NCM wants to safeguard a minister whom he supports Wigneswaran took arbitrary decisions We were exonerated by the Committee of Inquiry
BY MIRUDHULA THAMBIAH
Former Northern Province Minister Balasubramaniam Deniswaran said that Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran took arbitrary decisions on the recent corruption issue against the board of ministers.
"Northern Chief Minister actually formed the committee of inquiry to safeguard one of the ministers whom he supports. I will not allow the Chief Minister to take arbitrary actions against us when we were exonerated by the committee of inquiry," he said.
Following are excerpts:
?On what grounds have you filed legal action against the Chief Minister?
A: He does not have any power to remove me from office according to the Constitution, as well as the Provincial Councils Act. Only the Governor has powers to appoint and remove a Provincial Minister.
On 23 August Northern Governor Reginald Cooray appointed two new Provincial Ministers. However, Chief Minister Wigneswaran sent a letter three days before on 20 August that he is removing me from my portfolio. This is an illegal letter, it is against the law and the Chief Minister does not have any power to remove any minister from office. At the same time a Gazette Notification endorsed by the Northern Governor Cooray regarding the removal of my portfolio has not been issued yet. These are the main ground on which I have filed writs of certiorari and prohibition at the Court of Appeal against the Northern Chief Minister.
The Northern Chief Minister actually formed the committee of inquiry to safeguard one of the ministers whom he supports. If not he could have either asked all four ministers to resign or according to the inquiry report he could have asked two ministers against whom the charges are proved to resign and allowed the other ministers (Dr. Sathiyalingam and I) be, since the allegations were not proved. The Chief Minister began to safeguard one minister and from then his every action was a wrong move. The Chief Minister initially said that the inquiry committee was formed to probe into the charges against all four ministers. His intention was to safeguard one minister against whom the first set of allegations were submitted, thus he formed the committee of inquiry against all four ministers.
It was unacceptable that the Chief Minister began to be vengeful against two ministers (Sathiyalingam and I) who were exonerated by the committee of inquiry. Let everyone keep silent but I will not allow the Chief Minister to take arbitrary actions against us when we were absolved by the committee of inquiry. He could have always called up all the ministers and discussed with us regarding the issue, while suggesting to entirely changing the board of ministers. He could have taken this step earlier without forming a committee of inquiry. Therefore, it is unacceptable that he is not functioning according to the recommendations made by the committee. It was illegal for him to request the remaining two ministers (Sathiyalingam and I) to go on compulsory leave when the committee did not recommend as such.
At the same time the committee of inquiry was not a legal body. But however, we appeared before the committee because, we cannot allow anyone to involve in corruption at the Provincial Council which we have obtained after decades. If not I would also challenged the committee of inquiry because the Northern Governor did not give any approval to the committee of inquiry formed by the Northern Chief Minister.
?Are you saying that Governor Cooray did not function independently over these issues?
A: Governor was independent over one issue. When the Chief Minister wrote to the Governor regarding the committee of inquiry, he first questioned about the allegations. The Governor called for the allegations to be sent to him. The Governor also clearly stated that the committee of inquiry can be established by him or the President. In such case without obtaining an order or approval from the Governor the Chief Minister formed the committee on his own. Only a select committee can inquire a Parliamentarian, Minister, Chief Minister, or Provincial Ministers. However, the Chief Minister appointed two retired Judges and a retired District Secretary as members of the committee.
I was the only minister among the four who continued to pressurize that the charges must be inquired and stressed if the charges are confirmed by the committee legal action must be filed against those proved guilty.
I further emphasized last year that members from our region should not represent at the committee of inquiry but members out of the region. I highlighted that an independent inquiry can be carried out by those who are not from our region, because there will be complaints against the report from the committee if the members are from our region that the members were influenced and partial. These suggestions were made during council sittings and it is in the hansard.
Later former Provincial Minister Ayngaranesan said that he is unsatisfied with the report issued by committee and the members were partial.
From the time Chief Minister Wigneswaran formed the committee his objective was revengeful and he had the idea of holding the important ministries at his discretion.
I would like to point out that same Chief Minister earlier pinpointed an allegation against the current Provincial Minister of Agriculture regarding the death of a Tamil Journalist, but later he was given a portfolio. At the same time he appointed Ananthy Sasitharan as a minister against whom Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) had imposed disciplinary action. Therefore, the Chief Minister had given ministerial portfolios to those who refrained from signing the no confidence motion against him. He had so far not called a meeting with the 30 members in the proposition but only with the 14 of them who were supporting him during the no confidence motion. I did go to Courts to challenge his illegal and revengeful activities at the council.
?Are you trying to say that you have personal issues with the Northern Chief Minister?
A: No! We never had any personal issues. When he retired from the judiciary, he had conducted many seminars and I have participated as a lawyer, since then he was well-known to me.
