Appointing a Prime Minister, removing the former Prime Minister, proroguing the Parliament, dissolution of Parliament, dissolving the cabinet, were all done by him legally and he has not done anything in violation of the constitution, President Maithripala Sirisena said.
Addressing the foreign media personnel at President’s house today (25), President Sirisena said that the people of this country appointed him as President on 8th of January 2015 with pure intentions towards carrying out a clean administration. However, although this journey was interrupted by the massive monetary fraud occurred in the Central Bank within three months after Ranil Wickremesighe was appointed as the Prime Minister.
The irregularities occurred constantly due to the stubborn and short sighted conducted carried out by the former Prime Minister and finally he had to choose a new path by removing him for the sake the people of the country, said the President.
If he is to govern the country with the corrupted parties who had intentions even to assassinate him he too has to become a corrupted politician with motives to accomplish personal gains, said the President. He said that was not his policy and that he always fought against corruption, frauds and malpractices and will always respect democracy and would work in accordance with the constitution.
The no confidence motion in the parliament on November 14th was not presented respecting the parliamentary traditions since Standing Orders clearly state how a no confidence motion is presented and what procedure should be followed for adoption of a no confidence motion, the President pointed out. In an important motion related to establishing a new government or changing a government, there should be a clear voting system either to use the electronic system or to call upon votes by name and a voice vote cannot be accepted, President Sirisena said. He added that he is grateful that the speaker and the party members accepted his request regarding this matter and conducted the duties accordingly.
The President further mentioned that he would not make Mr Ranil Wickremesighe Prime minister again and that he has clearly informed this to the United National Party.
President Sirisena said a presidential commission will be appointed to inquire into the fraud in Central Bank as well as other acts of fraud and corruption occurred during the period of 2015 to 25th of October 2018 while Ranil Wickremesighe was the Prime Minister and that would reveal more issues on fraud and corruption happened during that period to the country as well as to the people in the near future, said the President.
President’s statement at the meeting with foreign media correspondents- November 25, 2018
I see that there is some kind of political unrest with the development taken place on October 26th. I would not even consider this as a serious political crisis, though, there is a minor political unrest. It is because of the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe from Prime Minister and appointment of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a Prime Minister and the dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new cabinet.
You may ask what were the issues for this change. This was not an unexpected sudden decision. This was not due to developments in two or three weeks. The period of differences is much longer. I appointed Ranil Wicremesinghe as a Prime Minister as soon as I was elected President on January 09, 2015 at about 6.10 pm. When Prime Minister was sworn in, 162 of the 225 members belonged to Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne. When Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as PM, he had only 41 seats in the Parliament. According to the powers vested in me as the President and as clearly stated in the Constitution, the person who had the backing of 162 MPs was ignored and appointed a person who had only 41 MPs. At the same time, when the Parliament met subsequently, Ranil Wickremesinghe was provided all facilities and privileges as Prime Minister. However, in that situation, a contradiction had also taken place between Ranil Wickramasinghe and I as that was the beginning of our differences. That was in the first week of January 2015. In fact, there was a clash over our work methods. The major controversy is that in my own election manifesto as the common presidential candidate, it was very clearly stated that when cabinet of ministers are appointed it should be based on the principle of good governance and cabinet portfolios should be allocated on a scientific basis. As the common candidate, I remember that three university professors were appointed and then a committee headed by Professor Siri Hettige was appointed to divide the ministries on a scientific basis and a report was submitted by the committee. When I was appointed as the President and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, I gave Ranil Wickremesinghe the report of that Committee of professors. I told him that this was how to appoint the ministers and allocate ministries. Accordingly, this should be done. However, I do not think he even looked at the Professor’s Report or even opened the file. He arbitrarily decided to separate portfolios as he wished and took all the necessary decisions about ministries. I did not completely agree on the allocation of these subjects. So, I will give you some examples. That is about subjects of ministries without any scientific basis. One was the Ministry of Higher Education and Highways. These two subjects were not at all compatible. After elected President, I visited several countries and signed agreements for development of the country. Ministers in some countries asked me at that time about Sri Lanka’s Higher Education and Highway Ministry. They asked if the subject of highways taught in universities as a separate subject.
Since 1947, state owned banks belonged to the Minister of Finance. However, first time in the history, Ranil Wickremesinghe removed State Banks for the Ministry of Finance. The Central Bank had always been with Finance Minister. But, for the first time, Ranil Wickremesinghe had taken the Central Bank to his ministry. The Prime Minister had the Central Bank. For the first time the Minister of Finance was left out without any state banks. Then the Ministry of Cultural Affairs broke down and a part of it was given to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Wayamba Development.
All these subjects were stuck together. There are no ministries assigned on a scientific basis. That’s where the first conflict is. I felt it was wrong. According to the committee of the three professors, the Prime Minister was asked to separate the ministries, but he did not do so.
