Sri Lanka PM says no protection for thieves

ECONOMYNEXT – On Sunday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe vowed his government will ensure a transparent investigation into the controversial bond auctions, and said he will not hesitate to act against anyone found guilty.
Wickremesinghe said his government has created an environment in which the attorney general and his staff were free to vigorously question a senior minister without fearing for their lives, unlike during the former regime.

"Today, the attorney general summons ministers and question them. Was it possible earlier?" the Prime Minister asked during a meeting with United National Party members at Hatton. "Under the previous regime, the AG was merely a henchman of the president. An attorney general who questioned it was removed. Or, they would have been abducted in white vans…"

"Today, there is freedom to question anybody. Let me tell you one thing. This government will not protect rogues. If any wrongdoing is found, we will act on it. The UNP is not a party of thieves. If there are crooks, we will remove them. What I ask is to allow free and independent investigations, that’s all," the Prime Minister said.

He did not directly refer to Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake who has denied local media reports that President Maithripala Sirisena had asked him to step down after his questioning at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry last week.

He said on Saturday that neither the President nor the Prime Minister had discussed with him about his evidence before the COI nor did they ask him to resign.

The commission, which is investigating bond sales between February 2015 and March 2016, was questioning Karunanayake about his apartment at Monarch after the owner testified she leased it to him through a third party.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also took the opportunity at Hatton to lambaste several private media outlets accusing them of being a party to covering up the corruption of the Rajapaksa regime. He issued a challenge to media outlets to headline a corruption of 181 billion rupees in the construction of the Hambantota port and the purchase of A350 airbus aircraft Sri Lanka could ill afford.

Journalists Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunga were assassinated during the Rajapaksa regime because they were exposing corruption of that government, Wickremesinghe said.

He said several media outlets were openly colluding with the Rajapaksa regime by insisting that the two assassinations of the journalists should not be investigated because it could affect “national security”.

The premier said the government will initiate fresh investigations into the Hambantota port construction and the Airbus deal, which the J. C. Weliamuna commission has said was one of the most corrupt deals requiring a criminal prosecution.
(COLOMBO, August 6, 2017)





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