Hell bent on safeguarding the billion rupees worth sins committed by ex-Governor of Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran, the tactful plan devised by the United National Party (UNP) has finally resulted in the scuttling of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) which was investigating the Treasury Bond scandal.
Accordingly, the COPE, which to date has always issued one report on various investigations will submit at least two reports, one signed by its chairman Sunil Handunneththi, while another signed by the UNP MPs in the COPE.
Incidentally, both reports will be contrasting, with Handunneththi’s report clearing implicating Mahendran in the bond scam, while the second report by the UNP MPs will exonerate the ex-Governor, who is alleged to have orchestrated the bond scam, which resulted in the country losing Rs. 1.6 billion rupees.
Handunneththi’s report has been endorsed by COPE members other than the UNP MPs in the COPE. 14 out of the 26 members of COPE had extended support of Handunneththi’s report.
In his report, Handunneththi had highlighted that there has been malpractices as well as irregularities of ‘very serious nature’ during the auctioning of treasury bonds during the tenure of Mahendran in 2015 and 2016. Handunneththi’s report also called for serious action against those responsible for the bond scam, while also highlighting the importance to establish a mechanism to ensure that the COPE recommendations are implemented.
Handunneththi has also recommended that an investigation be carried out against Perpetual Treasuries Limited, with links to Mahendran’s son in law, Arjun Aloysius, which recorded a staggering profit of Rs. 5.1 billion for the year ending March 2016. The company recorded an increase of 430% in profits in comparison to the previous year.
A highly placed political source pointed out that the main duty of COPE is to report to Parliament which is charged with managing the country’s public finances, the irregularities, malpractices, frauds, waste and corrupt practices in public corporations.
“COPE was created by Ronnie de Mel in early 1980s by carving out the functions relating to public corporations which had been handled by Committee on Public Accounts earlier renaming CPA as COPA. COPE’s specific duty is to report to Parliament which is charged with managing the country’s public finances, the irregularities, malpractices, frauds, waste and corrupt practices in public corporations. Hence it’s not expected to work on party lines which was done during Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. The new good governance government elected to power in January 2015 was expected to put a stop to that. Yet, it appears that it’s following the practices of the previous administration while blaming it for every ill in the country. COPE is the third and the fourth eye of the President who has no way for knowing everything that is happening in the public sector behind his back,” the source told the Colombo Telegraph.
In July this year, the Colombo Telegraph reported on the clandestine moves by the UNP to jeopardize the independence of COPE and thwart any attempts to take action against Mahendran. The UNP leadership ordered UNP MP M. Velu Kumar to resign from his position as a COPE member and make way for Sujeewa Senasinghe, who is the State Minister of International Trade, who was in charge of scuttling the COPE investigation.
In August, during a COPE meeting with officials of Central Bank, Senasinghe adopted an intimidating tone during the questioning of the officials of Central Bank, who had given evidence against Mahendran. Soon after the incident, Senasinghe was issued a warning by COPE Chairman Handunneththi and other senior members against adopting such an ‘unacceptable’ tone when questioning the officials. Senasinghe played the lead role in scuttling the work of COPE in the bond investigation, amidst persistent attempts by the UNP leadership to safeguard Mahendran. Mahendran is a close ally of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and it was Wickrmesinghe who appointed Mahendran to the position of Central Bank Governor following the change in administrations in January last year.
Despite his checkered history at the Central Bank, Wickremesinghe appointed Mahendran as Head of the Sri Lanka Five Year Development Plan, after Mahendran’s undignified exit as the 13th Governor of Central Bank.
Meanwhile, Handunneththi is scheduled to submit his report on the Central Bank Treasury Bond scam in Parliament on October 25th.