Next week, the Central Bank Governor was appointed. At that time he presented Arjun Mahendran’s name. I said Arjun Mahendran is not a Sri Lankan citizen. Therefore, he should not be appointed to this position. But, Ranil Wickremesinghe asked me stating that he was the greatest person for this position. Whatever I say about it, he did not agree. In the end, I gave in to his request. But I had to sign that appointment letter as the President. I had done what I did not like to do, because of his request.
He made a huge sacrifice in the campaign to elect me President as the Common Candidate as I was supported by the UNP and 49 other parties and organizations. Although, there were many differences with him from the initial stages, I thought it was not proper to have a major clash on these issues from the beginning. Conflicts are not good when a government is just formed. So I acceded to his request. With good intentions, I allowed them to move forward without any clash. These kinds of incidents happened and they may by small, medium or major issues. There may have been huge incidents in the last three and a half months. Over the years many such inconveniences and hundreds of incidents occurred.
The citizen of this country, appointed me as the President to create a very clean state rule in this country. I was appointed President to usher in a pure and clean state, to strengthen law and order, establish a fair society and to act against of corruption, abuse of power, bribery and fraud. But, you can remember that, when three months gone, the first Central Bank robbery took place when I was the president and the he was the prime minister. It is a very serious issue. Three months later the Central Bank was robbed again.
It is very clear now. A Presidential Committee has been appointed and it has conducted investigations and recorded evidence. Arjun Mahendran is one of the Key responsible parties here. Ranil Wikckremesighe is clear aware about the whereabouts of Arun Mahendran today, since he is one of his closest friends. Arjun Mahendran was appointed by him without my approval. When the courts appealed that he should be presented before courts, Ranil Wickremesighe failed to take steps to produce him. He has no intention to present him to the judiciary. He had no concern regarding the matter.
The huge fraud and corruption occurred in this country due to these monetary deals. This is not the only issue. Since there was a huge pretest from the public regarding the matter and because of strong criticisms, there were major problems for the government. It made the country so much insecure and uneasy. In this situation, the only thing I could do to calm the situation was to appoint a Presidential Commission to investigate. I appointed a Commission comprising of of Judges of the Supreme Court. Before the appointment of the Commission, massive agitations and protests took place in the country and that made the Central Bank inactive. It was not working. There I decided to go and talk to the staff of the Central Bank. Accordingly, I spoke to the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank. By then Arjun Mahendran had not resigned due to that incident, but he took leave and he did not come to his job. However, I spoke to the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank at 8.00 am and said that I would arrive at 10.00 am. When I was all set to go, one of my staff members came and said that the Prime Minister had come to visit me. Normally, the Prime Minister does not come to visit me. But I did not know why he came home that day. I asked the Prime Minister what he visited all of a sudden. I know Ranil Wickremesinghe for a long time. I knew of his behavior very well. Ranil Wickremesinghe did not informe me in advance when he came to meet me that day. I felt that he was very disturbed and depressed. He asked me whether I was going to the Central Bank. I said yes and explained that because of the unhappiness of the Bank staff, I decided to go and speak to them.
Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the Central Bank is under his control. I said yes, I know that. You have gazettes, but I can go to the Central Bank as the President of the country. So I’m going there. He asked at what time. I said I will go very shortly. And then he went out. An hour later, I went to the Central Bank. When I get off from the car, Arjun Mahendran comes forward and gives me betel leaves to welcome me. I was surprised how he got here. I did not show any courtesy to him because by then he was a suspect in the eyes of the people in the country because of the Bond fraud. When I proceed three or four feet ahead, Ranil Wickremesinghe was there. Arjun Mahendran, who was on leave because he was facing a big crisis was present to receive me. I wondered who asked him to come. Who asked him to welcome me with a bunch of beetle leaves?
I went to meet the staff and talked to the officers. I asked them not to let the Central Bank collapse, as we are trying to resolve the issues. Therefore, I asked all of them to work on normal manner for the sake of the country. We held a short discussion thereafter.
Now we have to appoint a separate Commission to see how such grave incidents such as frauds and corruptions have taken place in the past, during the time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister. I intend to appoint a Presidential Commission to look into frauds and corruption committed by the government from 2015 to October 25, 2018. That’s such a serious problem. When we investigate them, we will find more serious things beyond the Central Bank. So, corruption, fraud, theft, misuse of state power, these were limitless.
The ethnic problem that exists in our country, and you know that there is a great interest among us to promote the creation of national unity. It’s among the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils in order to strengthen reconciliation especially with regard to the devolution of power to increase the participation of our people. There is an interest in a powerless, federal, federal system that does not break the country. There is an interest in devolving powers in a non-federal system that does not divide the country. We did some work on it. They did not succeed. Ranil Wickremesinghe is a person who speaks greatly about this devolution. But over the past three and a half years, he brought a number of proposals to the cabinet to bring back the power to the center. He wanted the powers devolved to the provinces to be taken back to the government. He also brought a number of suggestions to wrest powers that was given instead of devolving power.
