MALIK, KABIR SAY THEY DISCUSSED RS.15 BN FUND REQUIREMENT AT BREAKFAST MEETING
When asked whether Perpetual Treasuries Ltd, Arjun Aloysius, Geoffrey Aloysius (father), Freelanka Group or any immediate member to them had made a fund contribution to UNP, Ministers Malik Samarawickrema and Kabir Hashim said there was no such contributi
Minister of Public Enterprises Development Kabir Hashim and Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrema yesterday testifying before the commission said that they attended the breakfast meeting held on February 26, 2015 (before the controversial auction) and discussed about an immediate Rs. 15 billion fund requirement for Road Development projects. Pix by Pradeep Pathirana
At the onset of the yesterday’s proceedings, it was revealed that there was a list of 20 witnesses submitted to the Commission by the Officials of Attorney General’s Department attached to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry in expectation of obtaining testimonies pertaining to the bond inquiry.
However, considering the time constraints, the Commission had decided to summon three witnesses out of that. They were EPF former dealer Saman Kumara, Aloysius’ personal Assistant Steve Samuel and Mr. Nihal Fonseka (Monetary Board member).
It was also stated that the decision to summon Minister of Public Enterprises development Kabir Hashim and Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama had been taken by the Commission itself not the officials of the Attorney General’s Department.
Both of the ministers yesterday appeared before the Commission and testified with regard to a ‘breakfast meeting’ said to have been held on February 26, 2015 (before the controversial bond auction) at the CBSL.
Earlier, it transpired during the proceedings that a Rs. 75 billion fund requirement for the Road Development projects had been discussed at this meeting.
Former Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s lawyer had also submitted a letter to the Commission which was given by the Finance Ministry to the Governor confirming about holding of such meeting.
However, this letter was sent to the Governor by then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake much later in June 2016 when Mr. Mahendran was testifying before the Hadunnetti COPE.
Minister Malik Samarawickrama first testified before the Commission yesterday and Justice K.T. Chitrasiri and Commissioner retired Deputy Auditor General K. Velupillai Kandasami questioned the witness.
MINISTER MALIK SAMARAWICKRAMA
Justice Chitrasiri: Did you attend the February 26, 2015? Witness Minister Malik Samarawickrama: Yes Justice Kandasami: In what capacity did you attended that meeting? Witness Minister Malik Samarawickrama: As a senior Advisor to the Prime Minister
Justice Chitrasiri: Who were the members that participated in that meeting?
W: Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Minister Kabir Hashim, former Governor Arjuna Mahendran, RDA officials, Treasury officials and CBSL officials J: What was the purpose for holding such a meeting? The witness said that the Prime Minister had suggested to the then Finance Minister and the Government that the on going Road Development projects had been stopped due to unpaid bills by the previous regime. And therefore he came to discuss about the fund requirement to pay those bills. J: What was the fund requirement? Witness said that there was a Rs. 18 billion fund requirement discussed. However at that time the RDA had Rs. 3 billion in hand and therefore, there was an immediate Rs. 15 billion fund requirement to continue the Road Development projects. J: was it discussed how to raise funds in the meeting?
W: No. There was no discussion as to how to raise funds but discussed about the fund requirement. J: Did that meeting discuss anything about the T-bond auction, which was scheduled to be held on the following day (February 27)? W: None. There was no discussion at all. J: Did you talk with former Governor Arjuna Mahendran on the telephone after the meeting on February 26 or on February 27?
W: As far as I recollect, no. J: What is your position in the United National Party (UNP) in 2015 and 2016? W: Chairman of UNP J: During that period can you say that Perpetual Treasuries Ltd, Arjun Aloysius, Geoffrey Aloysius (father), Freelanka Group or any immediate member to them had made a fund contribution to UNP?
W: As far as I know, no. Not to the party or even to me. Then the Commission asked counsel of the Attorney General’s Department whether they have any questions to ask. However, Additional Solicitor General Dappula De Livera said that they have no question to ask fromminister Malik Samarawickrama.
