Sri Lanka parliament to probe phone tapping claims

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament Tuesday announced opening an investigation into allegations that telephones of MPs had been illegally tapped in connection with the just concluded treasury bond investigation.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said he will probe how phone records were obtained and leaked to the media, a move that deepened a rift between President Maithripala Sirisena and his coalition.

"We must find out how this information leaked out and remedial action should be taken," Jayasuriya said.

United National Party (UNP) members of parliament had accused the commission of tapping their phones. Even former president Mahinda Rajapaksa too expressed concerns over the leaking of MPs’ phone records.

The UNP made the allegation of phone tapping by the Presidential Commission appointed by President Sirisena as he publicly accused unnamed members of the UNP of trying to undermine him.

The President has also accused sections of the UNP of attacking him for ordering the investigations earlier this year into the controversial bond sale in 2015.

A leaked document showed phone records relating to 28 members of parliament. Some have had conversations with former central bank governor Arjuna Mahendran’s son-in-law Arjun Aloysius.

The four-page list of phone records also included WhatsApp and Viber calls and text messages.

The presidential commission in a statement denied it ordered tapping and said the records were obtained from mobile devices used by Mahendran and Aloysius and information from telecom service providers.

The commission concluded its sittings Monday after receiving testimony from the Prime Minister who is in charge of the central bank.

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Ruling party legislators said their privacy had been violated and insisted on investigations into the phone tapping allegations.

Sirisena came to power in January 2015 after he defected from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and secured the support of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). (COLOMBO, November 21, 2017)