He made many proposals to get power back from provincial councils in the fields of education, economic activities, sustainable development, and environment and such areas. I think that his political vision is something which is not in this whole world. Even if you take President Donald Trump, he is trying to build his country on his own way through the extreme capitalist system. In his policy, he was committed to building his country. Whatever world political leaders have, they love their own country best. But, I definitely saw that Ranil Wickremesinghe not having such love for the country. The extreme liberalism he speaks of has ruined this country. Due to his policies frauds and corruption increased. Let me tell you another serious corruption committed in the past. According to his advice, the financial agency belonged to Swarnavahini Group, which was owned by Bank of Ceylon after the company was bankrupt, was sold to a foreign party. Accordingly, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet Subcommittee on Economic Management call for bids for the sale of EAP to the private sector. Several bids were submitted to this deal. A local businessmen offered a price of US$ 65 million or 70 million. But regardless of the local businessmen, he gave the EAP to a Singapore company for US Dollars 35 million. It was a big loss to the government. I have very clear evidence for them. In addition to the bid amount of US$ 35 million, a large sum of money was given to other politicians. It’s a big deal. I would like to say that deal was the most recent one. The fraudulent Hilton deal is another.
The fraud, corruption and irregularities occurred within the past three years were severe. The land deals took place within the Colombo district and of the western Province were highly corrupted. He presented two new Cabinet Papers to introduce new acts on lands the week before he was removed. But before that he made efforts to present it to the Parliament more than a year ago, but it was withdrawn due to my persistent objections to the proposed Acts. Yet he presented it again at the final Cabinet while I was totally against it. One was a Special Act on Land Regulation. Another was to establish a Land Bank. The special land regulation was not accepted in the Cabinet. I postponed it promising that it will be taken up later. If by any chance it was approved in the Parliament after being accepted in the Cabinet any businessman in the world could buy private lands as well as lands belonging to the state. This would have allowed foreigners to buy the whole country. I interrupted in this matter. The Land Bank was also similar to this. These were totally against national land policies.
Thus the conflict between Ranil Wickremesgihe and I wasn’t a one that date back to recent past. That is why I told from the beginning that within the first week after he was appointed as the Prime Minister and since the appointment of the first Cabinet, our difference have arisen. I told him after the results of the provincial election held in 10th of January this year were declared that we faced a severe setback and such drastic failure occurred due to his political and economic policies. I asked him to resign several times and to appoint another. He didn’t accept it. Due to this incompatibility I asked Karu Jayasuriya to accept premiership so that I can appoint him. It was 8 months back. I asked him 3 to 4 times to acccpet premiership so that I can appoint him. I said I couldn’t work with Ranil Wickremesighe since he is so corrupted. He doesn’t love our country. His political and economic policies do not match the needs of this country. So that a person with local cultural values be appointed to develop the economy of the country.
Then I asked Sajith Premadasa several times, three months before Mahinda Rajapakshe was appointed on 26th of October. I told Sajith Premadasa that I cannot continuously fight with Ranil on this matter as the country is being destroyed and the economy is being destroyed. There are heavy frauds and corruption. I told Sajith Premadasa that I had asked Karu Jayasuriya and he said ”No”, and I asked him to be the Prime minister. He refused to do so although I repeatedly offered this proposal to him for two months.
This situation got worsen within the past three years that the issue could not continue further and I asked Ranil Wickermesighe to resign. With all these severe conflicts taking place, finally there was an issue regarding the assassination plot against me. This conspiracy was revealed for the first time the person who revealed this and presented a cassette recording. Before any investigations were made regarding the parties connected for this conspiracy, Inspector General of Police issued a statement that the recording was very doubtful. When a conspiracy of an assassination of a president of a country is being revealed, without further investigations, the Inspector General concludes that the recording was untrustworthy. Then the person presented this recording made a revelation about the involvement of a minister of the cabinet. He says that a cabinet minister is connected with this matter. Then two months lapsed since this issue came up and the time Mahindra Rajapakshe was appointed as the prime minister. Yet Ranil Wickremesighe didn’t even vaguely asked me about this matter or how the inquiries were being conducted and what the recent status of this issue. He didn’t ask me anything.
