YAHAPALANA ELECTIONS AND ‘REGIME CHANGE’ PT 6
Posted on December 2nd, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

(Revised)

The   Yahapalana image is starting to crumble.  It is now known that both  Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena had contested on the New Democratic Front  ticket, headed   by Shalila Moonasinghe, who  was arrested for receiving foreign currency stolen from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank recently.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has come in for heavy criticism. ‘Ranil bashing’ is today a fashionable pastime among commentators, said Sarath de Alwis. MP Bandula Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka experienced its worst economic crisis during 2001-2004 period under Wickremesinghe’s premiership. Tissa Vitarana said in December 2016 that LSSP demands the immediate resignation of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. The President should remove him from the post immediately.  Ranil Wickremesinghe is in the process of implementing the once halted programme ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’. The correct term is ’Re-capturing Sri Lanka’. It is connected to promoting US domination in the world.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s name came up in the Bond scam inquiry. The Attorney General’s department said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was a key witness and the Attorney General expected to summon him before the Commission to give evidence.

A list of questions was sent to the Prime Minister, requesting him to submit answers by way of an affidavit. Once the answers were provided, he was asked to appear before the Commission. When that happened, Yahapalana put up posters hailing the Prime Minister as a hero for ‘deigning’ to appear before the Commission. Posters said ‘baya nethi Prime Minister’. Critics said ‘lajja bayak nathi amatituma.

Kishali Pinto Jayawardene commented. The new regime was elected to provide a clean government, she said. Here was its Prime Minister finding himself in the unpleasant situation of being called to clarify details of a gargantuan financial scandal swirling around the Central Bank of Sri Lanka implicating his own party and crony capitalist associates. Never mind the sophistry regarding whether he was summoned or came voluntarily for the Commission sittings. Even if his presence was voluntary, the mere fact that this was deemed necessary should have been seen as a serious matter. But that was not the case. The Prime Minister’s appearance at the Commission was no cause for joy. That must be emphasized, concluded Kishali.

Ranil Wickremesinghe responded to the long list of   questions asked by the Commission. Here are three of those responses. Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Commission via affidavit that upon the formation of the new government in January 2015 there was a general consensus within the Government that Mahendran should be appointed to the post of Governor of CBSL.

Mahendran was selected for appointment in view of his professional qualifications and experience in the field of banking and investments. He had functioned as the Chairman of the BOI during the period 2002 to 2004. He had also held senior positions in the banking industry in the Middle East and Singapore. The previous incumbent lacked comparable qualifications and experience and the administration of the CBSL during his tenure of his office had been the subject of severe criticism. Hence, prior to the General Election of 2015 there was a general demand from our political allies that a competent person versatile in banking and International finance should be appointed to the post of Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Although at the time of his appointment Mahendran had ceased to be a citizen of Sri Lanka, he was nevertheless, of Sri Lankan origin. He used to regularly visit his parents who were resident in Colombo and as such he had an abiding interest in, and connection with Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankans had left the country for positions abroad due to the unsettled conditions prevalent in the country at various times. The fact that Mahendran was not a citizen of Sri Lanka did not affect his suitability or eligibility and was not a legal impediment to his appointment as the Governor of CBSL. In this context, it is to be noted that the very first Governor of the Central Bank, namely, Mr. John Exeter had been an American national. Likewise, Mr. Mark Joseph Carney who is not a British subject but a Canadian national is the current Governor of the Bank of England.

The Commission asked about a text message said to have been sent to Arjun Aloysius by his Personal Assistant Steve Samuel, which said, ‘Reminder to request Hon. PM & RK to get a copy of Monetary Board meeting/papers.” Ranil Wickremesinghe denied that he had ‘agreed’ to provide or provided copies of Minutes of Monetary Board meetings/papers to Aloysius or any other person. ‘I resent the insinuation’, he said. Ranil Wickremesinghe also said that he had not held formal meetings with Arjun Aloysius, on any matter.

JVP Kalutara District MP, Nalinda Jayatissa said it is clear that the Prime Minister should be held responsible for the massive loss created by the Treasury bond scam. He cannot get away from this crime. His complicity in the crime is now very clear. Jayatissa outlined ten factors that implicated Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The first factor was the Prime Minister taking over of the Central Bank separating it from the Finance Ministry. The second factor was appointing a foreign citizen for the post of Governor of the Central Bank irrespective of opposition from various quarters. Third factor was appointing three lawyers connected to the Sirikotha, UNP headquarters to investigate the bond scam. The three lawyers had no credentials to prove their ability to investigate a bond transaction. The fourth factor was removing UNP MP M. Velukumar from the COPE in the middle of the investigation into the bond scam and filling the vacancy with Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, who had already written a book on the bond scam. Since Senasinghe has already given his judgment on the matter in his book, he is prejudiced in the investigation.

