Joint Opposition questions propriety of Public Finance Comm. head Sumanthiran being counsel for bond suspect
Posted on November 21st, 2017

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Top Joint Opposition (JO) spokesman MP Bandula Gunawardena has found fault with TNA MP and COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) member M.A. Sumanthiran for representing an interdicted Central Bank employee, Sangarapillai Pathumanapan, investigated by the CID in connection with the just concluded presidential commission of inquiry into alleged bond scams.

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, too, said the issue needed to be further studied and remedial action taken. The former Law Professor asserted that it could be a case of conflict of interest.

MP Gunawardena and Prof. Peiris said so when The Island sought JO’s stand on the bond commission upholding MP Sumanthiran’s right to be Pathhumanapan’s counsel in spite of Senior Additional Solicitor General (SASG) Dappula de Livera strongly objecting to his presence.

The commission comprises Supreme court judges, KT Chithrasiri (chairman) and P.S. Jayawardena and retired Deputy Auditor General K.Velupillai.

The issue was taken up, at JO briefing at Punchi Borella, where the group loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa discussed political implications of what is now dubbed Sri Lanka’s biggest financial crime.

Prof. Peiris said as some members of COPE had a clandestine relationship with previous chief executive and director of primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Pvt Ltd Arjuna Aloysius and the Pathumanapan matter had to be studied carefully. Prof. Peiris said that perhaps Standing Orders would have to be amended.

MP Sumanthiran told the commission that it didn’t have a mandate to look into matters of ethical conduct of attorneys. The commission overruled SASG de Livera’s objections on the basis of Sumanthiran’s defence.

Gunawardena pointed out that Sumanthiran had functioned as the Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance, the highest parliamentary body overseeing the subject.

Colombo District parliamentarian Gunawardena recalled how he had contested for the post of Chairman and was defeated by two votes. Those who agreed to vote for him hadn’t turned up on the day of the voting, he added.

Prof. Peiris said that failure on the part of the Speaker to take immediate remedial measures would cause further erosion of public confidence in parliament and two of its vital committees, the COPE and the Committee on Public Finance.

Prof. Peiris said that parliament had never faced a crisis of such magnitude with some members accused of being associates of a person under a cloud. Pointing out that the Attorney General’s team assisting the bond commission had called PTL a criminal organisation, the nexus between COPE members and bond racketeers couldn’t be condoned under any circumstances.

Prof. Peiris said the issue was not the number of telephone calls received by COPE members but their clandestine relationship with Aloysius. The former minister strongly criticised Speaker Jayasuriya for dragging his feet and looking for an escape route.

Prof. Peiris compared the COPE-Aloysius relationship with that of a judge hearing a murder case secretly having a drink with the main suspect.

The CID report on telephone conversations involving Aloysius, MPs and others using hand phones and other devices used by Aloysius and Arjuna Mahendran had revealed the clandestine operation, Prof. Peiris said.

Prof. Peiris urged Speaker Jayasuriya not to permit members to exploit parliamentary privileges to cover up their misdeeds. Parliamentary privilege shouldn’t be a tool that could be used to thwart, hinder and delay investigations, Prof. Peiris said.

Commenting on UNP claims that over 40 other MPs, in addition to those COPE members, had received calls from Aloysius during the period under investigation, Prof. Peiris pointed out that the problem was the alleged bond racketeer having contacts with members of the second COPE headed by JVP MP Sunil Handunetti.

According to the CID report, there had been 703 viber calls, 61 telephone calls, two sms and two WhatsApp messages between Pathhumanapan and Aloysius alone. Aloysius had used one device whereas Pathumanapan used four devices and among his contacts was Aloysius wife, Anjali, daughter of the then Governor Mahendran.

Sumanthiran told The Island that he hadn’t been a member of COPE in the previous parliament when Pathhumanapan was summoned by the D. E. W. Gunasekera’s COPE. He represents the current COPE.

Former Minister Gunasekera told The Island that as his report had been handed over to the bond commission by Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe it was part of the inquiry.

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