One problem solved; many others remain
Posted on July 4th, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena took one step back and two steps forward on the question of the appointment of a new Governor to the Central Bank; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took one step back and another forward. Wickremesinghe managed to prevent Sirisena’s first choice being appointed Governor and Sirisena succeeded in scuttling Wickremesinghe’s plan to grant another term to Arjuna Mahendran under a cloud! Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy got the coveted job thanks to their prestige battle.

‘Even the shadow of a doomed marriage is crooked’ as a popular local saying goes. It is true of the political marriage of convenience between the SLFP and the UNP.

President Sirisena has, for once, sought to assert himself vis-à-vis the UNP’s relentless efforts to undermine his authority. He admitted in the run-up to the last parliamentary election that he had called for the removal of Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor, but in vain. He also objected to a government plan to jack up VAT and even threatened to send the officials responsible for it home. VAT was increased! He has recently vowed to revise VAT. Whether he will put his foot down again remains to be seen.

The late Ranasinghe Premadasa, when he was the Prime Minister in President J. R. Jayewardene’s government lamented that he was no better than a peon where his powers were concerned. He told the truth. When the Prime Minister and the President come from the same party, the former is reduced to the level of a peon. But, it is the other way around when they represent two different parties as we saw from 2001 to 2004 with Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President and the Prime Minister respectively at each other’s jugular. At that time, the Constitution provided for the President to dissolve parliament one year after the formation of a government. Kumaratunga made use of that provision to sack the UNP-led UNF government. Stripped of that power and troubled by moves to clip his wings further, Sirisena is doing his damnedest to prevent himself from being reduced to a lame duck president.

Speculation was rife in political circles towards the latter part of last week that the tug-of-war between the President and the Prime Minister on the Central Bank issue might even lead to a break-up of the government. Should what is being speculated come to pass the President will find all odds stacked against him.

Most of the votes President Sirisena polled at the last presidential polls were from the UNP, the TNA and the JVP. His ability to secure a sizeable chunk of the voters straddling the fence helped him score a historic win. But, not all the forces that helped him grab the presidency are solidly behind him at present. The SLFP is divided between him and his former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Tamil and Muslim voters will follow their leaders who are most likely to back the UNP at the next presidential election. This is a worrisome proposition for President Sirisena, who is expected to seek a second term.

Having successfully used Sirisena as a battering ram against the Rajapaksa government and shored up its electoral fortunes, the UNP is now in a position to survive without the SLFP’s support. With 106 seats in hand it needs only nine seats more to muster a working majority in Parliament. Nine super luxury vehicles, plum Cabinet posts and enough dosh will help it raise the required number with ease by engineering crossovers. Even if it fails to spring defections from the UPFA, it can depend on the TNA to deny its opponents a majority in Parliament; it can remain in power with or without a formal alliance with the main Tamil party the way the SLFP-led People’s Alliance ran a ‘probationary government’ with the help of the JVP in 2000 before crashing.

What really keeps the warring factions of the government together is their fear that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa might make a comeback if they break ranks.

Meanwhile, there were many good governance activists including prominent members of the UNP who accused Ajith Nivard Cabraal of a pyramid scheme link and argued that he was unfit to hold the post of the Central Bank Governor as a result. But, strangely, they have chosen to ignore Dr. Coomaraswamy’s alleged Galleon connection; it has been reported that once he was allegedly involved in a research outfit, a subsidiary of the US-based Galleon, founded by Raj Rajaratnam, who was sentenced to jail for insider trading. A clarification is called for!

The new Governor is sure to find himself in an unenviable position as he will be under pressure from the political authority like some of his predecessors to make unpopular, unprofessional decisions. The first task before him will be to win the trust of the Central Bank staff and give the institution a radical shake-up. Besides infusing professionalism into the bank and boosting the sagging morale of its workers, he will have to hold the bond vultures at bay and ensure that no crooked deals will be put through at the expense of the state banks and the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). This, no doubt, will be a tall order.

A state-controlled newspaper has given an interesting headline to its report on the appointment of Dr. Coomaraswamy—‘Cometh the man’. It is hoped that the hour won’t come when the chosen ‘man’ runneth away!

3 Responses to “One problem solved; many others remain”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Another good editorial.

    [Quote] But, strangely, they have chosen to ignore Dr. Coomaraswamy’s alleged Galleon connection; it has been reported that once he was allegedly involved in a research outfit, a subsidiary of the US-based Galleon, founded by Raj Rajaratnam, who was sentenced to jail for insider trading. A clarification is called for! [Unquote]

    Looks like one crook as replaced by another (possibly) bigger crook going by their association with criminal entities.

    Things will only get worse for Sri Lanka.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    AMAZING how one non-citizen Tamil hora who insider-traded us out of $2 billion USD in bonds while being Central Bank Governor, is replaced by another Tamil with connections to Raj Rajaratnam currently exquisitely clad in a striped and serving time in federal prison as a guest of the US government for … you guessed it … insider trading!

    The principle seems …. you see…. is to replace one insider-trader with another insider-trader. No wonder they say birds of a feather fuck together! Ooops … excuse me sirs … I meant “flock” of course!

    All this is happening while bypassing a perfectly qualified candidate, the current Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, a long time public servant without any allegations of misconduct in office, just because he is apparently a holdover from the previous GoSL and presumed to be a Rajapaksa loyalist! Perhaps he is disqualified because he is a Sinhala man!

    Is it not TRULY AMAZING how we Sinhalese have fallen from grace in our own Motherland?

    In the words of our seriously flawed esteemed President Palwatte Gamaralage Maitripala Yapa Sirisena, we SINHALESE are no longer SUDUSU people, while those from minority communities …. even non-citizens … are MORE SUDUSU to govern us than we are!

    The last time we became SUDUSU-NATHI PEOPLE like this was two centuries ago in March, 1815, when another TREACHEROUS GREEDY CABAL of our esteemed gamaralas handed over our Motherland to the British colonialists!

  3. anura seneviratna Says:

    ” The last time we became SUDUSU-NATHI PEOPLE like this was two centuries ago in March, 1815, when another TREACHEROUS GREEDY CABAL of our esteemed gamaralas handed over our Motherland to the British colonialists! ”

    Ananda is quoting the above based on recent history books on SL. Specially, books should not be taken in without unbiased investigation by the reader. There are many errors even in the so called Mahavansa against our nation. Those so called gamaraalas with reference to the current puppet used insensitively against our past leaders who didn’t want the ruthless foreigner to continue as our king, hence thought naively even a devil is better than this. Then and even now the British concept is to live by conspiracy and our leaders were tricked then. But today’s backdoor leader is a fallout of those foreign elements intruded into our island country and his actions are proof. To forget this fact is a great peril to our only country and nation.

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