The fifth factor is that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s statement to the COPE that it was Ranil who ordered the direct placement method for bond sales. The sixth factor was the behavior of UNP members in the COPE during the committee’s probe on the bond scam. The UNP members of the COPE ‘behaved’ under the direct instructions of the Prime Minister. Their actions in the Committee proved that they received instructions from the single source. The seventh factor was the addition of some facts which had no relevance to the COPE report by the UNP members of the committee.

The Governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran was kept in the same position till his terms ended, though the whole country was protesting against it. That was the eighth factor. The Prime Minister was against the removal and insisted that Mahendran should be there till the latter’s term ends. The ninth factor was to get Ven. Thiniyawala Palitha thera of the UNP’s Bhikku Front to file a petition before the Supreme Court against the COPE report after the release of the report. The final factor was not taking any action against those responsible for the bond scam crime even after its exposure and revelation. These ten factors would indicate to anyone that the Prime Minister is directly responsible for the bond scam. He cannot absolve himself of the crime now. The case is proven before the eyes of all, MP Jayatissa said.

Ravi Karunanayake, pompous as ever, still remains in full view, since he is now projected as the future leader of the UNP. Ravi Karunanayake seems to have enlarged his position among the UNP youth, with the help of a ‘bumptious political sprout in the Ja-Ela area’ observed Kamal Wickremasinghe sarcastically.  Karunanayake has initiated a new trend said Kamal, the public display of   ‘vice as virtue’.  Karunanayake has refused to acknowledge that accepting financial and material benefits from a business crony implied corruption.  Karunanayake     also said that he, Karunanayake, was not the only politician engaging in such behavior.

Karunanayake’s name never    fails to come up in bond scam discussion. Chairmen and senior officials of three banks, Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank and National Savings Bank said, when giving evidence before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, in October 2017,   that on two occasions in 2016, the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake had instructed them to make bids at the treasury bond auctions at lower interest rates and their institutions had therefore been deprived of an opportunity to make substantial profits.

They also said that though they had followed the instructions given by Minister Karunanayake, the latter had failed to honor his promise that the Central Bank would not accept bids at rates higher than the yield rate range he had mentioned to them. General Manager of the People’s Bank N. Wasantha Kumara said it was the first time in the country’s history that a finance minister had asked the state banks to bid for treasury bonds at lower interest rates. .

Wasantha Kumara further said that at meetings held on March 2016 chaired by the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake these instructions had been given to the state banks and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Senior Advisor R. Paskaralingam had also been present there. In answer to a question why the state banks had carried out Karunanayake’s instructions, they said that the state banks belonged to the Treasury and therefore they had to abide by those instructions. Karunanayake was the line minister therefore they had followed his instructions.

The ‘front office’ NGOs are now taking a beating. The main CIA funded NGOs are of course, hidden from public view. Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya who took over the leadership of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha’s National Movement for Social Justice had been soundly criticized on public platforms, television and social media.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakse pointed out that Wijesooriya could not even attend the main celebration of Sobitha’s death anniversary. This was held at Kotte Naga Vihara, in the presence of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with the participation of about 500 Buddhist monks. Wijesooriya had to attend the second celebration at Ape Gama, Battaramulla attended by President Sirisena. Wijesooriya gave the main address at this function. This was televised.

Wijesooriya has distorted the vision and mission of late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera to suit NGO requirements, said President, National Sangha Council,  Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara. He said that Prof. Wijesooriya had tried his best to cover up the Central Bank Bond issue while delivering his speech at late Sobitha Thera’s second commemoration held recently.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakse pointed out that Wijesooriya and his associates had failed to take a stand against those responsible for the Central Bank of Sri Lanka -Perpetual Treasuries bond scam. They were also silent over privatization of national assets, including Hambantota harbor, Mattala air port, Trincomalee oil tanks and smuggling of massive stocks of narcotics. Wijesooriya in his turn, challenged critics to prove the ‘widespread accusations’ that he is receiving funds from NGOs. Prof. Wijesooriya said that he wasn’t motivated by financial gains and he wasn’t a ‘dollar vulture’.

