25 December 2014 07:04 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


As Sri Lanka today commemorates the 10th Anniversary of its worst ever natural catastrophe the tsunami, the attention of the country is focused more on a possible political tsunami with incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and opposition common candidate Maithripala Sirisena widely believed to be running neck and neck. 

One of the vital issues at the crucial presidential election on January 8 will be the multimillion dollar mega deals of the past five years and rampant corruption running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Leaders of the common opposition front have pledged they would appoint a special commission to probe these mega deals involving even heroin, ethanol and casinos. 

They have pledged that those found guilty would be prosecuted and punished for robbing or plundering public money. They would even go to the Seychelles and the Caribbean Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis where hundreds of millions of dollars in black money is believed to have been channelled into Swiss Bank-like accounts. 

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in a website article headlined ‘Sun and Shadows’ has exposed how the Island Paradise of the Seychelles had become a haven for dirty money.  

Seychelles, a thousand miles from anywhere, is an offshore magnet for money launderers and tax dodgers. A look at this corruption-haunted archipelago shows how the offshore secrecy system has grown — and where it’s going.

In the fall of 2012, two strangers from Africa showed up in Seychelles, an emerald-green archipelago in the Indian Ocean nearly a thousand miles east of Somalia. 

Unlike Prince William and Kate Middleton and other elitist celebrities who favour Seychelles as a getaway, these visitors didn’t come to enjoy the islands’ natural beauty and luxury accommodations. They were there, they said, to conduct business in Seychelles’ bustling offshore financial centre.

Eventually they made their way to the offices of Zen Offshore, one of dozens of firms on the islands that set up hard-to-trace “shell companies” for clients around the world. They explained that they represented an individual who served as a “liaison officer between the Zimbabwean government and the rich diamond mines,” the website said.

According to St. Kitts and Nevis Observer, one of the biggest problems affecting the world’s poor is one that few have never heard about: illicit financial flows. Though such flows cost people in Djibouti, Congo, and Chad more than one-fifth of their incomes every year, they almost never make headlines. 

The Global Financial Integrity Institute (GFI) reports that, in 2011, developing countries lost almost a trillion dollars through illicit transfers to the developed world. In the same way, 20 African countries have lost sums equivalent to more than 10 per cent of their GDP every year since 1980. 

Now, Sri Lanka is also being mentioned in these huge illegal financial transactions. Ironically in the aftermath of the tsunami, Sri Lanka was also rocked by one of the biggest political scandals involving billions of rupees received as tsunami aid. 

This was dubbed as the Helping Hambantota scandal and it became an issue at the 2005 Presidential Election, while one of Sri Lanka’s top investigative journalists who played a key role in exposing this was killed in broad daylight on January 8, 2009. 

As usual, several Police teams were appointed to probe the killing and in this era of ‘files’ we wonder who has the files on whom. 

In any event, tsunami and other repercussions of global warming have made it clear that Sri Lanka needs to turn immediately to a “green economy” as outlined in the recent book published by former Minister Champika Ranawaka. 

If we do not, we will continue to see regular droughts, heavy rains, landslides and even another tsunami with more catastrophic consequences. 

  Comments - 1

  • Mala Friday, 26 December 2014 03:25 AM

    You mean UNP are the better economic rebuilding party...?

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