By Rajiva Wijesinha –
[Part 2 of this series was published on December 1, 2017]
(16) and (17)
My reply is as follows
I have combined the two questions because everyone knows how Mr Arjuna Mahendran went down to the auction floor and interfered. It is kind of you to phrase the question in terms of what is in Mr Mahendran’s briefing note, since no such thing exists and I am let off the hook about responding with regard to what he actually told me. So I cannot be caught out about my dodging the question as to his responsibility, which you will note my obliging lawyers, Pitipana and Co, supported by saying he was not responsible, ignoring what soon became common knowledge, that the officials in charge had minuted how he compelled them to make the recommendation he wanted.
And I can surely satisfy you saying that the available briefing note marked X 1, relates only to the procedure followed at the Auction held on 27th February 2015. 1 do recollect however that Mr Mahendran did in the course of conversations with me, refer to other attendant circumstances pertaining to the Auction held on 27th February 2015. In this context I have referred to these circumstances in the speech made by me in Parliament on 17 March 2015, to which reference has been made in Question Nos. 18, 19 and 20. The fact that I totally misled the house as to what happened is not something I will answer questions on, so you can decide as to whether I lied in saying that the claim that he interfered with the work of the Tender Board is not true, or whether he misled me and I rolled over and took it and never reprimanded him afterwards.
Question number 18 is as follows-
… you have said “I insisted on a public auction because private placements have led to corruption and lack of transparency. Previously, parcels of Government Bonds were handed out to selected individuals on a favoured basis … This led to an unhealthy link between some of the officers of the Central Bank’s Public Debt Department, Primary Dealers and large corporations who benefitted from such private placements. This practice only enriched a handful of cronies of the previous Government.”
What were the sources of information you relied on when you made those observations?”
My reply is as follows-
The Commission would no doubt appreciate that this relates to a statement made by me in Parliament which is vested with the control of Public Finance and if you go too far I will insist that I am answerable only to Parliament, which I have been compelled to say later in this affidavit when the questions were a bit difficult. I have already referred to the criticism that had been levelled against “Private Placements” and the reasons for the policy decision in favour of Public Auction and it is stupid of you to ask for my sources because obviously they are my friends in whom I have full confidence, and I will continue to have confidence whatever they do so long as they do not let me down. So let me only say that The unhealthy links referred to in question No. 18 were gathered by a group of MPs which included, Eran Wickramaratne, Dr. Harsha De Silva, Sujeewa Senasinghe and several others, and also from comments made by other Parliamentarians and News Paper Reports which I cannot actually remember now since I do not need reasons or evidence for my decisions.
(19) and (20)
… you have also stated that, on 27th February 2015, Mr Mahendran advised the Public Debt Department, in the presence of two Deputy Governors [i.e. Dr Weerasinghe and Mr Silva] that, Bids up to Rs. 10 billion should be accepted. You have then gone on to say that, the allegation Mr Mahendran interfered in the decision of the Public Debt Department with regard to its recommendation on the amount of Bids to be accepted, was factually incorrect.
What were the sources of information you relied on when you made this statement?
My reply is as follows-
The statement made by me in Parliament on 17th March 2015 was based on information relating to attendant events pertaining to the said auction provided by Mr Mahendran and Mr Samarasiri -Deputy Governor of the CBSL and Chairman of the Tender Board and in the course of conversations with me and I see nothing wrong in my relying on Mr Mahendran to provide me with the basis for saying that he did nothing wrong. After all Mr Samarasiri in the briefing note I could not remember seems to have corroborated the position I took up in Parliament, and I will stand by it to the extent of saying that I saw no reason to disbelieve Mr Mahendran and I have the fullest confidence in him now even though it seems he cut corners.
And I tried to stop further inquiry into the matter by claiming that the Pitipana Committee appointed by me was required to inquire into the matter impartially and I undertook to table their Report in Parliament on receipt of same which I did though some time after I received it since I was a bit nervous since they did not say nothing was wrong as I had hoped, and totally failed to throw the blame on Cabraal which I had thought they understood was why I provided such irrelevant terms of reference given what Mahendran and Aloysius had done.
Question number 21 is as follows-
“The Report of the “Three Person Committee” chaired by Mr Gamini Pitipana, Attorney-at-Law inter alia states, with regard to the Treasury Bond Auction held on 27th February 2015, “The Committee at this stage can only make an observation that the bidding pattern of Perpetual Treasuries and securing nearly 50% of the accepted bids as unusual.” The Committee goes on to observe that “… a full-scale investigation by a proper Government Authority is warranted.”…
Are you aware of any action taken by the CBSL and/or by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, with regard to the aforesaid observations and recommendations?
