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SJB challenges clearing of MP on the basis of committee report



‘Don’t forget Japanese Embassy raised issue at hand with GR’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top SJB spokesman Mujibur Rahuman, MP, yesterday (04) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government owed an explanation regarding the re-appointment of SLFPer Nimal Siripala de Silva as Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister in spite of serious bribery accusations directed at him.

Colombo District lawmaker Rahuman alleged that the incumbent government had quite conveniently forgotten that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the first weeks of July asked de Silva to step down pending an inquiry following a complaint received from the Japanese embassy in Colombo.

The Presidential Media Division (PMD) announced de Silva’s resignation on 06 July. Since then de Silva has issued a statement denying all accusations pertaining to bribery allegations involving Japanese Taisei Corporation engaged in a major construction project at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).

Former UNPer Rahuman said that the appointment of a presidential committee to inquire into accusations was a ruse adopted by successive governments to suppress major allegations of waste, corruption and irregularities.

Responding to another query, the MP emphasised that de Silva couldn’t have been cleared only on the basis of a report submitted by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardene, PC, led three-member committee. Referring to a statement issued by the PMD, lawmaker Rahuman questioned the possibility in finalizing such a high profile inquiry within just over a week.

The PMD announced the appointment of the committee on July 22. Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the President, received its report on July 31.Recalling the statement made by SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa pertaining to Taisei allegations, MP Rahuman said that they demand the immediate releasing of Weerawardene’s report.

“No one knows what the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government did with the findings made by the same President’s Counsel probed the then State Minister Lohan Ratwatte accused of raiding Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in a drunken stupor. The public cannot be hoodwinked by appointing committees and commissions any longer,” MP Rahuman said.

The MP urged the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) to conduct a proper inquiry into the complaint lodged by an interested party as regards the Taisei allegation. The SHB official said that President Wickremesinghe, in his maiden policy statement delivered in parliament on Wednesday dealt with corruption. Having accommodated a person accused of demanding a bribe in his cabinet, how could President Wickremesinghe vow to eliminate corruption? Rahuman asked.

President Wickremesinghe told Parliament that complete eradication of bribery, corruption and fraud was a necessity. The President assured that he would implement a national policy to combat bribery and corruption. New rules and regulations and orders in this regard were being prepared by the Ministry of Justice, the President said, adding that a consensus would be reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding combating of corruption.

Lawmaker Rahuman said that the country had to pay a very heavy price for the failure on the part of successive governments to take meaningful measures to tackle waste, corruption and irregularities. Perhaps new laws or amendments to existing laws were necessary to ensure the disclosures made by the Auditor General and examined by parliamentary watchdog committees received the prompt attention of the Attorney General and the CIABOC.

The MP said that the country was in such a precarious situation economically, the parliament should without further delay take meaningful measures to restore financial discipline. But, in spite of promises given by President Wickremesinghe, the UNP leader had accepted a person against whom serious corruption charges have been made.

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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months



Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands



Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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