?Since you were a member of TELO, the party's central committee requested you to resign your portfolio. But why didn't you follow the orders by TELO?
A: If I resign my portfolio I will be labelled that I accepted the charges or I committed the allegations. This will spoil my political image. People will begin to blame me that I was involved in corruption. Therefore, I believed that resigning my portfolio will tarnish my image when I have not committed any crime.
I'm not a founder member of TELO. I was not a member who participated in the armed struggle or I did not request any membership from TELO. In 2013, during the Northern Provincial Council elections seats were allocated for TELO and former Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph recommended my name. Until then I had no connection with TELO. After I won the elections, I was faithful to TELO and even requested the hierarchy to accept me as a member.
However, they obtained my signature on a plain white paper before I took oaths as the provincial minister, I was asked for my signature to assure them that I would be faithful to the party. I was faithful to the party thus I signed on the paper believing that the hierarchy will give me a copy of the letter which they will print above my signature. Now I doubt it if they have mentioned on this later that I am a founder member.
Even TELO failed to support me in this issue; they must understand the actual situation.
?Is that why you did not follow the decisions?
A: Yes! They even sent an explanation regarding their decision that I should resign since I signed the no confidence motion. The no confidence motion was signed on 14 June and on 16 June TELO announced that they boycotted it. Following which I clearly said that I will not function against party's decision.
?TELO did not recommend Dr. Gunaseelan to be appointed as the new Health Minister. But he was appointed by the Chief Minister to the portfolio. How do you assess this situation?
A: Now TELO must take action against him. If TELO is a democratic party definitely they must take action against Dr. Gunaseelan. I clearly mentioned to the party hierarchy that I did not go against their decision on the no confidence motion.
I told the party that I was asked to go on compulsory leave after the report was out from the committee even when the charges against me were not proved. Therefore, I believe in self respect and I went ahead to sign on the no confidence motion against the Chief Minister. However, after the party took the decision to boycott it, I too declared that I shall follow the party's decision. They took stern action against me even though I have not committed any wrong.
Gunaseelan was before the presidium when the decision was taken to give the ministerial portfolio to Vinthan Kanagaratnam, in such a case why did he accept it?
?There were four charges placed before the committee of inquiry against you. How do you prove your stand?
A: Can the Chief Minister establish a committee of inquiry when there are no charges against a minister? He established an inquiry against me at the beginning when there were no charges. Chief Minister published on media after forming the committee that public can lodge complaints against all four ministers. Charges were induced against me just because Chief Minister wanted to safeguard one minister. On the last day Ananthy Sasitharan lodged four complaints against me. Therefore, there are many issues at this juncture which are quite hard to believe and accept.
Inquiry was launched against me when there are no charges at the beginning, if there were charges the Chief Minister should have publicized it and I doubt that the complaints were purposely framed only after the committee was lodged, as I said those were induced charges.
I was charged for providing fish fingerlings to the people living in the Weli Oya Division in the Mullaitivu, it is claimed that the fishermen in these areas are from the South and I distributed fingerlings to them at a cost of Rs 500,000. I did distribute fish fingerlings to the fishermen in Weli Oya and it does fall under the purview of the Council. I don't believe in racial discrimination and I don't want a ministerial portfolio that will restrict me from helping all communities.
I have built bus stops in all five districts of the Northern Province during my tenure and most number of bus stops was installed in Jaffna. The complaint is that I have installed these bus stops without proper tender procedures. The complaint elaborates that I have taken money allocations and have distributed tenders according to my wish.
A similar complaint was lodged against me for not calling proper tender procedures to construct roads in the North.
The last complaint is that I misused Rs 10 million in the Maaveerar Scheme Project. Actually I obtained Rs 68 million for this project and 1,360 families of slain LTTE cadres rehabilitated cadres and political prisoners, missing persons and war widows were selected as beneficiaries.
Before the committee of inquiry I explained my stand that I will not discriminate against any community while carrying out any development activities. Tender proceedings were called for in proper manner and I explained so, before the committee with evidence.
Also I explained how the Maaveerar Project was carried and the process of selecting beneficiaries and I also said that the committee can always question the beneficiaries. The committee claimed that there is no proper evidence to prove the charges and released me.
I have always been genuine and stuck to the promises I made.
?You have also said that you will publicize the charges against the Chief Minister. How will you prove it?
A: I have complaints against him. I will not announce it now I will mention it in public when the right time comes.
?What is your next step?
A: I have filed legal action. The Order can be obtained soon since it is a matter of public interest. If I obtain the ministerial portfolio after the case, I will complete two projects that are pending. One is drawing up 40/60 bus time tables for State, as well as private bus drivers and the completion of the Maaveerar Project. I will finish this within a month and resign my portfolio. I don't want ministerial portfolio but fulfil the promises made to people.
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