Let Yahapalanaya not trifle with justice

Sunday Editorial of Ceylon Today

Philosophers, hedonists, idealists, et al have through the ages tried to sift this evil called crime in an effort to understand every single thread in its vast canvass…and they find that crime is at best an invisible DNA element that runs in the blood of men and women born with that element. It’s extensively pervasive in human nature, be it manifested as rape, graft, bribery and all manner of corruption, abduction, incest, whatever else that comes under the broad definition of crime.

This perhaps was why Friedrich Nietzsche sent out the warning that good men, especially those morally obliged to protect society from crime’s ills, need to distrust everyone in whom one recognizes an inordinate impulse to punish.

With apologies to Nietzsche, we would qualify that observation with this: What is more pertinent to the study of crime and criminals, is that some are loathe to punish crime that dwells within themselves and their fellow travellers in corporate or public/political life .

This is because they know that at the least impulse, they will allow that tendency the fullest expression in their private or public lives, as the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Central Bank Bond scandal exposing. We find that it is predominantly in such men and women that we see and hear of the inordinate impulse to punish not just anyone guilty of crime but very particularly their political opposites.

Let us hasten to add that we are not implying that everyone in the Yahapalana fold is a criminal. But let’s face the fact that Nietzsche would have found the rare specimens in the government of Sri Lanka well worth the trouble of a few hours under a magnifying glass.

Let’s just say that he’d especially find the lot dragged before the PCoI worthy of the psychiatrist’s couch. Why? Because we guess that it’s normal for a poverty stricken man to be driven in desperation to steal to meet a dire need such as hunger or an urgent medical need of a little son or daughter. What we see before the PCoI is a bunch of wealthy men and women embroiled in blatant corruption involving insiders in dual functions: Some offering insider securities’ market intelligence and others putting through deals which rob poor workers of their hard earned meagre savings in the EPF, selling the Fund bogus shares with incredibly inflated values.

What’s unfolding before the PCoI therefore is a saga of deliberately planned ’embezzlement’ of State funds and funds in the trust of the State (EPF). We say ’embezzlement’ because it has all been done with the connivance of officials and ministers who had direct oversight of those funds in addition to commitment under an Oath of Office to secure the best interests of the State. Instead, what’s unfolding before the PCoI is naked embezzlement and evidence of handsome gratifications received in return. What’s reprehensible about all of this muck is a slew of attempts by the highest leaders of the country to dilute the massive magnitude of these financial crimes. So much for the pledges of a meritocracy and blatant double-speak about a commitment to good governance.

Irrespective of these attempts at whitewashing major crime, there are a hundred or more securities market operators (primary and secondary dealers) who can be called by the PCoI for further evidence as typo exactly why the CB under Governor Mahendran’s watch, issued 15 times more bonds than originally announced and at an interest rate the rest of the market knew nothing about. The PCoI must find out how and why Perpetual Treasuries alone, the Governor’s son-in-law’s company, stood to gain from the obviously extraordinary offers.

Market watchers are apt to put two and two together and even come up with 22 instead of four…and who can blame them when what’s on their minds is the fact that when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister back in 2001, the Governor’s father, diplomat Charlie Mahendran, was dispatched by Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. And because it was a comparatively low profile appointment, no one said anything when Arjuna Mahendran was appointed as Chairman of the BOI at the time. So we have reason to believe that the Premier appointed men to high positions, who had his personal trust and admiration. Fourteen years down the line, Arjuna Mahendran was to be appointed Governor of the Central Bank and Aloysius was almost on cue to resign as Chairman of Perpetual Treasuries to create the scenario in which there would be no legal conflict of interest.

Alas, the skein of a conflict of interest runs through this entire sordid saga.

The PCoI and the AG’s Department, have yet to conclude their work. One hopes that integrity will prevail and all criminals be brought to book and that they be stripped of their civic rights.