By Shamindra Ferdinando
General Secretary of the Communist Party Dew Gunasekera yesterday said that the top UNP leadership couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for clandestine Central Bank-Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) operation that had almost ruined the country.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s much delayed intervention had stopped the bond scams though by then the national economy was in an unprecedented man-made crisis.
Political veteran Gunasekera said so addressing the media at Communist Party headquarters in Borella.
The former minister said he earlier addressed the media in his former much coveted capacity as Chairman of 13-member COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) that had inquired into first treasury bond scam in 2015 February.
They perpetrated the first treasury bond scam on Feb 27, 2015, on the 50th day of 100-day yahapalana government, Gunasekera said.
The outspoken politician paid a glowing tribute to those members of both print and electronic media who relentlessly followed the treasury bond scam since the Communist Party organ ‘Aththa’ first revealed the daylight robbery. The lead story that dealt with Perpetual Treasuries Ltd.,fraud was aptly titled pudapugamankaapiyakka (the devil devoured as soon offerings were made to it)
Gunasekera said that a legitimate operation could never under any circumstances earn profits of such magnitude as PTL did in any part of the world.
“Let me explain phenomenal growth of PTL operation since its establishment in 2013 during the previous administration. Having launched operations in the following year with Rs 300 mn capital, how could PTL manage to obtain Rs 11 bn in profits within five months?,” Gunasekera said.
Gunasekera said that PTL received Central Bank recognition as the 16th primary dealer authorized to engaged in the lucrative treasury bond market.
The former minister asserted that massive unimaginable profits reflected what he called the monstrous operation the primary dealer ran on receiving unprecedented political power within a very short period with a media arm under its command. The group had political influence at the highest level, Gunasekera said, alleging that a spate of attempts were made to sabotage inquiry until the very end.
Gunasekera pointed out that the PTL had earned profits at the expense of four state enterprises, Employees Provident Fund (EPF), National Savings Bank, Mahapola Scholarship Fund and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC). The PTL, having received political patronage at the highest level, had borrowed from the state and then the same funds were given to the administration at a higher interest, Gunasekera said. The CP veteran pointed out the absurdity in the government borrowing funds through a third party when it could have gone directly to relevant institutions.
The Communist Party Leadersaid there had never been a bigger story than the treasury bond scam and the alleged complicity of the UNP leadership in it was in the public domain within weeks after the first scam.
Gunasekera faulted Premier Wickremesinghe for appointing a three-member committee comprising UNP lawyers to inquire into the matter. Alleging that the lawyers lacked knowledge or expertise to handle the investigation, Gunasekera said that the UNP exercise wasted three months.
“Premier Wickremesinghe should take the responsibility for that attempt to misdirect the inquiry,” Gunasekera alleged.
Gunasekera recalled the circumstances under which the Rajapaksa administration had introduced treasury bonds in 2008 in response to financial turmoil. That was part of the measures introduced to raise funds for the government at that time struggling to cope up with a global financial crisis, Gunasekera said.
As an influential section of parliament had refused to accept the UNP report, the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa intervened to set up a 13 member COPE team to speedily inquire into the alleged fraud. Gunasekera said that the parliament was dissolved to prevent the presentation of his report with UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe moving District court of Colombo to restrain Gunasekera from releasing it ahead of parliamentary polls in 2015 August.
A smiling Gunasekera said that the case was pending and would come up next month.
Asked by The Island whether the second far bigger fraud in March 2016 could have been prevented if not for the dissolution of parliament, Gunasekera said that question should be posed to President Sirisena as he exercised that power.
Gunasekera acknowledged that the political situation at that time, too, should be taken into consideration when the dissolution of parliament was examined.
The veteran politician said that the events leading to the treasury bond scam, including the acceptance of UNP leader Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister in spite of Mahinda Rajapaksa still enjoying a staggering two thirds majority in parliament were nothing but a mystery.
The group loyal to Rajapaksa still couldn’t comprehend what had taken place even three years after the war winning President’s defeat. The CP chief said that he had strongly advised President Rajapaksa not to call early polls and when he was ignored a public warning was given through the media. Only The Island was willing to report his warning in early Oct 2014 to President Rajapaksa, Gunasekera told the media.
Appreciating the presidential commission members, SC judges, K.T. Chitrasiri, Prasanna Jayawardena, and former deputy Auditor General Velupillai as well as indomitable Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe, top AG Department officials, including Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera and Additional SolicitoeGeneralYasantha Kodagoda as well as the Deputy Auditor General Chula Wickremaratne, who assisted the first COPE commission, Gunasekera also praised the then head of the public debt department Deepa Seneviratne for serving the interests of the nation.
Gunasekera said the clandestine operation couldn’t have been revealed without the expert opinion given by former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. W.A. Wijewardena.
He concluded the briefing with dire warning that the country would never get an opportunity to clean up the society if President Sirisena failed to go the whole hog.
Emphasizing that had the President appointed a commission with judicial powers, those responsible could have been promptly dealt with, Gunasekera said that still the President’s action was laudable against the backdrop of his political alliance with the UNP.
Gunasekera compared President Sirisena’s actions with that of SWRD Bandaranaike in 1959 against three corrupt members of his cabinet.
(Courtesy The Island)