P.K.BALACHANDRAN | 29 OCTOBER, 2018
The Citizen’s coverage on the current political situation in Sri Lanka
COLOMBO: Resolutely defending his decision to sack Ranil Wickremesinghe from the Premiership of his government, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Sunday, that the former Prime Minister’s political conduct was uncivilized.
In an address to the nation on the circumstances which led him to dismiss Wickremesinghe and appoint in his place former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday, Sirisena said that “Wickremesinghe and his group of closest friends, who belonged to a privileged class and did not understand the pulse of the people, conducted themselves as if shaping the future of the country was a fun game they played.”
Sirisena went on to say that Wickremesinghe's “political conduct was unbecoming of civilized politics.”
“Once in the government, Mr Wickremesinghe arrogantly and stubbornly avoided collective decisions, and tended to take individual decisions. This behavior led to many conflicts.”
His efforts to correct Wickremesinghe had borne no fruit ,the President said.
“When many senior leaders were around, I have suggested to him to work together and work collectively. I suggested to him that we should take our decisions after proper discussion to achieve the goals of good governance. However, he ignored the aspirations of over six million people.”
Central Bank “Robbery”
Referring to the multi-million dollar Central Bank fraud and the fleeing of bank’s Governor Arjuna Mahendran, from the country, Sirisena said: “The robbery of the Central Bank dragged our country into a deep crisis. As you know, we had not heard about such a big fraud of public finances in the history of Sri Lanka.”
“The Central Bank robbery was an abortion of the pledge of good governance we had given to the people to eliminate corruption and fraud.”
About Wickremesinghe’s handling of the bank fraud, Sirisena said: “At that time, Mr Wickremesinghe behaved very impatiently and restlessly. When I decided to visit the Central Bank and meet the staff of the Bank, I remember, he suddenly came to my residence and asked me: ‘The Central Bank belongs to me, why do you want to go there?" At that moment, I told him, "It is true that it has been gazetted under your purview, but as the President of the country, I have the right to visit that place."
“Then, I appointed a commission to investigate into the Central Bank issue in response to people's demand. When the Commission was carrying on the investigations independently, leaders of the UNP started pointing fingers at me. They asked why I appointed this commission.”
“I wish to reiterate here that Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe must take the responsibility to bring Mr Arjuna Mahendran to Sri Lanka and produce him before courts. That is because, as everybody knows, Mr Arjuna Mahendran is a very close friend of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe.”
Detailing the circumstances that led to the sudden appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, the President referred to the alleged plot to assassinate him and the way Wickremesinghe handled that case.
“Recently, a person called Namal Kumara came before the media and disclosed about a plot to assassinate me and Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (former Defence Secretary). I handed over the task of investigations to Criminal Investigations Department. However, the Inspector General of Police did not assign the investigations to CID. Instead, it was given to another division. Then I realized that there was an issue of trust about the investigations.”
“Within 48 hours of the disclosure made to the media by the person called Namal Kumara and investigations could be commenced on the plot, Inspector General of Police made a statement stating that there was a doubt about the voices in the tape recording provided by that person.”
“I would like to raise the question, with respect, is it suitable for a Police chief to behave in such a shameless manner and express doubts about the recording, without seeking any technical expert advice on the tape recording, when there was a revelation that a plot was hatched to assassinate the President of the country?” Sirisena asked.
“The reports provided by the CID and other investigating authorities including the Intelligence Bureau showed that this is a very serious matter. In this plot, there is a wide range of information which has not been disclosed to the public,” the President added.
Cabinet Minister Involved in Plot
In a shocking revelation, Sirisena said: “There is also an involvement of a Cabinet Minister in this plot to assassinate me.”
“Furthermore, there have been tremendous pressure on investigations. There were instances of some responsible officers of the Attorney General’s Department evading the investigation duties.”
Bribery and Corruption
Sirisena accused Wickremesinghe of blocking efforts to rein in bribery and corruption which were rampant.
“Legal experts, Attorney-General’s Department, the members of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption and those who made investigations informed me earlier this year that it would take at least 15 years to punish the perpetrators of Central Bank Bond robbery under the existing laws in the country.”
“The Commission on Bribery or Corruption and Attorney-General’s Department recommended to make some amendments to the Commission Act, so that the guilty persons could be sentenced within one year and recover the huge amount of money they had stolen.”
“Accordingly, we drafted the amendments to the Act at the Presidential Secretariat and sent to the Parliament six months ago.”
“However, the amendment was not submitted for five months. It got buried in the Office of the Leader of House. I made serious inquiries into this. I asked the officials of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption. I asked the officers in the Attorney-General’s Department.”
“Finally, the Amendment Bill to Act on Commission on Bribery or Corruption was presented to Parliament. But I am sad to say that the Parliament postponed the approval of the Amendments Act indefinitely. Why was it deferred? For whose benefit? Due to pressure from whom?, ” Sirisena asked.
“It would take 15 to 20 years to mete out punishment to the guilty persons. That is why the Amendments Act was postponed indefinitely,” he explained.
Referring to fraudulent deals, the President said that EAP company was given to a foreigner fraudulently without calling for tenders. “There will be a thorough investigation on this in near future, ” he added.
“Many valuable assets were given to foreigners without tenders. Construction awards were also given without tenders. The emergency cabinet papers were presented to award such tenders and massive construction awards were given despite objections at the cabinet.”
“One such example is the Kandy Highway project. Another is the Land Ordinance Special Act, which was presented to Cabinet last week,” the President said.
Plot To Alienate Land To Foreigners
About the cabinet paper on the setting up of a land bank, the President said that it would have resulted in land going into the hands of foreigners easily.
“I lodged strong protests and postponed those cabinet papers. Majority of Cabinet Ministers were against these proposals. If the last week’s Land Ordinance Special Act was passed by the Cabinet and then by the Parliament, all the lands of our Motherland could be bought outright by foreigners without any difficulty.”
“This bill presented under the political and economic vision of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe would adversely affect the land rights of the country must be totally blocked by us,” Sirisena said.
The President said that the committee set up by Wickremesinghe to manage the economy was totally fraudulent.
‘The decisions taken by that committee were fraudulent. It was a major challenge to abolish it. As an alternative to that committee, I have established the National Economic Council. Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken everything possible to weaken that Commission.”
“Mr Wickremesinghe took steps to prevent the Commission from functioning. I clearly state that this crisis situation has emerged due to Mr Wickremesinghe’s stubborn decisions,” the President said.
Dismissal Fully Constitutional
Sirisena asserted that the way in which Wickremesinghe was sacked and Rajapaksa was installed, was entirely constitutional.
“Wickremesinghe and the UNP complain that the establishment of a new government and appointment of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister was contradictory to the provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. “
“But I categorically state that the appointments were made totally in accordance with the Constitution and the on advice of legal experts. No constitutional violation was done when appointments were made and removal was enacted. With all respect, I completely reject the charge that what was done was a violation of the Constitution,” Sirisena asserted.
Invitation to MPs to Join Govt.
In conclusion, the President appealed to UNP members and the Buddhist clergy to support the new government headed by him and Rajapaksa.
“I extend an open invitation to all 225 honourable Members of parliament to join the new government. I do this with the pure intention of taking the country out of the present political crisis and economic problems,” he said.