The Yahapalana government is getting more and more unpopular. ‘People are getting furiouser and furiouser,’ said Rajan Phillips.  In the past 32 months since this government came into power, they have managed to antagonize and alienate a remarkable number of people, said Chandraprema. Not a day has gone by without some protest or the other and most of them are multiple protests and demonstrations on issues which are not resolved by the government.  There is a pool of resentment building up in the country which could easily translate into a protest vote.

As this is being written, continued Chandraprema ,  in November 2017, a shortage of petrol has caused long queues outside petrol stations and all the angry people waiting to obtain fuel were blaming the government with the most often expressed sentiment being ‘the country is finished’. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is the commonly prevalent sentiment in the country about the present government.

If you ask the Sirisena faction of the SLFP why they hold their May Day rallies in locations very far away from the Joint Opposition rally, they will quite candidly tell you that it  is a precaution to prevent the people they bring for the rally from going to the Joint Opposition rally instead, said Chandraprema. I was personally present at the 2015 May Day rally of the Sirisena faction at Hyde Park where people arriving for the rally just walked off without even looking at the stage.

In 2016, the SLFP Sirisena faction moved their rally to Galle to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2015. It is a well known fact that people were brought to this rally from the north and east as well. This year, they held their May Day rally in Kandy and true to form the people who had been brought from various parts of the country for the rally in Kandy were seen loitering in blue shirts and caps all over the Kandy town, the lake round, the Peradeniya gardens and virtually everywhere but at the grounds where the SLFP rally was being held. It was the same in 2015 when there were far more blue shirted individuals at the Viharamahadevi Park than at Hyde Park where the rally was being held, concluded Chandraprema.

Business Times and Research Consultancy Bureau (BT-RCB) conducted a street poll in Colombo and Galle in October 2017. Here is   a selection of the comments as given in Sunday Times”.  This Government has no policy. They talk about laws and the enforcement of the law. But they have not achieved even half of what [former President] Mahinda has done, said respondents. Nobody thinks about the country, anymore. No one is patriotic. There is no difference between this regime and the former regime. The culture is the same as in the past. The politicians have neglected the people and continue to rob the nation. People are burdened by paying for the perks enjoyed by the MPs. Yahapalanaya has no spine or any solution to any problem, said respondents.

The Government is tacitly encouraging corruption and pretends to reduce it. Tenders are offered to known parties who give commissions in return for the favour. Nothing happens without commissions in the procurement industry.  The Treasury bond case is treated as if it is a small issue and irrelevant. All are connected in the Treasury bond matter, including the Prime Minister and the ministers. Cost of living has increased, so has corruption. The US dollar is now 150 rupees,  the respondents concluded.  Sunday Times opinion poll on Budget 2018 also said cost of living has increased, so has corruption.

The public are frantically searching for an alternative to Yahapalana .Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to be hugely popular. The Joint Opposition mahajana rally at Salgado Park, Anuradhapura in November 2017,  was a mammoth one.  It could be considered the Rajarata equivalent of the May Day Galle Face rally. Television showed a large enthusiastic crowd packed tight in the Park. In the same month Rajapaksa was the chief guest at the 20th anniversary of the All Island Samurdhi officers society.

Rajapaksa continues to be recognized by India and China. When he went   for an International Buddhist festival at Aurangabad in November 2017 he was given a ‘bodyguard escort’. Shangri La Hotel   was opened in Colombo on November 16 by President Sirisena.  The very next day, Shangri La hosted a dinner for Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapakse.  Shangri-La Chairperson, Kuok Hui Kwong, the daughter of Robert Kuok Khoon Ean, was there to welcome Gotabhaya, who, observed the media, had cleared the way for this mega tourism project.

Yahapalana seems to have entirely lost the support of the sangha. The leading politicians and various other persons regularly go to Malwatte, Asgiriya and  Getambe temples, to state their positions and seek the support of the sangha. Petroleum officials went to Malwatte in November 2017, to state their petroleum concerns.  But Instead of supporting, the sangha are now emerging as vocal opponents of Yahapalana. ‘Eliya’ has several bhikkus speaking on its platform.

