Presidential Commission to probe alleged misdeeds of ousted Lankan PM Wickremesinghe
Posted on November 25th, 2018

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, November 25 ( A Presidential Commission is to be appointed to probe charges of corruption and fraud against ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,  the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said here on Sunday.

Speaking to the Foreign Correspondents Association of Sri Lanka, the President said that there are at this point of time, 17 reports against Wickremesinghe and his cohorts, which had not been investigated because the relevant departments were under Wickremesinghe’s control in the coalition government which existed between January 2015 and October 26, 2018.

Presidential Commission to probe alleged misdeeds of ousted Lankan PM Wickremesinghe

The President said that corrupt and questionable deals were made in respect of land and private sector companies from the word go.

Sirisena said that if parliament had passed Wickremesinghe’s Special Land Act, by voice vote as in the case of the recent No Confidence Motions against the government, foreigners would have been able to buy up Sri Lanka’s lands to the detriment of the country.”

The President said that his disagreement with Wickremesinghe could not be described as being purely personal .They were rooted in ideological and policy differences. There were disagreements about how to run the administration.

The decision to sack Wickremesinghe on October 26 and appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister was not taken on the spur of the moment, the President said.

Differences had arisen even at the time of the formation of the cabinet in January 2015 soon after the Presidential election that month.

I wanted the new administration to be run on scientific lines and had appointed a committee headed by Prof.Hettige to make suggestions. They committee did submit its report which I passed on to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. But he took no notice of it. He distributed portfolios in the most unscientific manner. For example, the Higher Education Minister was also Minister for Highways. When I went abroad to negotiate agreements, those governments wondered if Highway  construction was being taught in Sri Lanka’s Higher Educational institutions,” the President said.

Wickremesinghe took the Central Bank under his wing when it ought to have been with the Finance Minister. While the State banks were with the Finance Minister, the Central Bank was with PM Wickremesinghe causing confusion,” the President pointed out.

Central Bank Robbery

Then, within weeks of the formation of the coalition government on January 9, 2015, there was the great Central Bank robbery, ” Sirisena said recalling the billion rupee bonds sale scam involving   Wickremesinghe and his friend, the newly appointed Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran.

I asked Wickremesinghe not to appoint  Mahendran because he was not a Sri Lankan citizen. But he argued that Mahendran he was the best candidate. I yielded because Wickremesinghe had worked hard to get me elected as President. But within weeks, the new Governor was party to the great Central Bank robbery.”

A Presidential Commission was appointed which pointed an accusing finger at Mahendran. He had to go on leave. Since the bank staff had become lethargic in the absence of the Governor I wanted to go to the bank and motivate the staff. But Wickremesinghe told me angrily not to go because the bank came under his purview and not mine. But I stood my ground and told him that as Executive President, I could go to any government institution.”

Again, when the Presidential Commission indicted Mahendran, Wickremesinghe made no effort to trace him and bring him back to the country even though there was a warrant against him,” Sirisena pointed out.

Ethnic Issue

On the ethnic issue too, the President said, he had differences with Wickremesinghe.

I had seen to it that 90% of the lands taken over by the armed forces during the war was returned and I was working towards establishing  a devolution system within a unitary  state. But on the contrary, Wickremesinghe was taking away powers already devolved to the provinces such as Environment and Sustainable Development.”

Economic Policy

Further, Wickremesinghe was continually presenting cabinet proposals based on his neo-liberal policies which were antithetical to the economic interests of Sri Lankans.

Every leader in every part of the world, including Trump, puts his country and its people first and pursues policies which will serve their interests, but Wickremesinghe’s policies were at variance with this trend. I had to stop many of his proposals with the result, there used to be frequent verbal duels in the cabinet,” Sirisena said.

Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (L) and the former Central Bank Governor, Arjuna Mahendran. (Photo: Ishara S.Kodikara AFP/Getty Images)

Electoral Debacle

The Lankan President said that matters came to a head after the debacle government parties suffered in the February 2018 Local Bodies elections.

Sirisena told Wickremesinghe that it was because of his economic policies that the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance and the United National Front were crushed.

I asked Wickremesinghe to step aside and allow somebody else from his party to  take up the Premiership. But Wickremesinghe would not resign. Then, about eight months ago, I asked his party man and parliament Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, to take oaths as the Prime Minister. But he would not. Then I asked Sajith Premadasa. He said he did not want to alienate Wickremesinghe. It was then that I decided to appoint  Mahinda Rajapaksa (former President and leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna),” Sirisena recalled.

Assassination Plot

The President then mentioned the alleged plot to assassinate him with the help of a foreigner, a cabinet Minister (Gen.Sarath Fonseka) and an LTTE sniper.

A man who claimed he knew of the plot told the  media about it and named some of the conspirators. But the police chief, without making any investigations, told the media, that the voices in the relevant telephone conversations did not match the voices of those named.

Later, it was established that the voices matched 95% and that some portions had been deleted. The police chief also did not explain why two Light Machine Guns were issued to a police unit and why a sniper rifle went missing.

Despite all this, including the alleged involvement of a cabinet minister (belonging to Wickremesinghe’s party) in a plot to kill the Head of State, Wickremesinghe did not get the plot investigated properly. He did not, even once, brief me about progress in the investigation.

Meanwhile, his ministerial colleagues were going about saying the assassination plot was but a joke or a drama. Can any leader in the world work with such a person?” Sirisena asked.

Not Power Hungry

The President denied that he was power hungry and arbitrary. He recalled that he was the only Executive President enjoying  powers associated with Emperors” to have clipped his own powers through the 19 th. Amendment of the Constitution.

The 19 th.Amendment clipped his powers by establishing Independent Commissions to set up and oversee various aspects of governance.

The President said that he was also compassionate and non-vindictive.

The LTTE had tried to kill me five times. But I pardoned the man whose bid to kill me was proved,” he said.

The President said that he is writing a book on his relations with Wickremesinghe. The 300 to 400 page book will have all the details including some which are repulsive,” he said.

Current Situation  

On the current political situation in Sri Lanka, Sirisena said that there is no national crisis as such, but some unrest confined to parliament.”

He said that normalcy will be restored when the Supreme Court gives its ruling on the constitutionality of the dissolution of parliament and the ordering of fresh elections. The court had stayed the dissolution of parliament till December 7.

I will accept the court’s ruling irrespective of what it is. If it says the dissolution was constitutional, elections will be held. If the ruling is otherwise, the government in place will have to prove majority support. If the government fails to do so, the opposition may put up a candidate for Prime Minister. But I will not appoint  Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister so long as I am alive,” Sirisena said categorically.

I will choose a Prime Minister who is compatible with me (the Executive President)”, he added.

No Confidence Motion  

On his refusal to accept the two No Confidence Motions passed against the government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President said that he will accept the result of the motion if the process is based on the Standing Orders of parliament and if the voting is done by show of hands or by the use of the electronic machine.

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