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UPFA MP Dallas Alahapperuma yesterday admitted that public faith in parliament was rapidly dwindling.

Alahapperuma made this observation, when The Island sought an explanation as to how the Joint Opposition (JO) intended to restore public faith in Parliament in view of serious corruption charges including the one that some lawmakers receiving money from tainted primary dealer, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and its subsidiaries.

The JO met the press in Colombo yesterday to explain Ven. Vendaruwe Upali of Asgiriya Chapter comments at former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s residence where the monk urged the military veteran to restore law and order in the country.

Alahapperuma was flanked by lawmakers, Bandula Gunawardena and attorney-at-law Sisira Jayakody.

Pointing out that some lawmakers repeatedly reminded that Parliament was responsible for financial discipline in the country, The Island asked the JO to comment on the failure on the part of Parliament to amend the Bribery Act for three decades, turning a blind eye to the shortcomings in parliamentary watchdog committees, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as well as the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) for decades.

The JO members refrained from responding to those specific questions though Alahapperuma said that Parliament should follow the code-of conduct for lawmakers. Alahapperuma noted that the implementation of the code-of-conduct could remedy the situation.

Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake recently repeated accusations made by Alahapperuma himself at the onset of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first term that lawmakers had been offered prostitutes from Eastern Europe.

Ramanayake alleged that some lawmakers had received foreign prostitutes from the bond racketeers in addition to other benefits. Acknowledging that Parliament was in crisis and immediate remedial measures were required, Alahapperuma warned that the situation was rapidly deteriorating.

According to Alahapperuma, the Code-of-Conduct for lawmakers prepared by parliament specifically addressed the issue of campaign finances.

The MP told The Island that the JO couldn’t challenge the stand taken by the newspaper that the public had lost faith in parliament.

Alahapperuma acknowledged the need to examine the entire gamut of issues in the wake of treasury bond scams involving the PTL in 2015 and 2016.

The Island also sought an explanation as to why lawmakers continued to receive massive duty free concessions to import super luxury vehicles at a time vast majority of people were struggling to make ends meet and the Supreme Court being moved against the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) for not preventing loss of Rs. 7 bn in state revenue due to lawmakers’ special duty free vehicle permit scheme, Alahapperuma admitted that one person had obtained the same facility for functioning as an MP for a period of three days.

Asked whether it was fair for National List members to quit for replacements to come into Parliament in their place and collect duty free vehicle permits worth at least Rs. 30 mn each. Alahapperuma said that there had been two such cases this year. He said that both had collected their permits soon after taking oaths. 

The JO said that a delegation was scheduled to meet National Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya on Thursday (June 28) to discuss a range of issues. Alahapperuma said that the issue of lawmakers receiving campaign funds would be taken up.

When The Island asked whether the JO, too, was staging media and propaganda shows like the government to deceive the public, an irate Gunawardena said that their efforts were genuine and aimed at helping the public.

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