An alleged assassination plot which had the involvement of a cabinet minister and the ‘tremendous pressure to avoid investigations’ under the UNP led government were the main reasons behind his decision to remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from the Prime Ministerial post and appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister, President Maithripala Sirisena said Sunday.
He insisted that the move was entirely within the framework of the constitution.
President Maithripala Sirisena in his special address to the nation, listed a plethora of accusations against Ranil Wickremesinge blaming him of arrogance, supporting corruption, planning to give away Lankan lands to foreigners and taking decisions without consultation and declared that : ‘Under these political problems, economic troubles and the strong plot to assassinate me, the only alternative open to me was to invite former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and appoint him as prime Minister to form a new government.”
“There is also an involvement of a Cabinet Minister in this plot to assassinate me. Furthermore, there have been tremendous pressure on investigations,” he explained.
The President further said:
“I would now like to explain the most proximate and powerful reason that made me appoint the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and remove Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister.”
“Recently, a person called Namal kumara came before the media and disclosed about a plot to assassinate me and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. I handed over the task of investigations to Criminal Investigations Department. However, Inspector General of Police did not assign the investigations to CID. Instead it was given to another division. Then I realized that there was an issue of trust about the investigations.
Within 48 hours of the disclosure made to the media by the person called Namal Kumara and investigations could be commenced on the plot, Inspector General of Police made a statement stating that there was a doubt about the voices in the tape recording provided by that person. I would like to raise the question, with respect, is it suitable for a Police chief to behave in such a shameless manner and express doubts about the recording, without seeking any technical expert advice on the tape recording, when there was a revelation that a plot was hatched to assassinate the President of the country?”
“The reports provided by the CID and other investigating authorities including the Intelligence Bureau showed that this is a very serious matter. In this plot, there is a wide range of information which has not been disclosed to the public,” President Sirisena revealed.
Citing the many reasons why he could not continue the journey he started on January 08 contesting the Presidency he said he believed that “Wickremesinghe and his group of closest friends, who belonged to a privileged class and did not understand the pulse of the people conducted themselves as if shaping the future of the country was a fun game they played’ and “grossly violated the very principles of good governance” that the coalition government pledged to uphold in 2015 January.
Referring to one of the biggest black marks against the UNP led government; the multi-million dollar Central Bank fraud and non action to arrest the bank’s Governor, Sri Lankan born-Singapore national Arjuna Mahendran who had reportedly fled to Singapore, President Sirisena said: “The Central Bank robbery was an abortion of the pledge of good governance we had given to the people to eliminate corruption and fraud.”
He further elaborated: “At that time, Wickremesinghe behaved very impatiently and restlessly. When I decided to visit the Central Bank and meet the staff of the Bank, I remember, he suddenly came to my residence and asked me: ‘The Central Bank belongs to me, why do you want to go there?” At that moment, I told him, “It is true that it has been gazetted under your purview, but as the President of the country, I have the right to visit that place.”
“Then, I appointed a commission to investigate into the Central Bank issue in response to people’s demand. When the Commission was carrying on the investigations independently, leaders of the UNP started pointing fingers at me. They asked why I appointed this commission.”
“I wish to reiterate here that Ranil Wickremesinghe must take the responsibility to bring Arjuna Mahendran to Sri Lanka and produce him before courts. That is because, as everybody knows, Arjuna Mahendran is a very close friend of Ranil Wickremesinghe.”
Sirisena accused Wickremesinghe of blocking steps to control and eradicate bribery and corruption and said that a new law that was to be introduced to expedite the legal process for corruption cases was stalled.
“Legal experts, Attorney-General’s Department, the members of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption and those who made investigations informed me earlier this year that it would take at least 15 years to punish the perpetrators of Central Bank Bond robbery under the existing laws in the country.”
“The Commission on Bribery or Corruption and Attorney-General’s Department recommended to make some amendments to the Commission Act, so that the guilty persons could be sentenced within one year and recover the huge amount of money they had stolen.”
“Accordingly, we drafted the amendments to the Act at the Presidential Secretariat and sent to the Parliament six months ago.”
“However, the amendment was not submitted for five months. It got buried in the Office of the Leader of House. I made serious inquiries into this. I asked the officials of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption. I asked the officers in the Attorney-General’s Department.”
“Finally, the Amendment Bill to Act on Commission on Bribery or Corruption was presented to Parliament. But I am sad to say that the Parliament postponed the approval of the Amendments Act indefinitely. Why was it deferred? For whose benefit? Due to pressure from whom?, ” Sirisena queried.
“It would take 15 to 20 years to mete out punishment to the guilty persons. That is why the Amendments Act was postponed indefinitely,” he explained.
Sirisena further accused Wickremesinghe of planning to sell off Lankan assets to foreigners and blocking the land rights of Sri Lankans.
“Many valuable assets were given to foreigners without tenders. Construction awards were also given without tenders. Emergency cabinet papers were presented to award such tenders and massive construction awards were given despite objections at the cabinet.”
He said he prevented cabinet papers that would have ensured Sri Lankan property got into the hands of foreigners easily.
“I lodged strong protests and postponed those cabinet papers. Majority of Cabinet Ministers were against these proposals. If the last week’s Land Ordinance Special Act was passed by the Cabinet and then by the Parliament, all the lands of our Motherland could be bought outright by foreigners without any difficulty,” he said.
In the background of Sri Lanka going through a financial crisis, President Sirisena said that the committee set up by Wickremesinghe to manage the economy was fraudulent.
“The decisions taken by that committee were fraudulent. It was a major challenge to abolish it. As an alternative to that committee, I have established the National Economic Council. Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken everything possible to weaken that Commission.”
“Wickremesinghe took steps to prevent the Commission from functioning. I clearly state that this crisis situation has emerged due to Wickremesinghe’s stubborn decisions,” the President said.
Insisting that he had acted within the framework of the constitution, he said that the manner in which the new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed was entirely constitutional.
“I categorically state that the appointments were made totally in accordance with the Constitution and the on advice of legal experts. No constitutional violation was done when appointments were made and removal was enacted. With all respect, I completely reject the charge that what was done was a violation of the Constitution,” Sirisena said and invited UNP members and the Buddhist clergy to support the new government headed by him and Rajapaksa.