday October 24, advising the members to appoint an interim chairman.
The COPE committee met at the parliamentary complex on Monday to discuss amendments put forward by a group of committee members to the draft report of the COPE Chairman on the controversial Central Bank bond issue.
According to Handunnetti, the UNP group in COPE had continued to amend the draft report while most members unanimously approved it.
Sunil Handunnetti alleged that the UNP group had also attempted to influence the Auditor General to change the conclusions that he had reached, as noted in the draft report. “Such a request cannot be made and I informed them that it should not be done, and that if they were not in agreement their opposition to the sections they are not in agreement with can be noted in the report”, he added
Furthermore, he noted that he could not continue to function as chairman in such a backdrop and had notified the members to appoint an interim chairman of their choice.
“I do not have a need to find anyone guilty or not guilty. Justice must be done in terms of the funds of the people of this country. The only matter we are looking at is whether this transaction was carried out with minimal harm to the state and the Central Bank”, said MP Sunil Handunneththi
MP Handunnetti pointed out that he cannot remain in the committee in a situation where the Auditor General is attempted to be influenced into changing the conclusions reached in an audit.
“They can appoint a Chairman of their own and compile a report the way they want to do it. They can put forward the recommendations they want. As the Chairman of COPE I am duty bound to present a report to parliament. I am prepared to table a report they compile, but I cannot remain in the committee while they draft a report the way they want it”, said MP Handunnetti
Representatives of political parties allege that the plan to present an additional report to the COPE report is a political strategy.
“.. We can see that the operation to protect the culprits of the Central Bank bond scam is in full swing”, said Wasantha Samarasinghe (Convener – Voice Against Corruption)
Samarasinghe alleged that “a group led by Sujeewa Senasinghe” is now trying to influence the auditor general to amend his report.
“The UNP is standing in the way of the investigation into this well-known fraud, not only that they are using their power to influence hard working officials who are trying to protect public assets, such as the auditor general”, he added.
Former COPE Chairman D.E.W. Gunasekara has said that tradition has been broken for the first time in the history of parliament with “two or three reports” being submitted through COPE. He stated that the matter is “a deplorable situation”.
“They are breaching all traditions and are now attempting to draft a report based on their party’s opinion. If this happens, then we can say with our eyes shut that such a report would be pointless”, he said
The Democratic Left Front Leader, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara said:
“The Prime Minister tried to reappoint Arjuna didn’t he? Didn’t the Prime Minister appoint a committee of his henchmen to inquire into this? A report was brought to parliament acquitting Arjuna Mahendran and denying that a loss has been caused – wasn’t there? So what did the Prime Minister do? He tried to cover up the fraud.”
The DLF leader also stated that the former CBSL Governor Aruna Mahendran testified under oath before COPE that he did the controversial bond issue on the instructions of the Prime Minister.
“There cannot be three or four reports, there is only one report. That is the Chairman’s report, and if a majority of the members have approved it, then the other group can say that they are opposed and submit a separate report, but there is only one COPE report”, he added
MP Vasudeva also questioned that, If according to the report, Arjuna Mahendran was involved and he is the accused, why did the Prime Minister try to influence the President to reappoint him?
Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (UPFA MP) said:
“.. Two UNP MPs from the Colombo District who took a firm stance on good governance have taken a stand against the auditor general’s report and had pressured him to alter his report.”
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. — The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. – Sir Charlie Chaplin – Final Speech in “The Great Dictator” (1940)
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