19 November, 2018

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No Parliamentary Privileges For Improper Conduct

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

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?

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Latest comments

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    In a TV program Sujewa Senasinghe predicted that final Report of the FCID would exonerate the Ranil Baba and the team and final report would mention that nothing wrong happened. My concern is whether Ranil baba ordered AG to finish writing -this should be how the final report should be, one just like the COPE report. Then how should we bring a situation like Zimbabawe to Sri lanka.

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    In a decent parliament, they all should have stepped down as soon as the accusation came out. As Sri lanka is not used to this, that should be the rule here after. Because, there are 41 of those.
    the interesting thing is Sujeewa Senasinghe says he phoned 227 times during the COPE meeting in order to get points for the book. I think, when he phones 227 times, he had finished writing and had published the book. He should have discussed the payment. One newspaper said he and Ajith Perera got new houses, probably it is in the name of a distant relative. That is how all have done it. There are many whose names are from Sri lanka but address links are from Monaco, Hongkong etc.,

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    Why not? don’t you know those 225 at Diyawanna mansion are above the low of the Land?

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    The privilege of entering the Parliament was given by the people, but peoples’ privilege of living’ free’ has been thwarted.

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