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Treasury bond scams: Judicial process further delayed, Mahendran safe in Singapore

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‘Parliament’s response pathetic’

DEW’s 2015 COPE report never tabled

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)   Charitha Herath said yesterday (4) that judicial process in respect of the treasury bond scams perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016 had been delayed due to Sri Lanka’s inability to serve indictment on fugitive Central Bank Governor Singaporean passport holder Arjuna Mahendran.

SLPP National List MP Herath said so when The Island sought clarification with regard to the status of action taken by Parliament in that regard. Herath said that the report on treasury bond scams prepared by COPE during JVP MP Sunil Handunetti’s tenure as its Chairman was available. The data available therein were quite useful and could be utilized, the lawmaker said.

Responding to another query, one-time Media Ministry Secretary and University don Herath said that he wasn’t aware of the status of the Presidential Commission report on treasury bond scams that was handed over to Parliament.

The Island pointed out to the COPE Chairman that the report handed over in early 2018 hadn’t been debated so far though the parliament gave an assurance to that effect. MP Herath said that the Ministry of Defence, the police and the Attorney General’s Department had been involved in the process though it couldn’t be brought to a successful conclusion so far. Sri Lanka requested Singapore to deport Mahendran over a year ago. The request was made by the Defence Ministry in the second week of Sept 2019 in the run-up to the presidential election in Nov. Legal sources said that the then government took up the issue with Singapore consequent to the Permanent High Court at Bar where 10 persons, including the former Central Bank Governor, his son-in-law Arjuna Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and its CEO Kasun Palisena were charged with criminal misappropriation of public property. Sources said that Singapore had officially informed the government of Sri Lanka why Mahendran wouldn’t be handed over under the present circumstances. Mahendran is wanted for accepting Rs. 10.058 billion worth of bids at the 27 February 2015 auction, the first scam perpetrated within weeks after the 2015 presidential election. The then President Maithripala Sirisena replaced Mahendran with Dr. Indrajith Coormaswamy in July 2016. Former COPE Chairman Dew Gunasekera questioned the failure on the part of the Parliament to conduct a debate on the Presidential bond scam report received in January 2018. Gunasekera said that Parliament owed the country an explanation why a debate couldn’t be held for nearly three years.

Responding to The Island queries, Gunasekera said that in spite of the subject being listed in the Order Paper during the previous administration it was never taken up. The former Communist Party General Secretary pointed out that parliament should have properly taken up that issue even before receiving the treasury bond scam report. Gunasekera, who headed the 13-member special COPE subcommittee that investigated the first scam, said that he recently went through his 442 page report on the first treasury bond scam. Asked why he never submitted the report to Parliament five years after the investigation, the former Minister said that he couldn’t as the then President Sirisena dissolved parliament on the night of June 26, 2015, the day before he was to table it in the House. As the report couldn’t be presented before the dissolution, it couldn’t be tabled at all, former National List MP Gunasekera said.

“Such a valuable document never received parliamentary recognition,” the veteran leftist politician said. The CPSL General Secretary was not accommodated on the UPFA National List following the 2015 general election. Gunasekera recalled how when he questioned Mahendran in respect of the first treasury bond scam, the CBSL Governor revealed receiving instructions from Premier Wickremesinghe who held policy planning and economic affairs portfolios. Mahendran’s revelation included in the COPE report is significant as by January 18, 2015, the CBSL had been brought under Wickremesinghe, the former Minister said. Gunasekera emphasized that the CBSL shouldn’t have been removed from the Finance Ministry purview, a controversial move that was meant to effectively thwart possible intervention by President Sirisena. Gunasekera urged the Parliament to address the issue at hand.

The former minister pointed out that the treasury bond scams contributed heavily to the UNP’s crushing defeat at the last parliamentary election. Of the four UNPers summoned by the Presidential Commission, Wickremesinghe and Ravi Karunanayake suffered defeat at the last general, Malik Samarawickrema quit parliamentary politics whereas Kabir Hashim switched allegiance to the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). “Those responsible for the first scam brazenly manipulated Parliament. Imagine, they got Parliament dissolved and perpetrated the second far bigger fraud in late March 2016.

 Investigations revealed how PTL provided funds to some lawmakers though all names were never revealed.” the former minister said. Alleging that the establishment failed to properly handle the treasury bond scams, Gunasekera said, adding that the overall failure to investigate Sri Lanka’s worst post-independence financial fraud exposed the limitations in the system. However, successful system manipulation couldn’t save the UNP from its worst defeat that brought the once great party to its knees, Gunasekera said, pointing out the reduction of parliamentary strength from 106 seats to one NL slot, destroyed the UNP. 

 

 



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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka

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Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal

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By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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