Dappula and Sumanthiran battle at bond commission

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera strongly objected to President’s Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran, MP, representing S. Pathumanapan, a Central Bank employee recently interdicted over his alleged involvement in the treasury bond scam, at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into controversial transactions in Feb. 2015 and March 2016.

SASG de Livera, seated next to Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya, raised objections on the basis that Jaffna District TNA lawmaker Sumanthiran, who was a member of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), which summoned Pathumanapan during D. E. W. Gunasekera’s tenure as its Chairman, was representing him (Pathumanapan) at the commission.

De Livera pointed out that as the current Parliament had accepted the previous COPE report Sumanthiran being Pathumanapan’s counsel at the commission wasn’t acceptable. De Livera alleged a serious conflict of interest on the part of the MP.

Sumanthiran retaliated by opposing the Attorney General’s Department officials assisting the bond commission after having participated in investigations. Sumanthiran explained why they shouldn’t be leading evidence after having interrogated his client Pathumanapan. The lawmaker cited the relevant laws that prohibited them from assisting the commission.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who arrived at the commission ten minutes before the commencement of the day’s proceedings, watched the drama with well over 100 persons, including UNP MPs, lawyers and media packed into the makeshift facility not equipped to accommodate such a large crowd. Hindu religious Affairs Minister D. M. Swaminathan sat among the journalists.

Justice Prasanna Jayawardena, at one point, interrupted Sumanthiran, who was making elaborate representations on behalf of his client, Pathumanapan, who had been a senior Assistant Director of the Communications Department at the time he was interdicted.

Justice Jayawardena told Sumanthiran, “Shall we proceed?”

Then, MP Sumanthiran explained the circumstances under which he happened to be at the bond commission on Monday consequent to a call received by attorney-at-law Dinesh Vidanapathirana.

Having partly dealt with Pathumanapan’s issue, the commission for about an hour received Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s clarifications as regards some questions he had previously answered by way of affidavits.

PM Wickremesinghe left the premises immediately after the commission concluded recording his statement.

De Livera reiterated his strong objections to member of COPE Sumanthiran representing a person who had been with the Public Debt Department as well as the EPF now under investigation.

De Livera referred to Sumanthiran’s client taking/receiving over 700 calls (some taken from his brother’s phone). He declared that Sumanthiran’s role as Pathumanapan’s counsel was highly unethical.

Both Justices Chitrasiri and Prasanna Jayawardena intervened on several occasions with Sumanthiran asserting that it would have been better if he hadn’t attended the bond commission. Sumanthiran said the commissioners would have been comfortable if he hadn’t been present. A smiling Jayawardena said that they would be comfortable when the MP left the premises.

Looking at Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda, Sumanthiran dared the official to get into the witness box while vowing to disprove forensic report on the Communication Information Analysis which he called false and illegal.

Sumanthiran lashed out at the commission for alleging that his client had been interdicted one day after the release of the report. The Counsel blamed his client’s plight on the commission, prompting the commission to counter accusation that it had recommended the termination of services. The commission instructed Sumanthiran to check who had signed the letter terminating his client’s services. Sumanthiran identified the person as the human resources manager of the Central Bank.

Objecting to Sumanthiran’s claim, the commission said it didn’t play the role of the human resources department of the Central Bank.

As the proceedings came to an end, Sumanthiran reminded the commission that Parliament could exercise judicial power.

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