‘Bonds’ know no bounds | Daily News

‘Bonds’ know no bounds

Actions speak louder than words. The white collar criminals, who swindled and splurged the nation’s wealth, have been exposed as never before. The two most awaited reports of Presidential Commissions of Inquiry are now in public domain. The reports have gathered strong evidence against several bigwigs in the political and business sphere.

The citizenry is weary of repeated assurances on political stages on ending the impunity enjoyed by those influential figures implicated in the nation’s dirtiest deals that caused furore in recent times. Solid and fearless actions are the need of hour. Will this Government, which came to power with the pledge of taking a hard-line on corruption and fraud, have what it takes to spearhead action against the exposed wheeler dealers? Or will the reports gather dust on tables after the media stunts for the Local Government Polls are over?

Bond and PRECIFAC reports stir the House

The much awaited reports of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bond issue and Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) were tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. Both the reports are now available on the website of the Presidential Secretariat for public perusal.

Time was when Presidential Commissions were appointed one after the other each time a controversial deal came to the limelight, but their reports never found their way to the public eye. The release of Bond Commission and PRECIFAC reports signals a departure from that dishonest practise. The revelations in the reports created ripples in the political arena and it goes without saying that their impact was greater as the country is on the verge of a grass root level election.

The first to go online was the much talked-of Bond report and it further consolidated the allegations made against the Perpetual Treasuries Limited and the former Central Bank Governor. Compared to the media spotlight on the Bond saga, the content of PRECIFAC report, which reveals how strong and broad are the tentacles of corruption, received less prominence.

The PRECIFAC, which investigated into 34 infamous cases, have come up with startling revelations on the shady deals of the bigwigs who held a lot of clout under the previous administration. The cases such as the non-payment of money to the ITN for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign advertisements in the run up to the 2015 Presidential Polls, misuse of Negombo Lagoon Development project funds, Avant Garde, financial frauds at Sri Lanka Catering Services and Sri Lankan Airlines, expenses incurred for the water filling ceremony of Hambantota Port (Karadiyawara Mangalya), abuse of public funds and resources by former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, frauds and irregularities at the Udarata Development Authority, misappropriation of funds of Deyata Kirula Exhibition in 2013 etc. are among them.

The Commission has held that legal action should be taken against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former Ministers Priyankara Jayaratne, Wimal Weerawansa, Basil Rajapaksa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Johnston Fernando, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Sarath Kumara Guneratna, Jagath Pushpakumara and Rohitha Bogollagama and a host of former state officials over corruption.

Ravi’s request turned down

Interestingly, former Minister Ravi Karunanayake who was in the House with a 10-page prepared statement on the Bond Commission report in hand, had to take a step back as Speaker Karu Jayasuriya flatly rejected his request to read it aloud in the House.

The Speaker turned down the request by Karunanayake on the grounds that it does not come under the purview of a Privilege Matter or Personal Explanation. The Speaker told MP Karunanayake that he may speak on the Bond report on the date Parliament takes up the debate in that regard. The irate MP then threatened to send the copies of his statement to all the media and websites if he was not allowed to read it inside the House. The Speaker was firm in his mind over the refusal and replied him that it was very clear that the statement does not fall under the Privileges.

The copies of the statement were later distributed among the journalists in the Press Room by Karunanayake’s Media Secretary. Karunanayake in his lengthy statement took pains to interpret the Bond report to his favour and prove his innocence.

Missing annexures

At the same time, confusion reigned in Parliament as Opposition lawmakers complained that the copy of Bond report sent to Parliament was incomplete. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya clarified that the Secretary to the President has informed him that more documents pertaining to the Bond Commission report would be sent to Parliament as soon as they are properly bound as books.

The JVP and Joint Opposition MPs then demanded from the Speaker to summon the Secretary to the President to Parliament to question on providing an incomplete copy of the report to Parliament and making contradictory statements. However, the Speaker later informed that the President had notified him that he (the President) intends to call a party leaders meeting next week and explain to them matters pertaining to the reports sent to Parliament and respond to their concerns.

Finally, the Party Leaders have agreed to have a two-day Parliamentary debate on February 20 and 21 on the two reports. A heated debate could be expected, but its significance could have been much more had it taken place before the LG polls. Yet again, the blame game in Parliament would do little help to bring the culprits to book and do justice to the people. At least, stringent legal and policy measures are required to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

Audit Bill still in the labour room

The long overdue National Audit Bill, which has been procrastinated for 13 long years, is still in the labour room unable to deliver. The Audit Bill is a pre-election pledge of the Government that was even included in the 100-day work programme.

The Audit Service Commission, which was appointed following the passage of 19th Amendment to the Constitution, is inactive for over two and half years now due to absence of legal provisions.

The final draft of the Bill, which has already been revised over 23 times, has not seen the light of the day mainly due to contention over its surcharge provision which provides for “a recovery of an amount overpaid to a public servant, or a recoupment of any loss caused to Government for which he is held responsible”.

It is time for lawmakers such as Dr Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, Ranjan Ramanayake and Sunil Handunnetti, who deserve to be commended for their solitary fight against corruption, to come forward to push this progressive legislation through Parliament while preserving its true spirit. 


 

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