Debate on COPE report will be given priority: Minister

Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena

State Minister of Finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana said the COPE report on the ‘Treasury Bond Issue’ would be taken up for debate on priority basis at the very first session of Parliament in 2017 and a special fast track judicial procedure would put be put in place to conclude the legal process and punish the culprits as early as possible.

After the debate, the Speaker will send the COPE report to the Attorney General for necessary legal action.

Elaborating on a number of vital decisions taken at an extraordinary Group Meeting of the SLFP on Tuesday night chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena at his residence, Minister Abeywardana told the media at his Ministry yesterday that the bond scam had tarnished the image of the unity government, the Central Bank and the UNP beyond repair because this government came to power to do the opposite.

“The unity government was formed with a firm pledge to bring corrupt politicians and officials before the law and duly punish them but not to protect them,” he added.

Minister Abeywardana vowed that the SLFP was determined that under no circumstances, the SLFP would not let culprits of the infamous bond scam off the hook and punish them according to the law of the land and collect the ill gotten lucre from them.

The SLFP also decided to hold the forthcoming local government polls on the mixed and ward system and rejected totally the suggestions to hold the next election under the much corrupt and criticized old PR system.

“We, the SLFP are totally against the conducting of local government polls under the old system and fully committed to hold it under the mixed First Fast the Post and PR System and Ward system that ensures the direct public representation at each and every ward in local government bodies.

Minister Abeywardana also said President Sirisena gave instructions to Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Musthapha to make arrangements to conduct much delayed local government polls as early as possible at the group meeting.

“We hope that the Asoka Peiris delimitation committee report will submit its report to Minister Musthapha before December 31. Then, Minister Musthapha is required to gazette the election under the rules and regulations recommended by the 2012 Local Government Electoral (Amendment) Act that brought the mixed voting system and ward system.

“But if some one went to courts challenging the recommendations of the delimitation report, it will take time and we will not be able to hold the polls in the first quarter in 2017. But we will try our best to hold the local government polls in the first quarter in 2017, Minister Abeywardana stressed.

Minister Abeywardana pooh poohed the speculations made by Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila to the effect that the government was in a move to abrogate in a bid to prevent the COPE report on the bond scandal and ETCA and added the suggestion was only a wishful thinking of a politician who sought cheap publicity as he did not have points to talk about.

(Source: Daily Mirror – By Sandun A Jayasekera)