A fox, a tortoise and a president
Posted on January 27th, 2017

Editorial The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena said at Abhayaramaya the other day he had received information that an attempt was being made to file civil action against the bond scam suspects. He had, therefore, decided to appoint a presidential commission to conduct a thorough probe so as to have them dealt with appropriately. The bond thieves have evidently abused public funds by utilizing money belonging to the EPF, state banks etc in an improper manner and making huge profits at the expense of those institutions. Therefore, they must be arraigned on criminal charges and arrested forthwith. We have pointed out in this space many a time that a CID report on the bond scams was referred to the Attorney General (AG) in 2015 and he had recommended civil action.

The UNP would not have promptly referred the COPE report, diluted with footnotes to the Attorney General’s Department, which is an appendage of the government unless it had been confident that an escape route could be opened for the bond thieves via Hulftsdorp. The Joint Opposition (JO) et al finally granted the UNP’s wish at the end of the recent parliamentary debate! The House resolved to refer the COPE report, riddled with holes to the AG, for action.

What parliament has decided by way of bringing the bond thieves to justice reminds us of a children’s story where a wily tortoise escapes a fox, which struggles to break its hard shell, which, it says, can be softened only by being soaked in water. The fox puts the tortoise in a stream and keeps a leg on it to prevent it from fleeing. In the end the victim groans in anguish, claiming that the entire shell, except the area covered by the predator’s leg is weighing down, was soft. The fox lifts its leg and the tortoise makes good its escape. The cantankerous Opposition MPs demanding action against bond thieves have acted like the silly fox and facilitated the UNP’s escape.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared, at Abhayaramaya on Thursday, that a future government under him would have the bond thieves arrested. We bet our bottom dollar that nothing of the sort would happen even if the JO were to capture state power tonight. It is deliberately going slow on the bond scams which alone can be flogged effectively to mobilise people against the government. It does not want to go the whole hog to do so apparently because such action will weaken the UNP and help, albeit unwittingly, strengthen its bête noire, President Sirisena’s position in the government. Had anyone connected to Sirisena been involved in the bond thefts, the Rajapaksas would have held mass rallies one after the other demanding his arrest and the ouster of the President. The JO remains maniacally focused on engineering President Sirisena’s downfall and is ready to forge an alliance even with the devil to achieve that end.

The JVP deprived the country of having one of the best former public officials in Parliament. It appointed as a National List MP respected former Auditor General Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne, but he resigned immediately after being sworn in as a lawmaker in 2015 so that Sunil Handunetti, a defeated candidate, could secure the vacant slot. Handunnetti was appointed the Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). Had Mayadune remained in Parliament and been entrusted with that job, there would have been no need for a presidential commission on the bond scams; he would have done a thorough job and nobody would have been in a position to question his integrity or professionalism or the content of the COPE report.

As for the bond scams, President Sirisena has wrong-footed the JO, which has sought to play politics with the issue. The promised presidential inquiry, if properly conducted, will help him kill not just two but three birds with one stone. He will be able to expose the JO’s hypocrisy, tame the UNP, which is trying to undermine his authority and endear himself to the public. All he has to do is to put his executive foot down. He has already impressed the public with progressive moves such as the denial of a second term to former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran despite pressure from the UNP and settling the lottery agents’ dispute.

However, President Sirisena will have to ensure that the money stolen from the workers’ fund and state banks by the bond thieves are recovered with interest and the culprits brought to justice. With people on his side, he will be able to overcome the gnawing sense of insecurity which always troubles incumbent presidents.

One Response to “A fox, a tortoise and a president”

  1. Kumari Says:

    To do or say anything, Sirisena has to first find his backbone. Now he is so used to reading from a script, it will be a long time for the country to see a proper leader.
    Not appointing Mahendran for a second term and setting the sale price of the lottery are more of a Gramasevaka duty.

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