President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were seen in the same frame last Friday (28) as the duo took part in the National Deepavali Festival 2016 held at Temple Trees.
This was amidst speculations that things may have turned sour between the two with President Sirisena bashing Bribery Commission and other law enforcing authorities of acting in an arbitrary manner ignoring him. Hours before, Parliamentary watchdog Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) issued its report on the controversial Treasury Bond issue after 18 months of the incident. The report came with the full blessings of Sirisena loyalists in the COPE and found former Governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran, who is known to be a close friend of Premier Wickremesinghe, as directly responsible for the scam and suggested legal action against those who were involved.
The day before, Thursday (27), President Sirisena while having PM Wickremesinghe and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka on the same stage stressed that he is not ready to dance to the whims of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Addressing the Gallantry Awards 2016 held at the BMICH, he emphasized that whatever allegations were levelled against him, he will not change his policy on national security. He also said that he always completely committed himself to provide necessary resources for the Tri Forces and to strengthen the security forces, as well as to protect their dignity.
“As the President of the country as well as the Defence Minister, I would never underestimate the importance of national security and despite the opportunistic acts by some sections of the society, who do not have a proper understanding of the forward journey of the country, I would continue to safeguard the nation,” the President further said.
He said the government will adopt a more friendly and pleasant international policy framework to defeat persons whose ideologies were not defeated even though the separatists were defeated militarily in the country.
“We must never forget that the concept and ideology of LTTE terrorism is alive in certain parts of the world. It is clearly manifest in the protests staged against Sri Lanka in certain world capitals by LTTE sympathizers. Therefore, the obliteration of LTTE terrorism must be made a great victory by strengthening ourselves physically, strategically and in combat. We must be on alert at all times and be aware that separatist terrorism has not been defeated ideologically,” he said.
The President also accused the media and NGOs for making irresponsible statements without due regard for national security and described those who indulged in such things as “traitorous”.
“I have to say this clearly.Some media behaved in an unacceptable manner abusing the media freedom that exists today. But, no matter how much they criticize, oppose or attack me, I will never lose confidence in the armed forces and will always be committed to do the utmost for the welfare, honour and dignity of the three armed forces and our heroic soldiers. I am not ready to compromise national security in order to please NGOs,” he declared.
President Sirisena revealed what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi once told him about the disruptive activities of NGOs in India.
The New Indian Express reported that India has banned 11,000 NGOs last year alone.
During the ceremony the Parama Weera Vibushanaya, Weerodara Vibushanaya, Weera Wickrema Vibushanaya, Rana Wickrema Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama were awarded to the officers and other ranks of the Armed Forces for their exemplary and great service.
The day before the much awaited COPE report was presented in Parliament, the news about former CB Governor Mahendran fleeing the country spread like wildfire. This was following UPFA member Ranjith Zoysa revealing in Parliament that the former had suddenly left the country.
On the day COPE was presented Parliamentarian Weerakumara Dissanayake requested Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to clarify whether there was any truth to it. The Premier said Mahendran notified him the previous week of having to go to Singapore and is expected to return on Sunday.
There was much drama before the report was presented with UNP members in the COPE clearly having different views on the matter than the rest of the members and these debates, however, led to COPE Chairman, Sunil Handunnetti, walking out of the committee meeting, once. It was reported that he walked out as a protest to UNP MPs forcing the Auditor General to amend his observations.
However, after presenting the report in Parliament, Handunnetti attempted to reveal what he went through during COPE sittings but was not given the floor.
After tabling the COPE report, MP Handunnetti tried to narrate harassments and intimidation he had undergone at the COPE sessions while investigating the Treasury Bond scam as he had already promised on a previous date that he would tell the House of his experiences. “These recommendations are important. They came from various parties. There was difference of opinion with regard to the recommendations. I have been accused of being partial to Arjun Aloysius.” At this moment UNP Members shouted at Handunnetti. Leader of the House Minister Lakshamn Kiriella said that it was not a debate. “Those who applaud the COPE Chairman now, have forgotten how it was during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government. Thirty COPE reports were relegated to the dustbin.”
“Please let me finish. I request the Deputy Speaker not to let me undergo the difficulty I suffered at the COPE meeting in this House, too” Handunnetti pleaded.
Minister Rauff Hakeem who intervened noted that Parliament traditions should not be compromised at any cost.
“I am also a member of the COPE. I have chaired committees including the Public Accounts Committee. We too have presented committee reports in this House. MP Handunnetti could present his report but it is against traditions for him to reveal things that were discussed and what happened. There are ethics and traditions we have agreed upon. The Westminster system has given us many traditions. We have to uphold them. The COPE Chairman has acted responsibly. When an MP becomes a Chairman of a Committee he should leave aside his party politics. None of us mixed our politics with traditions. His views could be expunged from the Hansard. Nothing that would amount to harming the dignity of the House should be permitted,” he added.
PM on bond scam
At a time the government is planning on bringing in Right to Information Act and Speaker and MPs discussing amending Standing Orders in order to open Parliament Select Committees and others like COPE to media and the public, State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe requested the Chair that editors, journalists and media organizations which reported COPE proceedings of the Treasury bond scam be summoned and questioned.