Keppetiyagoda Sirinimala of Getambe temple said ‘Yahapalana is playing around with the country. Now all of us and the country are going to be destroyed.   Usually when there was a crisis, the sangha came forward, now they are denigrating the sangha.’  (Derana news 22.10.17) On another occasion Ven. Sirinimala said there are lots of ‘prasna’ in the country.  ‘Rata okkoma anala thiyenne’. Government is simply prolonging problems instead of settling them promptly. We gave power to one person but that power is utilized by another’ he said. (Derana news 15.10.17)

The sangha are now involved in Yahapalana matters that range from constitutional reform to local issues. Let us take local issues first.  Members of the Asgiriya Chapter headed by Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanaratnana opposed a government decision to shift Yatinuwara Veediya Sinha Regiment camp. Senior members of the Karaka Sangha Sabha, Ven.  Narampanawe Ananda and Ven. Muruddeniya Dhammaratana, Viharadhipati of Muthiyangana Raja Maha Vihara said the camp had to be there to ensure security .It had been there even in colonial times.   ‘The regiment should not be shifted at all.’

Ven. Alutgama Upananda, Viharadhipati of Athuparayaya Bodhirukkarama is   President of the ‘Union of landowners Surrendering properties for the Central Expressway’. The process of acquiring land for the Kurunegala – Dambulla stretch of the proposed Central Expressway had caused great inconvenience to the respective land owners in Dambulla, he said.

One is that compensation payments relevant to the Dambulla Vihara’s rajakariya land was being paid to the Buddhist Affairs Commissioners Department rather than tenant residents in the lands. Only a part of the compensation on lands taken over are paid to the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara.  Further, residents whose lands are to be taken over do not know how it is doing to be done and were living under deep mental distress.

Head of the Anti-Corruption Front Ven. Walapane Sri Sumangala Thera said that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran had spent a whopping Rs. 66 million from the Central Bank funds, in addition to the salary for his luxury lifestyle. He had submitted bills for plush hotels here and overseas, dining at top class restaurants and purchasing expensive suits.

Now to national matters. Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi said at Wattegama Pitiyegedera Rajamaha vihara renovations ceremony, that ‘we do not have a national policy that can survive changes of government’. (Derana news 21.10.17)  The Sangha supported the victory over Eelam. The Federation of National Organizations  had prepared a reported titled, ‘A factual appraisal of the OISL report: A rebuttal to the allegations against the armed forces’ and Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka was delegated to hand it over to President Sirisena.

Ven.  Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha urged the Northern Province Governor to take legal action against Provincial Education Minister S. Sarveshwaran for refusing to hoist the national flag at a function at the Perakum Maha Vidyalaya in Irattaperiyakulam. He requested the Governor to remove Sarveshwaran from his post following an inquiry into the event.

As a public representative, Sarveshwaran is under oath of office to perform duties and discharge functions in accordance with the Constitution. Refusing to hoist the flag of the country is a breach of the oath. Sarveshwaran’s action violated the Constitution and also promotes the separatist Eelam ideology. Ramanna Nikaya condemns the incident and calls for immediate action against the Provincial Minister,

Anamaduwe Dhammadassi said that Chief Minister Vigneswaran had met the Malwatte and Asgiriya bhikkus and said they want federalism.  The sangha had straightaway said they cannot agree this. It appears that the Provincial Councils also have said they want greater powers. Power sharing can be both good and bad. With power sharing there will be problems like doing superhighways, he added.

The sangha are unanimous that there is no need for a new constitution. The Joint Councils of Asgiri and Malwatu chapters said that the country does not need a new Constitution or Amendments.  They demanded an immediate end to the constitution making process. Stick to the present constitution they said, only change the election system. Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera and Keppetiyagoda Sirinimala of Getambe temple also took the same view.

The Yahapalana government is notable for the predominance of Ceylon Tamils in vital areas of administration. Some appointments are natural ones, others seem to be contrived. Some were brought in from abroad to take up the positions. Justice Sri Pavan who had functioned as acting Chief Justice on three occasions,  was appointed Chief Justice in  January 2015. He retired in February 2017.  Arjuna Mahendran, a close associate of Ranil Wickremesinghe and a citizen of Singapore, was appointed Governor, Central Bank. When Mahendran went, he was replaced by Indrajit Coomaraswamy. Mahendran was working in Singapore.

Eastern Commander of the navy, Neil Rosairo was transferred to Colombo and Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah was appointed Eastern naval commander in 2016. Sinniah had retired from the navy in 2011 and was living in Australia. Sinniah became Navy Commander in August 2017,  but was retired in October 2017 on reaching the age of 55 years, after just three months in office.   On retirement he was given the customary rank of Admiral.

