ECONOMYNEXT – Disciplinary action against a British MP who admitted accepting luxury holidays from Sri Lanka has triggered an investigation into five other UK legislators who were allegedly bribed by the former regime.
Government MPs told the Sri Lankan parliament on Friday that an admission by Ian Paisley, who faces suspension from the House of Commons for 30 sittings, has opened a can of worms at the foreign ministry.
“There are at least five other British MP’s who similarly were bribed by the Rajapaksa regime to make statements supportive of it,” UNP MP Mujibar Rahuman told parliament. He did not name the five.
He said Sri Lanka's then High Commissioner to London, Chris Nonis should be questioned about granting free holidays to paisley and the then foreign minister G. L. Peiris should also be questioned.
“We wonder if a string of African leaders who visited during the Rajapaksa presidency were also paid like this.”
Paisley admitted accepting free holidays costing over 22 million rupees for his entire family in 2013 and failing to disclose it as required by House of Commons ethical standards.
He flew with his wife and four children for a 10-day holiday in March and he travelled again in July with wife and two of the children for a 7-day tour of Sri Lanka. They flew business-class, stayed at the Colombo Hilton and five other five-star hotels. The government of Sri Lanka also paid for their travel within the island by helicopter and a Mercedes Benz.
After spending two holidays with his family in Sri Lanka, he wrote his then Prime Minister David Cameron seeking British support for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council where Colombo faced censure. He also lobbied unsuccessfully to get the Queen to visit Colombo for the 2013 Commonwealth summit.
“The former regime bribed foreign dignitaries to improve the country’s image abroad. But, instead, bribing has further damaged the reputation,” Rahuman said.
The JVP’s Bimal Ratnayake said the bribing scandal was already referred to the parliament’s oversight committee on foreign relations and demanded that the authorities investigate how the former regime accounted the bribes paid to British law makers.
“We though these British MPs in tie and coat were honest respectable people, but they are worse,” Rahuman said insisting that there were five more British MP’s who received expensive gifts from the Rajapaksa administration.
The House of Commons Standards Committee found that Paisley’s actions amounted to ‘paid advocacy’ and brought the House of Commons into disrepute.
Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s top aide Sajin Vass Gunawardena had arranged several influential foreign dignitaries to visit Sri Lanka and extracted statements from them supporting the country at a time when the regime faced international isolation.
Sri Lanka at the time had also lobbied US senators and received messages of support from them. (COLOMBO, July 21, 2018)