On February 4th, officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) placed Perpetual CEO Kasun Palisena, and beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, under arrest, after they were named on Friday at the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court as suspects for having committed serious financial crimes against the state. These arrests come in the wake of the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Issuance of Treasury Bonds, which found that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran had provided inside information that allowed Perpetual Treasuries to be illegally enriched through treasury bond auctions that took place during his tenure.
Notwithstanding the many months for which we have all waited patiently for results after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed the Attorney General’s Department to take action against the offenders in November 2016, the country owes its gratitude to the officers of the CID whose tireless efforts and dedication led to today’s arrests. Their work has been unimpeachable and untainted by personal or political agendas. The decision to place Mr. Aloysius and Mr. Palisena under arrest, and to seek the attendance of Mr. Mahendran before court, was a decision taken unilaterally by the CID in consultation with the Attorney General.
These officers investigating this serious financial crime and all other crimes can be assured that under this government their independence will continue to be sacred, and that the President and Prime Minister are committed to supporting the law enforcement community and justice system to prosecute all offenders no matter what their political affiliation. This is Good Governance in action. It is what the people of Sri Lanka voted for on January 8, 2015, and it is a vision to which we remain committed.
It is instructive to compare the investigation into the treasury bond scandal to the hundreds of criminal investigations into acts of violence and graft committed by the Rajapaksa regime. Unlike the billions of dollars stolen from the mouths of our people through the likes of the MiG deal, Helping Hambantota, the Norochcholai Power Plant deal, these treasury bond crimes occurred on our watch. This government and the UNP has a moral responsibility to hold those responsible accountable, and purge those involved from our ranks.
Arjuna Mahendran has been removed as Governor of the Central Bank. A UNP minister has stepped down from his cabinet position and post within the party. The law enforcement community dedicated unprecedented resources to getting to the root of the Bond deal, exposing wrongdoing, and holding the culprits accountable. No politician from any party can claim credit for these acts. The accomplishments of an independent police and Attorney General’s Department can be credited primarily to the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which the UNP and President Sirisena both fought for vigorously. This government is committed to safeguarding the independence of these sacred institutions, as well as the judiciary. That is Yahapalanaya. The Department and police must embrace their independence and use the maximum extent of their powers under the law to prosecute and convict all offenders, including those named as suspects in the 34 reports forwarded by the PRECIFAC commission into serious crimes, fraud and corruption under the previous government.
These thirty-four complex financial investigations combined have to date received fewer resources, less manpower and attention from the police and attorney general’s department than did the Commission of Inquiry into the bond scandal. The public cannot be blamed for wondering how many more criminals could be brought to justice, and how many more billions of rupees in stolen state assets recovered if these other investigations too received the same attention. This government will not interfere with the police and Attorney General’s Department and dictate their priorities. If there is an absence of resources to achieve the results that Sri Lankans deserve, it must be brought to our attention by law officers, so the government may solve the problem. This is how the FCID and Special Presidential Task Force on Asset Recovery (START) came to be, and the Digital Forensics laboratory of the CID.
Equally important as our duty to protect the independence of these institutions is our duty to empower them with the tools, resources and political will and support necessary to carry out their duty without fear or favour. Our police and prosecutors have several more challenging investigations and criminal trials of national importance before them, from the vicious murders of Lasantha Wickremetunge and Prageeth Eknaligoda, to the corruption of the likes of the MiG and Avant Garde deals. Our message to the prosecutors, police and other public officers is a simple one: Conduct your investigations with thoroughness and speed. Deliver the justice that the people of Sri Lanka deserve and have long awaited. Your government proudly stands by you and salutes your service.