Govt has not lost a red cent from Bond transactions
By Prageeth Sampath
Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama says even if there are slight differences of opinion between the President and the Prime Minister, they will solve it and work in cooperation.
Bond Commission Report is out, now. It is against the United National Party (UNP) that the gravest charge is directed Vis-a- Vis with regard to the Bonds deal. UNP MPs are said to be behind it. Will this not affect the UNP's future?
A: Nowhere it is mentioned in the Bond Commission Report that a Minister or an MP of the UNP is a part of the Bonds fraud also the Prime Minister has clearly told the country that we are not a part of the scam.
Accusations were made against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake regarding it. The President in his speech said that, according to the report, the Prime Minister should have acted with more responsibility.
A: It was not because of the Bonds fraud that Minister Ravi Karunanayake lost his portfolio. He was accused of committing a different offence. According to the President, the report says that the incident relating to Ravi Karunanayake has no connection whatsoever with the Bonds deal. It is about taking money from Arjun Aloysius to buy a luxury apartment.
Have you seen the Bond Commission Report?
A: Not yet.
Whatever you say, when the Bonds transaction was being investigated, the names of UNP MPs and Ministers, including Ravi Karunanayake, came up. Although it is said that it was not UNPers who committed the Bonds fraud, was it not proved that they had connections with Aloysius in other transactions relating to it?
A: However, nothing like that is mentioned in the Bonds Commission Report. Minister Kabir Hashim and I were questioned at the Commission on whether we had any connection with the Bonds incident and we replied in the negative. The Commission accepted that.
The former Governor of the Central Bank is a UNP sympathizer. Was it not you all who appointed him?
A: He was appointed by the Government. Whether he was our sympathizer or not it should have been investigated.
What is there to investigate when it was proved that a large scale fraud was committed?
A: This Government has not lost even one cent so far because of the Bonds transaction. As there was a suspicion about the Bonds deals we have now sealed the bonds obtained by Perpetual Treasuries.
Didn't all this happen because the Central Bank was taken under the Prime Minister?
A: As the Central Bank was under the Prime Minister he made inquiries when he came to know about this. He advised the Monetary Board of the Central Bank to freeze assets worth Rs 12 billion of the Perpetual Treasuries. So, Rs 12 billion worth of assets, including money in banks and movable and immovable property owned by it were frozen. That amount can be recovered by the Government by filing action through the Attorney General. So, the Government has not lost a red cent because of the Bonds transaction.
Will the full amount be recovered by filing action through the Attorney General?
There were Presidential Commission reports before this also. This will also suffer the same fate. Isn't that true?
A: No. What was said is that there was a loss of Rs 11 billion. We have frozen the assets worth Rs 12 billion belonging to the Perpetual Treasuries. They cannot make use of those assets now. What has to be done now is the Government should get hold of those assets.
Will the money obtained from State institutions be reimbursed?
A: Yes. Those monies will be reimbursed. So, the Government won't lose even a cent because of the Bonds incident. The Government has decided to freeze the assets of this company considering all that.
The Government says that there have been large scale Bonds frauds during the period from 2008 to 2015. Former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal says that if such frauds took place Ranil would have put him in jail. Who is telling the truth?
A: Bonds frauds have taken place. Now, we are trying to find out where that money is. That money has to be found somehow. We can prove that no loss has been incurred by the transactions that took place after 2015. When there has been a loss of Rs 11 billion we have frozen assets worth Rs 12 billion. Likewise we have to find out about the Bonds transaction that took place between 2008 and 2015 and recover the monies. What we are asking is, where has that money gone?
You got power to look into thefts.
A: We said we'll look into.
What are the thefts you looked into? Whom did you prosecute? Some cases have been postponed for as long as 6-7 months.
Some case files have been suppressed. Was it this that the people expected of the Yahapalanaya?
A: It is not in our charge. We do not interfere in the legal process just because it is the Yahapalanaya. The Police will have to investigate and take the necessary legal steps. Those days the President or a Minister gave orders to suppress investigation. Now, it doesn't happen. The law will take its course.
Didn't the Yahapalanaya take power saying the guilty would be punished?
A: Our Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorala mentioned about it recently saying that the number of Courts would be increased to hear the relevant cases and that such cases will be heard daily. The result of these would be there soon.
Preparations are being made to hold an emergency session of Parliament and have a debate. Isn't there a hidden agenda behind it?
A: Certainly not. The relevant matter would be taken for debate in Parliament following a meeting of party leaders.
Will the genuine report be made available to MPs?
A: Yes. Even we have not got the report still.
