Bond of truth
Sugeeswara Senadhira (Daily News)
President Maithripala Sirisena is a man of compassion, who believes in the policy of, ‘live and let live.’ However, he is a man who shows his anger whenever there is an injustice or allegations of malpractice. On Wednesday (January 25) he displayed that he would not hesitate to take hard decisions when required. The message he gave was that when it comes to the Central Bank bond issue, he would not hesitate to adopt the James Bond policy of ‘Live and let die’.
When Ven Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera referred to the bond issue at a function at the Abhayaramaya in Narahenpita and wondered if the appointment of a Presidential Commission to inquire into the bond issue was an attempt to cover it up, President Sirisena replied that the inquiry through a commission was the best way to find out the truth and take legal action against the guilty.
Central Bank bond issue
“Though some people allege that a Presidential Commission was appointed to cover up the bond issue, I came out from the former government because of its frauds, corruption and mis-governance and I did not want to form such a government again,” the President emphasized.
He ridiculed the Parliament debate on the Central Bank bond issue and rightly pointed out that it was merely a platform for leveling allegations against each other. One side accused the others of frauds, and the other side leveled similar allegations of forgery.
President Sirisena made it clear that his objective was to find out the truth about the bond issue. “I am ready to punish anybody guilty of malpractices in the bond issue,’ he declared.
The parliamentary debate displayed lack of clarity in the bond issue. Although some members have done their homework and spoke with authority, it was clear nobody could gauge the magnitude of the fraud, if any. Nobody could answer the question as to the amount lost to the Central Bank as a result of the bond issue. The debate was more a game of one-upmanship.
Cartoon is from Ceylon Today
Meanwhile, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced at the end of the Parliamentary debate that the COPE report on the Central Bank bond issue would be sent to the Attorney General for further action. He dismissed the proposal by MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara to refer it to the Police, and pointed out that it is a task for the AG’s department. Furthermore, the CBSL bond issue is not a two year old episode. It lasted last ten years. Hence, there should be a probe into the past bond issues too. The President said another commission will be appointed to conduct investigations on the bond issue during the past seven or eight years.
The speeches of Ven Bellanwila Wimalaratana and Ven Muruttettuwe Ananada Thera at the religious ceremony held to unveil the 54-feet high replica of the Aukana Buddha Statue at the Narahenpita Abayaramaya temple, surprised many people. Unperturbed, President Sirisena used the same platform to give a fitting assurance to the Mahasangha and the people about his position on the bond issue.
Special Presidential Commission
On January 23, President instructed the Attorney General to take immediate steps to appoint a Special Presidential Commission to inquire into the allegations of malpractices in the bond issue of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and take required legal action.
Accordingly a Commission comprising two Supreme Court judges and an expert in auditing had been appointed. The Commission is mandated to submit a report within three months. The President called upon all relevant parties to extend fullest cooperation to the Commission to successfully carry out its assigned duties.
President Sirisena is of the view that such investigations should not be left merely on the hands of the politicians. Earlier, in an interview with a newspaper he said there was a need to take the investigation out of the hands of politicians. The President spoke on the findings of the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), which revealed the former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran “made an intervention or used pressure” in the issue of bonds. It also said that Perpetual Treasuries Limited, once linked to Mr. Mahendran’s son-in-law, “obtained large financial profits in the sale of bonds.”
“There have been issues over bond transactions since 2007/2008 period. Nobody spoke of them,” President Sirisena said. Since the report is now out, he said, it should be submitted to an “independent, impartial body which does not have any politicians.” Now, it is the politicians who are debating on the issue according to their party positions on whether it is right or wrong, he pointed out.
In the media interview he said that the investigations should cover a ten-year period of bond issues by the CBSL. It will begin with the February 27, 2015 issue of bonds and extend to other cases. It was in the same interview he expressed displeasure at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the Commission to Inquiry into Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) for probing small issues leaving behind the mega cases. As a result, for over 20 months, they have not been able to bring to book any of the big offenders, he added.
By deciding to appoint a Presidential Commission, what the government shows is desire to find out the truth and to take action against the guilty. This move should not be interpreted as an attempt to sideline one group in the government in order to strengthen the other group. The country needs the consensual government to succeed and punishing the guilty will be a strength to the government and it will not weaken the ruling alliance.