All or nothing,Mr. President
Posted on January 6th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

In the view of many, President Maithripala Sirisena has made a bad decision releasing a part version of the much awaited Central Bank Bond Commission report. Being a politician who has not been slow in taking the credit for appointing the commission in the first instance, it would have been best if he released the entire report instead of making selected excerpts public. Alternatively he should not have released the report at all. He could well have said that the report was being studied, that it has been referred to the Attorney General for further action (as he has already done) and a lot besides. There are plenty of precedents of his predecessors choosing to ‘swallow’ commission reports. The people are all too familiar with Commissions of Inquiry, Presidential and otherwise, being appointed with great fanfare, with investigations painstakingly conducted and voluminous evidence recorded, but the final reports never being published. The result is that the people whose taxes paid the cost of such inquiries continue to remain in the dark about their results. What follows is that those found culpable remain unpunished and un-shamed by their reprobate conduct.

We run a story on the various versions of the president’s statement on the report on our front page today. As reported there, there have been second (and even third) thoughts on what parts would be made public and what will be held back. The first English translation of the president’s Sinhala statement had been close enough to the original. But a later version had taken the sting out removing references to the prime minister and former finance minister Ravi Karunanayake. Thereafter Karunanayake’s name was restored but Wickremesinghe’s removed. In the public mind former Governor Arjuna Mahendran is damned and the prime minister stands culpable at least of bad judgment in making the appointment in the first place. Even after questions have been raised, Wickremesinghe wanted Mahendran reappointed but the president resisted. It was the great good fortune of this country that the incumbent governor, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, who never sought the appointment, was available and was persuaded to accept it. There is confidence all round that he will not countenance hanky panky under his watch. It is the tragedy of this country that there are too few people of high caliber available for appointment to important positions. The result is that mediocrities and sometimes outright crooks have attained high office.

Getting rid of Mahendran and appointing a capable successor is to the good. But what of the bad that has happened? There are conflicting figures of the losses suffered by the Central Bank and the Employees Provident Fund it supervises. But they are huge by any standard. Perpetual who has made mega bucks are already in court about the suspension of their dealer licence have had the prohibition further extended for six months from Jan. 5. We do not know if Mahendran, a Singapore citizen who signed our currency notes, is here or has returned to his country of domicile. Whether he will come back if required is an open question. As it is there is the case of a man called Jaliya Wickremasuriya, a close kinsman of the former president, who served for too many years as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Washington. His name transpired over a deal involving a considerable sum of government funds during his tenure and it was reported that some money that had gone into the wrong pocket had been returned. Yet there was an effort to make him our high commissioner in Canada! He was arrested by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division, remanded and bailed. Then he got permission to go abroad for medical treatment but has not turned up in court despite being away for two months. Now an open warrant has been issued for his arrest. Hopefully this would open eyes about the need to keep other suspects corralled within our shores.

A lot of sleaze, including famously then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s penthouse apartment for which a huge rent had been paid by Perpetual, emerged during the commission proceedings. The snippets from the report that the president has chosen to reveal indicates that Karunanayake has been determined to have given false evidence before the commission and it has been recommended that he be prosecuted under the bribery law. Even though he was forced to resign, the former minister who was quoted last week in a newspaper saying that he was at a loss to understand why the commission wishes him treated as a “suspect,” was not distanced from the prime minister. Let us not forget that Karunanayake’s dethroning was in stages – first he was removed from the finance ministry and made foreign minister. Then he was forced out of the cabinet. This is a clear pointer to his muscle power at least with the premier. He was assigned various functions and had an office at ‘Temple Trees.’ He was very visible when nominations were received especially for the Colombo Municipal Council which the UNP expects to win. Given what has transpired since, will the prime minister try to distance the man who was named “assistant” leader of the UNP from the campaign? Clearly Karunanayake who has been party organizer for various parts of Colombo and has built useful political networks will be a campaign asset. But will Bond Commission negatives lead to his sidelining? We will have to wait and see.

The president does not appear to want to break with Wickremesinghe and the UNP but he also seems to be looking for advantages he can gain from the Bond Report in the forthcoming election where his SLFP, Rajapaksa’s JO and the UNP are the three main contenders. The February local elections are not the big bang; they lead up to first the provincial council, then presidential and parliamentary elections. But the results of Feb. 10 will certainly indicate how the papadam will crumble in the short term.

One Response to “All or nothing,Mr. President”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    According to another stupid astrologer Sirisena will die before 10 July 2018.


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