Is it only at election time that you remember that the money robbed by Mahinda Rajapaksa is in Dubai banks? It is being heard often now because the election is close.
A: These are not being talked about only at election time. These are being investigated. The Police and the Attorney General's Department have got together and found a lot of facts. It is not an easy task to detect these. It is difficult to catch those who have commited big frauds in a day or two. It took 10 years to find out about the frauds of Ferdinand Marcos. What we say is that it needn't to take such a long time. Now the matter is being pursued.
Today, the people in the villages think that the UNP has committed a big fraud. In such a situation the UNP goes to the villages asking to allow it to develop the villages. Will it work?
A: It has been proved by the Bonds Commission Report that the UNP is not a part of any bond fraud. We always do the correct thing and ask for power in the village.
The message that the UNP is faultless has not gone to the village. The UNP is only day-dreaming. What have you to say?
A: No. We waited till the Commission report was out. Even if we had said anything earlier no one would have accepted. Now, the country knows what is correct.
The Government has completed 3 years on 8 January 2018. You have built only the Rajagiriya fly-over. Actually, what did the country get from Yahapalanaya? What is your reply to the people?
A: We have done a lot of work. We have not been blowing our own trumpet. We have laid the foundation for development. The results are coming in now. Last year, exports increased, by 11 per cent. The increase in foreign investment is US$ 1.5 million. This year, investments show an increase of 15-20 per cent.
In addition, roads were constructed and health services were improved. The cost of living is low. There was a shortage of rice owing to the drought. We imported rice to solve that problem.
The UNP doesn't do any work it does only sell the country's assets to spend for consumption? That's the UNP's economic policy, isn't that so?
A: We have never sold the country's resources. Even this Government has not done so. We have leased only a few resources. We cannot run an institution at a loss year after year just because it is a country's asset. When big losses are incurred by such institutions it is the country's people who have to bear the burden. Isn't it better to get profits out of those resources? We can't just stand and wait looking up keeping the Hambantota Harbour with us. Its losses run to millions of rupees every year. There was a colossal loss at the end of 2017. So, we have made proper use of that asset. The SriLanka Airlines is also incurs heavy losses, further Trincomalee oil tanks are dysfunctional. So it's our duty to make them profitable.
Oil can be stored in those. Why is it not done?
A: It's difficult for us to do it by ourselves. We have to join with someone. We'll give it to a foreign county keeping a 50% stake. This is not selling the country's assets to spend for consumption: It's, putting the country's assets into good use.
Volkswagen was brought, this was brought, that was brought but no one came. Who are you fooling like this?
A: We are not fooling anyone. Investors were suspicious because of the situation in the country, especially, until peace dawned after the war ended.
After coming to power in January 2015 was it not said that a Volkswagen plant would be set up at Pannala by August?
A: Investors thought of the situation in the country at that time. It's only now that the investors have come to know of the country situation. At the end of this month 75 investors from Japan will be coming. It is for the first time that they are coming after 1983.
Then, what about China?
A: China is the most rapidly developing country in the world.
Is it because of that that the country is being leased out piece by piece to China?
A: They are investing everywhere in the world.It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who invited China before us.
Sri Lanka is fourth among the most corrupt countries in the world. Aren't all those who ruled and rules the country responsible for it.
A: Yes, that's correct. We have to change all that by bringing new laws and regulations.
SLFPers in the Yahapalana Government don't like those policies, isn't that so?
A: There is no such problem. We signed an agreement. The President is fully cooperative. Some shout for political gains. That's only a few. About 10-15 per cent shouts when you try to do almost anything.
"I danced for you to see. I'll dance for you to see in future too". There is something serious in what the Prime Minister said. What's it?
A: What the PM said was that we can't be intimidated to do things by those who shout. What we want is to develop the country according to our own policies. We can't dance to the tune of those who shout for nothing.
Where are the Yahapalana policies today?
A: We are implementing.
If I say, it's all lies?
A: Some were implemented and there are some more to do. There are no white vans today. Journalists are not being killed. The allegation is that we didn't catch thieves. That will also happen in future. The records of the cases that have been proved after Police investigations have been sent to the Attorney General. Even if there are slight differences of opinion between the President and the Prime Minister they will solve all this by working in cooperation.
The United national Party asks for power at the Local Government elections to develop the village. Will it actually get it?The power of the village is with Mahinda. Isn't that the truth?
A: It's the will of the people. If the village is to be developed they have to be with the Government. It's the Government that provides the funds for it. So, the villagers have to understand that they have to help the Government if they want the village to be developed.
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