GOVT WALKS ON A THIN ROPE
Posted on January 27th, 2017

WINSTON DE VALLIERE Courtesy Ceylon Today

It would appear that President Sirisena has spent much time considering his response to the Opposition-led outcry about the Central Bank Bond issues controversy and has decided to make his moves strictly within the provisions of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Act, No. 7 of 1978.

That Act vests in any Commission appointed by the President the power and authority to probe suspected frauds with retrospective effect, back to any required date.

The Act also provides for the imposition of civic disabilities on all those found guilty of committing, aiding, abetting or covering up fraud irrespective of the gravity of the fraud. That of course includes disqualification from holding public office, big or small, elected or by appointment.

The Act also provides for the freezing of monies, held in custody in the names of the alleged offender cited in the probe the Commission has been tasked with…in this case, those named in the COPE and the Auditor General’s reports. It will extend to others yet to be named in a broader mandate that the President’s Special Commission is expected to be tasked with.

With what end of the mandate will the Commission begin? The one that triggered the decision to appoint a Commission or with a probe into similar allegations hovering over the heads of those who headed the CB during the tenure of the previous government?

My guess is realistic. The nation is in the throes of conditions which emanated, oddly from within the government itself, bona or mala fide. The Opposition forces from the outset have been bent on agitations aimed at destabilizing the Government. I use that word intentionally instead of the buzz word ‘topple’ used by the agitators. Applied political science is the art of using all tools necessary for survival. It calls for rules to be set by those in power. And strategies. Part of that strategy will be the probe into alleged CB frauds during the previous regime. It’s not too surprising that Mahinda Rajapaksa expected a weaker response than this in realpolitik. Our religions of course tell us that IN THE END, right wins out. But ‘the end’ is a long way away from our hard-nosed politicians who’d rather believe in dried rabbits’ feet tied round their waists and curing their fellow men by dashing coconuts, not before Jesus or the Buddha, but at the feet of Indian gods, and using charms and amulets. That include the men in whose hand lie the fate or good luck of criminals. It’s well said that a litigant’s or accused’s fate often lies in the hands of men on a jury who were not smart enough to escape jury duty.

Previous regime

To survive, it was open sesame during the previous regime as the scores of murders, disappearances and fraud cases now piling up in every Court in the nation bear testimony to. Politicians whose insurrectionist killers robbed banks now head numerous probes into fraud.

It’s all a huge farce.

But let the circus continue. It’s at least grist for our studies of the depths of depravity to which Lankan politics has descended to.

How to wash the mud off the face of Yahapalanaya is the trillion dollar question. But rubbing more mud at others? By letting Commissions and the law to act independently? That would be like trusting people who simply are as morally as frail as you and I are.

Survival then becomes of the essence here and the best we can hope for is that the lesser of the two evils wins and retains power.

In this mass of realities what might we expect? Let me predict that it will not be too far from chaos with social, political and religious elements in the boiling pot. Hang on tight for the ride of your life in
Sri Lanka…and thank God we can still write freely about truth with the measure of objectivity we are capable of.

The President has spoken of freezing the accounts, presumably of Perpetual Treasuries instead of only the proceeds of the disputed CB Bond transactions. That in itself sounded okay and would be acceptable only…and only…if the funds of all other concerned dealers allegedly involved in alleged previous scams during the former regime are also simultaneously frozen. This could of course create a huge problem in the Government’s Securities Market. Any legal action would need to reckon with the violation of the rights of primary and secondary dealers in the market when a vacuum is created. In this case to presuppose legally unproven assumed guilt will do violence to the right of these dealers to continue in business. Innocent until proved guilty is the adage. Total freezing of funds hence could be interpreted to be an effective suspension of licence to an arbitrary extent and that would be tantamount to imposing the law in a manner that defeats the very essence of justice.

In the final essay, it’s not who’s right or wrong that wins but the guy who has the better lawyer…or will the better interests of the nation matter more or, will the larger interests of Yahapalanaya prove of overriding necessity?

One is afraid that in the ultimate essay Sri Lanka has woken up to find herself in that pithy Sinhala dilemma so aptly described in the saying “MAGA RENDUNOTH OBA NASEE, GEDARA GIYOTH AMBUWA NASEE”.

The question here is all about the fact that unlike in the days of yore when that saying was coined, the ‘Ambuwa’ is not at home. In whose pocket then is the cobra?

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