United National Party (UNP) MP and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday lashed out at the new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman and Commissioner Priyantha Fernando, on grounds of conflict of interest.
He also questioned about t he Finance Minister’s enthusiasm in re-establishing a fair and equitable regulatory regime at the Colombo Stock Exchange (SEC).
“Is the government’s message to go ahead and engage in fraud at the CSE without worrying about getting caught? If the Minister of Finance was genuinely concerned in re-establishing a fair and equitable regulatory regime at the CSE, would he have appointed persons with strong connections to entities being investigated for alleged securities fraud?,” he questioned.
He also queried as to whether the Finance Minister couldn’t have found three persons from hundreds of honest and untainted professionals in the country for the job.
“Is it not understood that the perception of being clean is as important as being clean; particularly in the background of serious allegations of fraud?” he questioned.
“While not quite yet accusing anyone of fraud at least two of the three appointees are connected to one or more entities what media today has reported as being investigated by the SEC. Dr Nalaka Godahewa is connected to at least Colombo Land and Development Company as its chairman and Citrus Leisure (formerly Hotel Reef Comber) while Priyantha Fernando is connected to at least Taprobane Holdings whose stock broking arm was embroiled in the now cancelled deal involving NSB and The Finance Company”
“It is noteworthy that he headed the Central Bank’s investment committee of the EPF only months prior to being appointed to the board of Taprobane. In the background where the Ministry of Finance is continuously withholding information on CSE transactions even from Parliament, it is ironic that the government sees it fit to appoint people connected to entities accused of fraud to regulate the CSE. Indeed, it is a sad new chapter that we as a country have entered in to,” de Silva said.
He further noted that actions like these will only harm confidence in the markets and discourage genuine investments sorely needed for development of the country.
“If the Minister of Finance is honestly interested in the sustainable development of Sri Lanka and the well-being of her people, then he should cancel these appointments and make fresh choices from those who are unconnected entities being investigated,” de Silva stated.