My reply is as follows-
At that time, you do not mention a time but I need again to assert that I was transparent and honest on March 17th when I misled the House, the Pitipana Committee of inquiry had not submitted its Report. I apprised Parliament that the Report of the Committee was awaited and that upon receipt it will be placed before Parliament to enable Parliament to take such action as it deemed appropriate. Subsequently, the Pitipana Report was tabled by me in Parliament and a debate ensued in Parliament. Actually this was not the case because we did not want a debate, and we managed to persuade the Speaker to hand it over to COPE. I told Rosie and Sujeewa to stall the investigation but a report was prepared, and since its findings were damning I used everyone I could to pressurize the President into dissolving Parliament. But the matter would not die down, so it was handed over to the new COPE, though in fact there was a long delay before Sunil Handunetti could commence his investigations.
Despite that Report, and the Report of the Auditor General, I wanted Mahendran to continue, and it was very naughty of the President, after all I did for him, entirely for his sake and not to get power for myself, to insist that he be replaced, and then not allow my good friend Charitha Ratwatte to take over, because I could rely on him to do whatever I want I have instructed the Attorney General to take steps according to law against any persons who are culpable, irrespective of their status or party affiliations though as you can see from the way in which Kabir and Malik and I are being treated by the Commission and the Attorney General’s Department, there must be at least some respect granted to those of us who have done so much for Perpetual Treasuries, if not the country.
I decided to look into the transactions prior to 2015 once the COPE Report was tabled. This has been postponed until the conclusion of the sittings of the Presidential Commission but if I am still in place I will get Cabraal by hook or by crook.
Question number 22 is as follows-
“Did you consider that, it was fit and proper for Mr Mahendran to continue to serve as Governor of the CBSL after the events of the Treasury Bond Auction held on 27th February 2015?
If so, please briefly state the reasons for that view?
My reply is as follows-
As stated above I had already tabled the Pitipana Report in Parliament and a debate ensued. Parliament decided to refer this issue to COPE and was awaiting a report in order to take appropriate action in this regard in the event that Mr Mahendran was found to be culpable. In the interim, Mr Mahendran went on leave and his tenure of office ended prior to the submission of the COPE Report. As stated above, I have forwarded the COPE Report to the Attorney General to take appropriate action if there has been any transgression of the law by Mr Mahendran or any other person.
I am especially proud of this answer because it completely ignores the question and introduces so many half truths that, even if my good friend the Attorney General whom we handpicked for the position wanted to question me, he would not know where to start. I tabled the Pitipana Report in May, long after Mr Mahendran came back from leave. It was not Parliament, which was not allowed to discuss the Pitipana Report, but the Speaker, who referred it to COPE, and then. It was over a year after the first Report was prepared, and became a public document when it was tabled in Court after Sujeewa Senasinghe moved Court to stop its publication, that the second Report came out. Before that, though I moved heaven and earth to keep him, even though the Auditor General I had handpicked had been scathing about the bond issue, the President insisted on him being replaced.
 Question Number 26 is as follows-
“A copy of a text message said to have been sent to Mr Arjuna Aloysius by his Personal Assistant [Mr Steve Samuel] on 28th November 2016 and which states ‘Reminder – to request Hon. PM & RK to get a copy of Monetary Board meeting/papers need to be submitted today 28.11.16”, has been produced in evidence before this Commission of Inquiry.
Have you ever provided or agreed to provide copies of Minutes of Meetings of the Monetary Board or any other documents or reports of the CBSL, to Mr Arjuna Aloysius or to any representative of Perpetual Treasuries (Pvt) Ltd.?”
My reply is as follows-
I deny that I had agreed to provide or provided copies of Minutes of meetings of the Monetary Board meetings/papers to Mr Aloysius or any other person. I resent the insinuation and can only regret that Mr Aloysius did not reprimand Mr Samuel for sending such a revealing message which has no basis whatsoever in truth, despite my continuing friendship and affection for both Mr Mahendran and Mr Aloysius (though I will not go so far as to say I continue to have full confidence in the latter, not least because he has allowed his underlings to leave so much evidence floating around).
To be continued…
Part (i) – Ranil At Bay: An Annotated Version