By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
Much criticism has been heard since the day records of phone contacts between COPE members and one-time Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. owner Arjun Aloysius commencing January 2017 were publicized during Bond commission hearing.
Charges, counter-charges, and excuses by the 225 specimens at the House by Diwannawa, more commonly known as the parliament are plenty.
The lowest number of communications between a COPE member and PTL owner amounts to two calls and highest, 227 calls.
Members of Parliament of the Joint Opposition, having turned paragons of virtue have been quick to condemn UNP members of COPE, for their conduct. They have all but forgotten, investigation of some of their telephone records during period April 2010, and January 2015 would have resulted in many of them currently sitting not in parliament but inside Welikada prison.
UNP Members of Parliament UNP on the other have expressed anger over their phone records being made public which they deem as a breach of their parliamentary privileges. As customary when found involved in corrupt activities, they have also resorted to comparing present times with that of the Rajapaksa Administration. They never tire of proclaiming, the investigations currently taking place would never have been possible under the previous regime. They further claim, till January 2015, any questions into corrupt practices would have only resulted in ‘White Van’ abductions. They conveniently forget or ignore the fact, they were not voted into office to emulate the methods of the former regime.
Rights and Duties of all citizens is a universal theory.
Similarly, members of both sides of the divide, not forgetting the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament need bear in mind, parliamentary privileges too, are accompanied by an obligation for proper conduct.
Had any of these MPs disclosed to the Chairman of COPE, of the very first phone call received from PTL owner or staff, no further contact would have been forthcoming.
Had they done so, they could have taken the moral high ground and avoided accusations of bribery and corruption currently being leveled against them today. Non-disclosure also justifies stripping them of their parliamentary privileges and conducting thorough investigations, not by parliamentarians but by professional investigators.
COPE proceedings are known to have been made available on a real-time basis by some COPE members to PTL owner, using their mobile phones devises. Let this be a lesson for both the Speaker and Chairmen of COPE and COPA. They should consider imposing a ban on all mobile phone devices during sittings. State business was efficiently carried out in parliament and by other committees before the advent of mobile phones in the country.
Meanwhile, is the promised code of conduct for parliamentarians now dead?