Vasudeva Nanayakkara, MP, contends that it is well within the law and not a contravention of parliamentary privileges to check the phone records of MPs suspected of wrongdoing and submitting such findings to the particular court or commission.
Nanayakkara, referring to a privileges question raised subsequent to revelations that certain members of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) had communicated with the prime suspect behind the Central Bank bond scandal, Arjun Aloysius, said in a media release that once a Comission appointed by the President has been tasked to investigate, if the said Commission fails to conduct such investigate that would be an infringment of privileges of all MPs.
He also pointed out that the investigating officers had checked the phone records of Aloysius and not those of the relevant MPs.
Nanayakkara charged that investigating officers are now being queried by their superiors in the Police Department, a state of affairs which he considers a challenge to the Commission. Whether such queries have been initiated by the IGP or a higher political authority is unknown, Nanayakkara said.
The media release follows a statement by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to the effect that the Privileges Committee would take up the matter of telephone conversations of COPE members and that a discussion with party leaders will also take place. The Speaker was referring to a complaint made by Minister Lakshman Kiriella on Monday.
MP Bandula Gunawardana of the Joint Opposition meanwhile has stated that Kiriella’s assertion was erroneous since the phones of COPE members had not been tapped, as revealed by the PCoI.
Kiriella, however had explained that what was objectionable was not investigating but leaking the information to the media.
Another Joint Opposition MP, Udaya Gammanpila, countered ‘people should know how the MPs act and asked why the government was trying to keep it a secret, when the Right to Information Act was now functional.’
‘The Presidential Commission of Inquiry is a public commission. It’s proceedings should be transparent,” he added.