When yahapalana bonds weaken
Posted on May 16th, 2018

The Editorial Courtesy The Island


Former State Timber Corporation (STC) Chairman Anuruddha Polgampola finds himself on the same gum tree as his immediate predecessor P. Dissanayake, albeit for a different reason. He was arrested by the CID, on Tuesday night, for his failure to be present in a court hearing a case against him in connection with an alleged financial fraud.

It was only the other day that President Maithripala Sirsena’s Chief of Staff T. H. K. Mahanama as well as the then T. H. K. chief Dissanayake was arrested for allegedly taking a bribe. The President lost no time in appointing Polgampola STC Chairman in spite of serious allegations against the latter. Saner counsel, however, prevailed and Polgampola was removed immediately afterwards. But it is now clear that the President appoints persons to high posts without having them vetted. Background checks are conducted even on labourers recruited to the state sector; they are required to produce police clearance reports. But crooks are free to secure top positions in the state service, without being screened, if they have the right political connections.

Those who are close to politicians in power usually do not get arrested. How come there have been high-profile arrests of late? Claims being made in some quarters that they are attributable to the power struggle within the yahapalana camp cannot be dismissed as baseless.

The yahapalana government, which was formed in 2015 for a period of two years, is now past its shelf life. There is no love lost between the SLFP and the UNP in spite of their cohabitation. They have to be together because they cannot think of any other way of squaring up to the Rajapaksas. They are also under pressure from the forces that brought them to power to keep their alliance intact. They have been at daggers drawn for about two years with the UNP ministers giving their SLFP counterparts the elbow. Unable to go on stomaching indignities, the SLFP grandees have sought to pay the UNP in its own coin. The presidential bond probe commission caused former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran to flee the country and a UNP Cabinet minister to resign. The probe winded the UNP well and truly and its adverse political fallout became evident in the Feb. 10 local government polls results; the UNP suffered a humiliating defeat. It looks as if the UNP had got even with the SLFP for it.

What is happening at present is in sharp contrast to how crooks were shielded in the heyday of the yahapalana administration. The SLFP colluded with the UNP to cover up the first bond scam at the beginning of the yahapalana rule; they were as thick as thieves then. If action had been taken, as recommended by the Attorney General’s Department at that time, there would not have been a second scam the following year. President Sirisena, who never misses an opportunity to wax eloquent on the virtues of good governance, dissolved Parliament before the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on the Feb. 27 bond scam was taken up for debate. People were denied the right to information. If they had been aware of the COPE findings when they voted, the outcome of the last general election would perhaps have been different.

Information that helps the police arrest criminals usually comes from rival underworld gangs. It takes a thief to catch a thief. If thieves get together and protect one another, the police will have their work cut out. The same goes for political parties, especially the two main ones responsible for the theft of public funds over the last several decades. The presidential bond probe which sent the UNP reeling and the high-profile arrests which have hurt the SLFP beyond measure would not have happened if the main parties in the yahapalana coalition had been on good terms.

People stand to gain from fights among thieves.

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