Speaker agrees to summon Party Leaders’ meeting Kiriella claims breach of Parliamentary privileges occurred Blames CID and AG’s Dept

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By 2017-11-21

By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake

Revealing the phone call details of Members of Parliament by the Criminal Investigation Department at the Bond Commission was in violation of the privileges of the Members, the Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella told the House yesterday.

He said that neither the CID nor the Attorney General's Department had got permission from the Speaker of the House to table these details before the...... Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bond scam and that act had violated Parliamentary privileges.

"The CID forensic report shows that five members of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) had received calls from owner of the Perpetual Treasuries Limited Arjun Aloysius during the period the COPE was sitting in session on the said issue. At the same time, it is clear that if Aloysius contacted these five COPE members hoping to make changes to the report in favour of him, he had failed to obtain any favours from them," he said.

He also said that the COPE, including these five MPs, had unanimously agreed that action should be taken against all wrongdoers.

Minister Kiriella requested Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon a Party Leaders' meeting to discuss this matter and summon all the other parties responsible, including the Members of Parliament whose names had been mentioned in this regard, to inquire into this matter and take such steps as he deemed appropriate.

The Speaker agreed and said that he would summon a Party Leaders' meeting.

Moving a motion, Minister Kiriella said that a forensic report prepared by the CID was placed before the Presidential Commission on 16 November 2017. The report contained details of telephone calls of 28 Members.

The document tabled by Minister Kiriella contains the details of calls made to or received from MPs during and outside the COPE sessions. All the information was gleaned from a forensic investigation into Aloysius' phone.

Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera has two entries - one outgoing call and one incoming call - during the COPE sessions and 18 other calls from 10 July 2015 to 25 October 2016 between him and Aloysius.

Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, who had been appointed to the COPE on 7 July 2016 had a total of 62 calls to and from Aloysius – 36 incoming and 26 outgoing during the sessions and a total number of 227calls from 4 July 2015 to 3 March 2017. In addition, there were seven Viber calls from 27 January 2017 to 17 February 2017 and eight WhatsApp calls from 24 November 2016 to 29 November 2016.

Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera had one incoming call and one outgoing call during the COPE sessions with Aloysius and eight outside the sessions. MP Hector Appuhamy had 23 entries - 13 incoming calls and 10 outgoing calls during the COPE sessions. He had received one Short Message Service (SMS) text from Aloysius' phone during the COPE sessions. In addition, from 25 July 2016 to 20 June 2017 Appuhamy's phone had 73 calls, nine SMSs and from 31 December 2016 to 18 July 2017, 42 Viber calls, and from 11 April 2017 to 04 July 2017 three WhatsApp calls outside the COPE sessions with Aloysius.

UNP MP Harshana Rajakaruna's phone recorded 23 calls with Aloysius - 13 incoming and 10 outgoing during the COPE sessions.

He had entries of 176 calls from 9 February 2015 to 13 June 2017 and 11 SMSs from 10 September 2016 to 06 June 2017 from Aloysius' phone.

Other Members of the COPE had no entries at all with Aloysius' phones, according to the document tabled by Minister Kiriella.
He also pointed out that it must also be remembered that the Commission's mandate is to investigate and report. "It is not a Court of law and no one has been found guilty of any offence-least of all there is no finding against any one of these MPs."
He also said that this brings into question as to on whose instructions and for what purpose was a tab kept on the telephone records especially of these Members of Parliament. "This is clearly a breach of privilege of these MPs," said Minister Kiriella.

He said that communications between Parliamentarians and constituents are privileged and there have been instances where administrative action has been taken to preserve the rights of the constituents communicating with MPs. The telephone has been identified as one of the means that constituents communicate with MPs.

"In these circumstances, considering that the Commission has not come to any conclusion, it is highly improper that this information has been published," Minister Kiriella said. "Therefore our view is that before the CID or even the Attorney General's Department seeks information about the telephone calls of MPs they must obtain the Speaker's permission. Neither of these Departments has done this."

He said that notwithstanding this, confidential information has been put out for public consumption. He added that the media is now in a frenzy giving all sorts of twists and interpretations to this information.

"I call upon you to hold a Party Leader's Meeting to discuss this matter," Minister Kiriella said.

At this juncture, Joint Opposition (JO) Member Gamini Lokuge queried if the investigations are not being held against the former Minister of Finance, whose wife had accepted a flat from Aloysius.

JO Member Udaya Gammanpila said that Minister Kiriella had misled the House. He added that some members of the COPE had put footnotes in the report in favour of Aloysius.

United National Party MP Buddhika Pathirana suggested that the details of all the Members and the President be taken for investigation.

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