Wissanu faces Sira quandary
Unsure of scandal’s fallout on PPRP
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam says he is unsure about what possible consequences lie in wait for the ruling party after its MP, Sira Jenjaka, lost his status as a lawmaker following a Constitutional Court ruling.
Questions were raised about whether the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and the Office of the Election Commission (EC) should be held responsible for allowing Mr Sira to stand in the March 2019 general election despite him being unqualified to do so.
Mr Wissanu, a legal expert, said he was unable to say for sure if there would be any repercussions, or if charges could be pressed against them.
“I don’t know the answer. It may take a while before I clearly understand it. I don’t know if or how much they knew [about Mr Sira’s case],” Mr Wissanu said when asked whether the PPRP or its executives should be held responsible.
He said the poll agency was supposed to run checks on candidates’ qualifications but he had no idea why it was unable to screen this candidate.
The court ruled on Wednesday that Mr Sira should not have been eligible to contest the poll. As a result, he was immediately stripped of his MP status and a by-election was ordered to be held within 45 days of the ruling.
Mr Sira was convicted of fraud by the Pathumwan District Court in 1995 and sentenced to eight months in jail. The jail term was halved because he confessed.
The ruling was prompted by a petition submitted by Seri Ruam Thai Party leader, Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves. He had asked the court to rule on whether Mr Sira was qualified to be an MP, pointing to his prior conviction.
Sukij Atthopakorn, an adviser to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, said the House of Representatives’ secretariat will formally ask Mr Sira to return his salary and other financial benefits he received when the court’s ruling is published in the Royal Gazette.
He said the politician has 30 days to return the money after receiving the notification. The financial office is checking how much money Mr Sira has to pay back.
According to Dr Sukij, an MP receives a monthly salary of 113,560 baht, plus travel and meeting allowances, among other benefits, while his assistants and advisers also receive payments ranging from 15,000 baht to 24,000 baht.
In his assets declared to the National Anti-Corruption Commission in May 2019, Mr Sira and his spouse had combined assets of 547.6 million baht and debts of 4.9 million baht.
Pol Gen Sereepisuth yesterday called on the EC to press charges against Mr Sira for violating Section 151 of the organic law on the election of MPs.
Section 151 relates to someone running in an election despite knowing they are not qualified.
Punishment can result in a prison term of one to 10 years, a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 baht, and a 20-year political ban.
Source: Bangkok Post