But the officers of the criminal investigations department say that this investigation came under heavy pressure and there was so much influence over this investigation. Then they admit that the foreigner is being taken into custody over the matter. Then there’s a DIG of police has been taken in to custody. There exists huge barriers for investigations. The report presented by the Government Analyst says that 96% of the voices in the recordings are authentic. I think the recording was sent overseas to trace the deleted parts of the recordings that are missing. Te courts instructed the Criminal Investigation Department to send the recordings to a foreign analysis. The DIG Nalaka Silva who has been detained over this matter, had obtained two heavy weapons from the IGP without assigning any reason. The Inspector General of Police also received a request from the DIG for another heavy weapon.
Then a sniper weapon was lost, and the skilled former sniper of the LTTE was reported to be missing or kidnapped. These investigations are carried out with many interruptions even today. The Inspector General of Police has not yet given a statement to CID. The Inspector General was informed constantly to be present at the CID to give his statement. Yet, he has ignored the notice until now.
Then there was a charge that a member of the cabinet is also connected to the matter. Here an assassination plot against me is being revealed while there is an attempt to slow down the investigations on it. There is an allegation that a cabinet minister is connected to the issue. The Inspector General of Police has issued weapons without going through rules and regulations. There is an assassination plot against the President of a country so that a prime minister has an ethical responsibility to even ask about it from the President on what has really happened. He had not even inquired about it, yet his party members have looked upon this matter mocking it in social media, internet and other sources. This is looked down sarcastically calling it “President’s assassination plot comedy”. In such circumstance can I move forward with Prime Minister Ranil wickremesighe? Can I sit together in such a government? Fraud and corruption has risen up high, so much of unethical deeds taking place, major fraudulent dealings and conspiracies are taking place while there are lot of influences over everything. Can I work with such people? What leader of a country has worked with such corrupted people and such situations and has conducted a government?, unless he too is corrupted.
I have moved forward with certain political principles in my 51 years of politics. I am totally against corruption. I am highly against the misuse of power unethically. I respect democracy. I have worked in accordance with the constitution all the time. I respect democracy, human rights, fundamental rights, freedom of media, and rule of law and independence of judiciary. I am dedicated to these principles. Have you ever heard within recent years of a President who has given up his powers voluntarily? I haven’t heard of such an individual yet. After I became the President, I devolved my executive powers to the Parliament.
Appointing a prime minister, removing the former prime minister, proroguing the parliament, dissolution of the parliament, dissolving the cabinet were all done legally. It is in accordance with the constitution. Nothing was done against the constitution. What is challenged in the Supreme Court is whether I as the President has the power to dissolve the parliament. No one has challenged appointing a prime minister, removing the former prime minister, proroguing the parliament, dissolution of the parliament, dissolving the cabinet. Only the dissolving of the parliament has been challenged. It has not been accepted by the Supreme Court initially and it has taken up for a hearing. A court case is being conducted.
The Parliament brought a no confidence motion against the Prime Minister on 14thNovember. It was not presented to the parliament in accordance with the Standing Orders and not conducted respecting the parliamentary traditions. The Parliament has the power to suspend the Standing Orders. There is no problem in it. Yet in such an important issue that related to the appointment of a new government and removal of the previous government, I strongly believe that the parliament should have been conducted in a proper way. I always said that claiming votes through voice vote about the issue of changing a government was not ethical or acceptable. I told it to the speaker as well as the party leaders. I am happy that the speaker accepted this appeal and conducted the voting under electronic system without claiming votes through voices. I believe that the parliament should be conducted properly until this calamity is over.
As a democratic political leader I always respect the majority of the Parliament. But this majority should be shown transparently. The other thing is, we pointed out to them that the Proposal No 1 of the Motion presented on 14th November stated that the President has violated the Constitution and has worked against it. So, I kindly appealed to the speakers as well other parties that I will accept whatever the decision made by the Parliament but the Proposal No 1 should be removed from the proposal as it stated that I had worked against the Constitution. Since, I cannot accept such a wrong proposal, it should be removed before passing it adopting the proper procedure. Only the Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitutional to decide whether I have violated the constitution. The Parliament has no owes power to interpret the constitution by any means. I am happy that under such circumstance the Parliament is now more disciplined.
From the beginning I admit that if a no confidence motion to be presented, it should be done adhering to the Standing Orders. Even if there are provisions in the Standing Orders, the votes should be obtained through electronic systems rather than counting votes through merely by collective sound. It is just one method. In such a way the majority should be proved. If there’s majority for the United National Party, Mr Mahinda Rajapakshe will take a decision on how he should act further. Even if the majority is there, it also should be legal. As far as I am concerned yet the majority is not shown properly. The voting on yesterday was only on the appointment of the Parliamentary Selection Committee.
We cannot say which party will obtain the majority on 29th. If the majority is shown precisely by correct means I would have to accept it as a proper voting. But I will not make Mr Ranil Wickremesighe the Prime Minister again under any circumstances. Even if the majority is shown I have asked them not to bring back Ranil Wickremesighe to my sight. I will not appoint him at all. There’s no personal issue but it is an issue on policies.