Slight cracks in the Yahapalanaya Government have surfaced just days since the COPE report on the Central Bank Treasury Bond was released, with ministers from the Sirisena camp threatening to involve the Interpol amidst reports that ex-Governor of Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran has fled the country.
Highly placed political sources said that the COPE report was the ‘talk of the town’ during the weekend between SLFP and UPFA MPs, and many had expressed their displeasure over the fact that Mahendran had left the country just before the COPE report was presented.
“Some of the ministers have already spoken to President Maithripala Sirisena in this regard, and they have requested him to pressure Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to guarantee that an impartial investigation against the scam at Central Bank will be conducted,” the source told Colombo Telegraph.
The ministers from the SLFP and UPFA camps are adamant that this matter be not swept under the carpet, and they fear that the UNP will work in a way to scuttle the investigation, if launched.
Amidst allegations that he has fled, Mahendran has claimed that he hopes to return to Sri Lanka soon. On the eve of the COPE report being presented, Mahendran in his official Facebook page said, “I deny reports that said I have fled the country, when I have in fact left Sri Lanka on a personal tour. I hope to return to my motherland soon.”
Meanwhile, a group of frontline Ministers from the Yahapalanaya government are also scheduled to meet the President to discuss the COPE report, and the future course of action. The JHU has also expressed its support to the SLFP/UPFA camp and have insisted that an investigation against the scam be launched immediately.
“Some of the ministers are adamant that action must be taken, even though Prime Minister is also accused of being involved in it. But, it’s a very sensitive matter because both parties need each other to survive, so it will be very interesting to see how the President will respond to this, and if he would actually uphold the transparency and good governance he promised before January 8, 2015,” the source noted.
Meanwhile, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Mahinda Amaraweera, who is also the General Secretary of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has declared that the government was ready to use even the assistance of Interpol to bring back Mahendran, if he doesn’t return back to Sri Lanka. He had made this statement at an event held in Hambantota where he had also insisted that the culprits behind the bond scam will be punished.
The 55 page report by the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), which was presented by the Committee chairman Sunil Handunnetti on October 28 found Mahendran guilty as he was directly responsible for the Treasury Bond transaction at Central Bank in 2015 and 2016. The scam resulted in the country losing Rs. 1.6 billion, while primary dealer of Central Bank, Perpetual Treasuries Limited, which is linked to Mahendran’s son-in-law Arjun Aloysius, recorded a profit of Rs. 5.1 billion for the year that ended in March 2016, an increase of 430% in profits in comparison to the previous year. ( By Munza Mushtaq )