GL: Govt. not concerned about corruption despite Geneva warning


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Rebel SLPP MP Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (10) said that corruption accusations pertaining to procurement of crude oil and coal should be probed against the backdrop of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) alleging economic crimes in Sri Lanka.

The former External Affairs Minister said that in a resolution passed at the recently concluded 51 sessions of the UNHRC, the global body called on Sri Lanka to get a grip on its economic crisis and prosecute corruption by public officials.

The 19-point resolution was brought by 37 countries, including Britain, Canada and the United States, and was passed with 20 votes in favour and seven against.

On behalf of the government, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, strongly objected to the draft resolution intruding into domestic, economic and financial policy matters.

Prof. Peiris questioned the rationale behind the government declaring its intention to enact an anti-corruption Act without taking tangible measures to curb waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

The former law professor flayed the government for not placing the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) under the chairmanship of an Opposition lawmaker. Referring to parliamentary practice in Commonwealth countries, Prof. Peiris said that both the COPE and the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) should have been placed under Opposition members. The government, while placing the COPA under SJB MP Kabir Hashim, appointed SLPP National List MP Prof. Ranjith Bandara, Chairman of the COPE.

Prof. Peiris warned the government of dire consequences unless the Parliament was allowed to take charge of public finance. The warning from Geneva shouldn’t be ignored, lawmaker Prof. Peiris said, pointing out the growing controversy over the procurement of crude oil and coal for the Lakvijaya coal-fired power plant.

No less a person than the Auditor General has found fault with procurement of coal, Prof. Peiris said, adding that those who robbed the country, at a time the vast majority of people were struggling to make ends meet, would be punished. They would be subjected to no holds barred investigation, the former minister said.

Responding to The Island queries, Prof. Peiris said that the UNHRC wouldn’t accept the usual promise to have domestic actions against corruption, against the backdrop of fresh corruption cases. The MP pointed out that corruption charges, pertaining to procurement of crude oil and coal, emerged close on the heels of the Central Bank declaring Sri Lanka’s status as a bankrupt country.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the last presidential election, in 2019 Nov., with an unprecedented 6.9 mn votes, had to give up the presidency and flee the country, as a result of the economic fallout. “The people demanded a change of the system. Now, in place of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLPP installed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe,” MP Peiris said.

It would be a grave mistake, on the part of the SLPP, to believe the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government could hoodwink the people, thereby creating an environment conducive for Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, Prof. Peiris said.

Referring to SLPP Chairman Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration that President Ranil Wickremesinghe was with the SLPP now, Prof. Peiris said that perhaps as a result of Aragalaya, Wickremesinghe had become part of the ruling party.

Commenting on the postponement of the scheduled debate on the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, last week, Prof. Peiris said that, that piece of law would never be enacted as long as it prohibit dual citizens from contesting parliamentary and presidential polls.

Prof. Peiris said that it was the reality. The SLPP Chairman pointed out that the General Secretary of the Party, Sagara Kariyawasam, declared their opposition to the 22nd Amendment in spite of it being endorsed by the Cabinet-of-Ministers, headed by the President. In an obvious reference to SLPP strongman Basil Rajapaksa, Prof. Peiris alleged that a hidden hand was manipulating the government and was blatantly interfering in parliamentary proceedings.

Prof. Peiris said that the joint Opposition would strongly campaign against the moves to put off Local Governments polls, the way they sabotaged the Provincial Council polls. The former Minister said that the courts would be moved against this move. President Wickremesinghe’s recent declaration that key amendments would be introduced before the next Local Government polls was a clear indication to put polls on the bogus pretext of reforms.

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