President Maithripala Sirisena said the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, who came forward to form a government with a common candidate never told us to commit the bond scams of the Central Bank just a few days after having formed a new administration.
The President expressed these views at the 76th commemoration of the late Ven. Sobitha Thera, held at Foundation Institute in Colombo.
President Sirisena, who paid a surprise visit to the event, said he had not received an official invitation to attend the event. “I had not received an official invitation to attend the event. I came to know about it through a third party. My media director said the event was organized by Ravi Jayawardene. I contacted him and asked about my omission. He said there had been a mistake. Everyone had hoped I would be invited but no one had taken the initiative to do so,” he said.
Commenting on the role played by the SLFP group in the cabinet, President Sirisena said that he was able to thwart a spate of decisions severely inimical to the country thanks to the SLFPers. Elaborating the steps taken in the interest of the country, the President revealed that he thwarted an attempt to transfer funds from state banks to private banks. Had that move succeeded entire state banking sector would have collapsed, he said.
Commenting on post-presidential developments, President Sirisena said that those who formulated the 100-day programme should have recommended the immediate dissolution of parliament after he took oaths as President. Highlighting the role played by the SLFP in this government, the President said that the 100-day programme could not have not been implemented without the support of the SLFP or the UPFA, that had 142 members in the parliament, whereas the UNP had only 47 members in the house, although they had proposed an ambitious project.
The President also pointed out that there is an attempt put the blame of the delay in investigations into corruption cases on him by comparing him with newly elected Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamed. He referred to media report that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has arrested nine ministers, 144 businessmen and 50 judges accused of corruption in 5 days. “I phoned Malaysia and our High Commissioner in Malaysia and they said these claims are all false. Social media also criticized me in the last few days saying I have not done what Mahathir took five days to accomplish.”
“I am a person who came forward to make this country better and carry out the principles of good governance in its true sense. I could have earned huge sums of money when I was the Health Minister if I wanted to. I am truly hurt by the wrong interpretations that has been formed in the minds of the public about me. I am taken aback when I hear things such as the fact that cases against wrongdoers are not being taken up because of me. People never expected an investigation to be launched into allegations that former Minister T.B. Ekanayake gave a vehicle to someone, former Deputy Minister Priyankara Jayaratne giving a job to his daughter and former Minister A.H.M. Fowzie taking his official vehicle from one Ministry to another,” he said.
The President pointed out that the people in this country did not expect such behaviour from their public representatives. “We must see why I could not carry out most of what people expected me to do after electing me the President. I had not experienced insults, character assassination and disgrace in my 47-year-old political career than I experienced as the President. As former President Ranasinghe Premadasa had said, I am someone who is well-tempered with politics. Some people say if anyone contested the Presidential Election as the common candidate could have won. If so they could have done so. I was used as the common candidate as I was a clean politician and came forward as a lion despite life threats,” he said. “After I was sworn in as the President on January 9, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the Prime Minister. However, the UNP had only 47 seats in Parliament then. How can a Government be formed with only 47 seats? Had I not accepted the chairmanship of the SLFP, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake of the group of 47 MPs would have failed to pass the budget in Parliament.”
He added that whilst there were some who questioned his Chairmanship of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), due to the presence of SLFP Ministers the country was safeguarded from many dangers. He also added that he was prepared to debate this with anyone, even on television.
The President said that the Presidential Election will take place towards the end of next year and claimed that speaking of it now would only destabilize the country. “If Ven Sobitha Thero could watch these happenings as a God from above, he is certain to bless me,” President Sirisena said.
Among those in the audience were Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, MP, Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale and member of the Constitutional Council A.T. Ariyaratne.