This is a rare occasion which has seen alleged complicity of the MPs are exposed by the CID
Govt deserves credit for heralding a climate of relative freedom and judicial, police independence
These shortcomings are not solely the responsibility of the government
US Justice Dept has initiated proceedings to indict Jaliya Wickremasooriya for alleged money laundering
Udayanga Weeratunga is detained in Dubai and the govt has so far failed to secure his extradition
Yahapalana government that came to power promising to combat corruption has found its parliamentarians implicated in the mother of all scams. As if the allegations of the complicity of Arjuna Mahendran, the Prime Minister’s handpicked former governor of Central Bank, and the former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake are not damaging enough, new evidence have revealed government parliamentarians have received hefty pay cheques from the disgraced bond trader Perpetual Treasures (PTL) and its subsidiaries. Sujeeva Senasinghe, the State Minister of International Trade has allegedly received Rs. 3 million during the period of 2014-2016. Twenty odd parliamentarians are reportedly being investigated by the CID over receiving funds from the PTL owner Arjun Aloysius. Many of them have their drivers and personal security officers interviewed by the CID about encashing suspicious cheques. Further incriminating evidence would surface as investigations proceed. Public would have opportunity to see a teaser in the coming weeks, when the Speaker reveals the redacted pages of the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the bond scam, which details the MPs who had engaged in telephone conversations with Arjun Aloysius. While the inclusion in this list may not necessarily imply an improper relationship, it may prompt some members to clear their names, and would effectively expose those who had benefited from hush money.
Now, when judges recuse themselves in droves from hearing court cases against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, one may still feel the trauma of that ominous past and the uncertainty over its probable return hanging over the state
Recent revelations have their toll on the government. Its election promises of arresting the crooks of the former regime are yet to be fulfilled. Now, with its members are braving the allegations of complicity in the bond scam, the Yahapalayana has come the full circle. But, paradoxically though, it deserves some credit for heralding a climate of relative freedom and judicial and police independence, even at its peril, that had made it possible for these incriminating details to come out, and be debated freely. This is not the first time that someone robbed the public coffers in this country. But this is a rare occasion which has seen alleged complicity of the government members are being freely exposed by the CID.
This was not possible under the former regime, which even impeached the former Chief Justice, the one who allowed without needing a referendum, the enactment of the 18th Amendment – which almost created a dynastic presidency - after she double crossed Basil Rajapaksa on the Divineguma Bill.
The officials of the Attorney General Department who now come up with new revelations at every court hearing would rather have been more restrained had it been the former regime. Perhaps, activist officials would have been warming desks, while the henchmen handpicked by the President’s House conduct investigations to a predetermined conclusion. That was how things happened in the past. Now, when judges recuse themselves in droves from hearing court cases against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, one may still feel the trauma of that ominous past and the uncertainty over its probable return hanging over the state.
The govt MPs who earlier fervently defended the PTL and its ownership, would now ask why only they are being investigated. Why not the crooks of the former regime?
Why this government is at the receiving end is not primarily due to corruption, but due to its complacency. Corruption at present is neither underwritten by those at the helm of the state, nor is swept under the carpet as it had been in the past. However, this government is not a proactive government. It is reactive and is bordering incompetence. This complacency is why it could not indict a single big fish of the former regime who have been accused of corruption. Rajapaksa’s nephews Udayanga Weeratunga and JaliyaWickremasooriya, the former ambassadors to Russia and the United States are absconding justice for four years. The latter is more likely to face criminal procedure in America than here. The US Justice Department has initiated proceedings to indict Jaliya Wickremasooriya for alleged money laundering. Udayanga Weeratunga is detained in Dubai and the government has so far failed to secure his extradition. Also, Gotabaya could well manage to evade the arrest with the help of a spree of restraining orders against anticipatory arrest, until the next presidential election.
Public would have opportunity to see a teaser in the coming weeks, when the Speaker reveals the redacted pages of the report of the PCoI on the bond scam, which details the MPs who had conversations with Arjun Aloysius
These shortcomings are not solely the responsibility of the government. They are products of the imperfections of the state and its institutions. Why a country needs a government, is among others, to put these things in order. If Sri Lanka is to address these shortcomings, it needs a government that is not just proactive, but also does not shy away from exercising its authority to expedite things.
In this deepening sense of inertia, the government may try to avoid the loss of its face by covering up the wrongdoings of its own members. The government Parliamentarians, who earlier fervently defended the PTL and its ownership, would now ask why only they are being investigated. Why not the crooks of the former regime? The failure of the UNP leadership to make a statement on the recent revelations is proof of this dilemma.