“COPE proceedings are not open to media. But, media organizations published various reports. They should be summoned and questioned. The COPE has been vested with powers to summon them,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala who was in the Chair said he would discuss the matter with the COPE Chairman.
However, Senasinghe’s remarks fuelled a verbal attack between JVP MPs and UNP members and JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake said; “I am a member of the COPE. I attended all sessions of the COPE meetings on the Treasury bond issue. I am not a member who had attended only two sessions and shout here. There were many media reports. We are against summoning media and journalists before the COPE. If you insist on summoning them you should first summon the Leader of the House. He was the one who made statements to the media of COPE sessions. We are not political infants.”
Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella who was obviously provoked snapped back saying he is not a COPE member.
“I got up one day and stated that Hadunnetti was not suitable for the COPE Chairman post. He is the one who gave an interview to a newspaper on the Treasury bond issue. (JVP MPs shout denying the allegation) We can prove it. We will prove it,” Kiriella insisted.
The Cabinet met this week as the preparations were underway to present the COPE report in Parliament and the Prime Minister attended the weekly Cabinet meeting having in his possession the final report submitted by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on the procedure adopted in issuing Treasury bonds since 2008.
When the matter of the COPE popped up and several senior ministers pointed out that there is a risk of two or more separate reports on the Treasury bond issue being presented, PM Wickremesinghe noted that he was in possession of the final report by the Central Bank.
According to the report, the opinion or the permission of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank has not been sought from 2008 to 2015 when issuing Treasury bonds and the loss incurred by the government from such dealings alone amounts to Rs 172 billion.
The recent developments in the Northern Province has led to many parties getting worried with fears expressed whether the peaceful environment achieved after brutal bloodshed will be jeopardized and reconciliation efforts be hindered.
Following Ezhagu Thamil (Rise Tamils) campaign by Chief Minister
C. V. Wigneswaran, things turned from bad to worse with two students of the University of Jaffna being allegedly shot by the police.
Meanwhile, two Police officers were attacked with swords in Chunnakam market area recently and a group called ‘Ava gangsters’ claimed responsibility for the sword attack and said the incident was a retaliation for the death of the two Jaffna University students who were allegedly shot by the Police.
The group warned the police and the public to expect such incidents in the future as retaliation against activities that were destroying the culture and society of Jaffna.
destruction of our culture
A poster put up on walls in Jaffna allegedly claimed that the Aava group has stressed that punishment will be meted-out to those engaged in activities that would destroy the social norms and ideas in Jaffna. “We, as Tamils cannot witness the destruction of our culture in Jaffna which is considered ‘the land of culture’ of Tamil Eelam”.
The group also hinted that Tamil policemen would not be spared if they were to be part of the acts which were considered a detriment to the society. “Although there were certain Sinhala Police Officers who supported the tragic incident the Tamil Police Officers played the lead role. According to the orders of Judge Ilancheliyan we will mete out appropriate punishment to all the Tamil Police Officers who carried out the shooting under the direction of Sub Inspector Srigajan,” the poster said.
Meanwhile, Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Rathnayake dodged questions on whether the group called ‘Aava’ operating in Jaffna was linked to military intelligence and instead called on the media to report the death of two Jaffna students responsibly warning that it could be developed into an issue that might undermine a budding reconciliation process.
However, in Parliament Minister Ratnayake assured that Police had launched an investigation into the ‘Aava’ group which many believe was formed by the former government as it is unlikely that a Tamil group will be formed under a Sinhala name.
Navy suspect foul play
Meanwhile, nearly 7,500 detonators were found yesterday when two youths were searched after their motorcycle was stopped at the Pallimunai checkpoint on the Talaimannar – Mannar road.
Mannar Police said this detection was made by Mannar Anti-Narcotic Unit personnel when they were checking the vehicles at the Pallimunai barrier, after receiving information about the transport of narcotics.
The suspects aged 22 and 25 years are residents of Talaimannar and Mannar.
One of the suspects had brought these detonators from India in a boat. There is a good demand for their detonators from Mannar fishermen engaged in fishing using illegal fishing gear.
The detonators have been manufactured in Tamil Nadu and transported in boats to Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the Police are probing the possibility that a massive covert operation has been launched by the drug mafia in the country to manipulate residents of Arippu and Mannar against the Sri Lanka Navy, in a bid to draw a red herring across the waters of their heroin trade in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Captain Akram Alavi said outside elements in Arippu and Mannar are provoking residents against the Navy. He said two Navy Intelligence officers and a sailor attached to the Navy were assaulted by residents last Tuesday, accusing the Navy of land grabbing and theft. Residents had also attacked two observation units in Silawathura as well.
Meanwhile, the Navy was able to apprehend two Indian fishermen transporting two kilograms of heroin in Lankan waters near Arippu last Thursday (27).
The small fishing boat the two suspects had used to transport the narcotics was also confiscated. Alavi added that the Police are interrogating several individuals in the area to establish whether there is a subtle attempt to rid the area of the Navy presence to facilitate the unimpeded heroin trade. Police are also investigating the likelihood that the spate of recent events here are in some way connected and are parts of a political conspiracy against the government.