By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Good governance activists and economists praised the government’s decision to allow democracy to prevail through the ordeal of appointing a governor to the country’s Central Bank and said that such levels of engagement should continue in the future.
“The President and Prime Minister worked thinking of the long term. I think a lot of groups intervened. Political parties, and for the first time, civil society groups as well. So there is democracy now. It is important to have two people in charge, who give democracy the highest priority,” good governance activist Gamini Viyangoda said.He added that there were a lot of compromises made by both civil society and the government, which led to the appointment of the new Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy over the weekend.
“Under the past government, this sorts of problems didn’t surface. It was totalitarian. If President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided Ajit Nivard Cabraal was to become the governor, no one questioned, not in the Cabinet or parliament,” Viyangoda added.
National Movement for a Just Society Convenor Professor Sarath Wijesuriya noted that this was because the civil society groups that worked to put the past governments in place had taken up appointments in those governments, instead of criticizing any wrongdoing.
“Civil groups did a lot to bring this government to power. So the government listening to civil groups seems to be a good development, through which problems related to the Right to Information Act and the Central Bank Governor were solved,” he said.
Former Central Bank Deputy Governor W.A. Wijewardena added that the recent movement seems to be in the direction of promises made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with regard to good governance, economic policy governance and economic democracy.
“I’m very glad this has happened. The way to control the immoral and authoritarian behaviour of the politicians under good governance is for civil society to step in. Until the last minute, there was an attempt to bring back the past governor directly or indirectly,” he said.
He added that under economic policy governance, officials who implemented failed policies should be held accountable, while under economic democracy, every economic decision should be made public
“There was a time when people did not believe in politicians; even the foreign investors. The foreign direct investments for the first quarter were down 20 percent. Nobody trusts any financial system when a selected group robs from other investors for the benefit of a few individuals,” he said.
Wijewardena, who placed a vote of confidence on Dr. Coomaraswamy, added that if the former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran had remained, it would have been the end of the current government.
“When attempting to replace him (Mahendran), it was said that there was no one as suitable as him in the country. When there was such a person (Dr. Coomaraswamy) who could be appointed, why didn’t they do that, and kept themselves open to criticism and schemes?” Professor Wijesuriya inquired.
Statements from all political parties and civil society groups had hailed the appointment of Dr. Coomaraswamy, saying that he was very suitable for the position.
“The new governor is very suitable. He is qualified and has integrity. I hope Central Bank officials give him the necessary support to conduct the country’s economic affairs,” Prof. Wijesuriya said.
Good governance activist Chandra Jayaratne had
said that the Central Bank could gain recognition under the new governor.
The Central Bank and the Monetary Board had its reputation marred under Mahendran’s governorship with allegations of insider deals in bonds, of which initial investigations by the Committee of Public Enterprises (COPE) were not published and renewed investigations slated to be published this week.