MINISTER OF PUBLIC ENTERPRISES DEVELOPMENT KABIR HASHIM
Justice Chitrasiri: Did you attend the February 26, 2015? Witness Minister Kabir Hashim: Yes J: In what capacity? Witness Kabir Hashim: As the Minister of Highways
Who were the other members that attended this meeting?
W: Senior advisor to the Prime Minister Malik Samarawickrama, former Governor Arjuna Mahendran, RDA officials, CBSL officials and Treasury officials were there. J: What was the purpose of that meeting? According to the witness the Road Development projects had been stopped at that time due to unpaid bills by the previous regime.
The witness said therefore the RDA wanted funds to recommence those halted projects for unpaid bills. Mr. Hashim said that RDA had informed the Treasury Secretary about these unpaid bills on February 16, 2015.
When asked by the Commission, the witness said that he can provide the letters sent by the RDA if necessary to the Commission.
Mr. Hashim said there was an urgent fund requirement of Rs. 18 billion for the Road Development projects. He said there was an allocation of Rs. 3 billion in the RDA at that time and thereby needed an immediate fund requirement of Rs. 15 billion.
The witness also explained that this requirement of funds for the RDA had been discussed at the Cabinet Sub Committee meeting held on February 24, 2015 as well.
He said then they forwarded this fund requirement at the breakfast meeting held on February 26, 2015.
At this moment Justice Prasanna Jayawardena asked “You are sure about this fund requirement of Rs. 18 billion, right?”
Witness said that initially there was a discussion about a Rs. 18 billion requirement and after the allocations of the RDA (Rs. 3 billion) there was an immediate Rs. 15 billion needed for the recommencement of the Road Development projects. “In the meeting we submitted our side to the officials over the urgent fund requirement and CBSL officials and then Finance Minister said that they will support us.”
When questioned by the Commission, the witness said that RDA received Rs. 8.3 billion in the beginning of the Month of March from the Treasury. He said thereafter they requested the Treasury for the balance 10 billion on March 16, 2015.
Justice Prasanna Jayawardena: In the middle of March you still wanted that Rs. 18 billion. Which means that Rs. 18 billion February fund requirement remained unchanged even for the month of March? Witness’s answer was affirmative.
Justice Chitrasiri: Did that meeting discuss anything about the T-bond auction, which was scheduled to be held following day (February 27)? W: No J: Did you speak to former Governor Arjuna Mahendran on telephone on February 26 or 27 after the meeting? W: To the best of my knowledge I don’t think so. J: What is your position in United National Party (UNP) in 2015 and 2016?
W: General Secretary J: During that period can you say that Perpetual Treasuries Ltd, Arjun Aloysius, Geoffrey Aloysius (father), Freelanka Group or any immediate member to them had made a fund contribution to UNP?
W: Best my recollection, no. At this point again the Commission asked the counsel of the Attorney General’s Department whether they have any questions to ask. However, Additional Solicitor General Dappula De Livera said again that they have no questions to ask fromminister Kabir Hashim as well.
However, Counsel Arulpragasam who was appearing on behalf of PTL questioned Minister Kabir Hashim regarding the National Savings Bank (NSB).
It was revealed that the state bank institutions came under the purview of the Minister since September 2015 after the General Election.
Counsel Arulpragasam: During your period, did NSB incur a loss? W: I think they haven’t had a loss Counsel: Was that a substantial profit? W: Yes. Because dividends were at a record level Counsel: Were you aware that the Treasury Operation Department at NSB gained profits during this period? W: I monitored it overall. And overall there was a profits. Counsel: Do you know NSB dealer Naveen Anuradha? W: Not personally Counsel: Who appointed him? W: The NSB Chairman. The bank had asked the CBSL to send an official to NSB and thereby he got appointed. Counsel: Would you say Naveen Anuradha was a good performer? W: I can’t say about it specifically.