Written by Tharushan Fernando
22 Dec, 2016 | 8:14 pm
Chairman of COPE , parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti says the Prime Minister directing the COPE report on the bond issue to the Attorney General is similar to one taking over the Speaker’s responsibilities.
In a letter to the Speaker, COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti called for a debate on the report on the bond issue compiled by COPE, during the first parliamentary session of 2017. MP Handunnetti opines that once the report is tabled , it becomes a parliamentary document.
In his letter, he says that it is the speaker who can take action on the document that has been presented to Parliament. Handunnetti affirms that if a need arises to direct the COPE report to the Attorney General, that decision must be made by the whole parliament and not by the Prime Minister alone.
Indicating that the Speaker is vested with the custodial responsibility of taking action on behalf of all members of Parliament, The COPE Chairman requested the speaker to debate the reportin parliament next year. The Chairman of Committee on Public Enterprises explained that it is not the responsibility of the Prime Minister or the government to decide whether the report should be directed to the Attorney General or whether any other measure needs to be taken, because this is a Parliamentary matter, and therefore the sole responsibility lies with the Speaker.
“I believe the speaker would have a better understanding on parliamentary matters,’ he said and added that it needs to be debated in the next parliamentary session and parliament must be given the right to make a decision on it.
SLFP Spokesperson Minister Dilan Perera also called for a debate on the COPE report by January and added that after debate Parliament must take decision
“Such a document has not been tabled in Parliament”, charged the minister who further raised allegations that measures are being taken to conceal the Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam.
“We don’t know if they are bring something like the super ministry to the spotlight for public debate because of this issue?” he said. He went on to note that the incumbent Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said he would make decision on Perpetual Treasuries. However, even until the investigations are over, they have not suspended the operations of Perpetual Treasuries. The SLFP spokesperson called on the CBSL Governor to temporarily suspend Perpetual Treasuries until this is debated in parliament and investigations are called for by the Speaker.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, Professor G.L.Peiris pointed out that Seylan Bank shares were exchanged in the stock markets and the Prime Minister intervened and stopped it. “What effect would those shares have on the credibility of the markets?” he charged. He explained that the reason for suspending trading was that it was done without any approval. He went on to add that the Central Bank gave money to Perpetual Treasuries and it was clear that the Bank of Ceylon was involved. But Arjun Mahendran has no authority to instruct the Bank of Ceylon. “If funds from the Bank of Ceylon were used who will be held accountable?” questioned Professor Peiris, who added that the Prime Minister did not make any attempt to inquire this matter from the Bank of Ceylon. However, with regard to this trade, the Prime Minister acted quickly to stop trading within a few hours.
Meanwhile, issuing a communique, the Office of the Prime Minister responded to the letter addressed by MP Sunil Handunnetti. The communique reads that the Prime Minister, in his capacity as the subject minister, has informed the Speaker verbally that the COPE report on the bond transaction will be directed to the Attorney General.
Moreover, the Prime Minister had informed the Secretary General of Parliament on November 9 to provide the other documents requested by the Attorney General, with the authorisation of the Speaker.
The communique issued by the Prime Minister’s office adds that this matter was brought up in parliament on several occasions and that the Prime Minister has expressed his willingness to hold a debate as well.
It goes on to note that the Prime Minister, in his capacity as the subject minister, directing the COPE report to the Attorney General is within the legal framework, and that seeking the opinion of the Attorney General on the measures when an allegation is raised against the Prime Minister’s staff is also a general practice.
While noting that this does not exceed the boundaries of Parliamentary procedure, the Prime Minister’s office points out that though the Chairman of COPE had leveled allegations against the Prime Minister, it was the Committee’s Secretary who had issued the report to the Attorney General.
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