  1. Paskaralingam, the influential former Finance Ministry Secretary, also President R. Premadasa’s right-hand anchor man, is back after eight years in self-exile and playing a key behind-the-scenes role in the present regime as advisor to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe since 2015. Paskaralingam was a key player in the 1989-1993 United National Party government. He was the Secretary to the mighty Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Construction and also the Chairman of the Urban Development Authority, entrusted with the planning and building of the new capital city arising out of the Diyawanna marshes and village reawakening programme during the Premadasa regime.

Paskaralingam is now advisor and close aide to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He rarely appears in public and initially, on arrival in Sri Lanka at the start of Yahapalana rule, stayed incognito in a hotel. He has avoided media publicity and generally not seen at public events. He is currently entrusted with the task of co-coordinating and working with all government development agencies. Bank officials giving evidence on the bond scam said that when they met then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake regarding the bids, Paskaralingam had also been present.

At a  business forum in Colombo chaired by him, organized by the National Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka,  he took immediate action, contacting relevant officials and arranging one-to-one meetings with them to assist at least 25 businessmen to sort out their business issues, Displaying his power over the country’s bureaucracy, he contacted the heads of RDA, BOI, Treasury and several other state agencies over the phone directly to find ways and means to settle issues of businessmen. These included the heavy cess levied on maize imports affecting the poultry industry, insurance company listing issues, road construction payment problems, gem industry grievances, investment and heavy taxes imposed on industrial ventures at the BOI Meerigama Investment zone and tender issues.

The Director General, of Customs, W.A. Chulananda Perera was transferred and P.S.M. Charles was appointed in September 2017.  Ms. Charles was from Jaffna.  She had been GA Batticaloa and GA Vavuniya. Reshan Dewapura was removed from the post of CEO, ICTA and Muhunthan Canagey, a young Tamil software entrepreneur, was appointed CEO  in February 2015,  within a month of Yahapalana taking over. Asian Mirror   headlined the appointment, ‘Controversial Dealer Muhunthan Canagey Appointed as ICTA Chief.  Canagey resigned at the request of the President in August 2017.

There was a significant clustering of Tamils in other sectors as well. The Western Province governor was K.C. Logeswaran. V. Sivagnanasothy was Secretary to Ministry of National integration and Reconciliation. The ministry is under President. Geoffrey Alagaratnam became President, Bar Association of Sri Lanka, 2015 t0 2017  and Bradley Emerson, the controversial former CEO of CIMA, Sri Lanka was appointed as CEO of Private Public Partnership (PPP) division  under the Treasury,  ‘at a massive salary’ by Ravi Karunanayake.  It appears that Emerson was also Director General, Department of Fiscal Policy. In August 2017, the media said that the National Project Management Division headed by its Director Bradley Emerson is expected to disband under the changes initiated by the new Finance Minister Samaraweera.

 

3 Responses to “YAHAPALANA ELECTIONS AND ‘REGIME CHANGE’ PT 6”

  1. Christie Says:

    1. Yahapalanaya was installed by India.
    2. Leading to the election of 2015 India got Maduluwawe Sobithaya to divide the Sinhalese based on financial corruption. His main Dayakaya was an Bora Mudalali.
    3. Leading to the 2015 election India used BBS Gnanasara to alienate Muslims and Christians from Sinhalese.
    4. The Indian block vote in the country voted for the Yahapalanaya.

    The Yahapalanaya is in fact the Indian administration installed by India.

  2. Christie Says:

    1.යහපාලනය ඇතිකලේ ඉන්දියාවය.

    2. මාදුලුවාවේ සෝබිත හාමුදුරුවෝ දූෂණ වන්චාව ගෙනත් සින්හලයන් දෙකට බෙදුවේය.

    3. ඥාණසාර හාමුදුරුවෝ මුස්ලිම්, ක්‍රිස්තියානි සහ සින්හලයාව බේද කලේය.

    4. දෙමල (ඉන්දියන්) චන්ද කුට්ටිය යහපාලනය බිහිකලේය.

  3. RohanJay Says:

    Shalila Moonasinghe is a Sri lankan. Why should the fact he has a British Citizenship be of relevance. Will Kamalika Peiris report next time a Sri Lankan in politics has an American or Australian citizenship? Typical of Lankaweb and its commentaters to bash Britain at every single opportunity! Why not Sri Lankans look at their short comings instead of blaming the British for everything wrong that happens to them in their country. Sri Lankans take responsibility for your own stupid actions instead of blaming others especially the British for anything wrong that happens in Sri Lanka.

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