n what most analysts see as a just and fair middle path solution to an administrative crisis that had gripped the National Unity government since February last year, President Sirisena on Saturday made a dramatic announcement that he had decided to appoint the eminent economist Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy as the new Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).
Dr. Coomaraswamy, son of the widely-respected diplomat Rajendra Coomaraswamy who was also admired as ‘Roving Raju’, was educated at the world famous Harrow, graduated from the Cambridge University and obtained his doctorate in Economics from the Sussex University. He worked at the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank for some years before taking up the top post of Director-in-charge of Economic Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
According to reports, President Sirisena had earlier expressed the preference for the CB Deputy Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe to be appointed as the new Governor to succeed Arjuna Mahendran who did not seek an extension of his term which ended on June 30, largely because of controversy, charges and counter-charges relating to massive Treasury Bond issues in February last year and March this year.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who is in-charge of national policy and economic affairs, is reported to have expressed a preference for the appointment of a former Treasury Secretary Charitha Ratwatte as the new CBSL Governor. Since the people’s silent revolution of January 8 last year, the Prime Minister is known to have been the main decision-maker in working out a national strategy on economic affairs in consultation with the Cabinet sub-committee.
On Saturday, President Sirisena is reported to have called the Prime Minister and the Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama for a crucial meeting regarding the appointment. This came after Central Bank officials had expressed concern and even sought the advice of the Attorney General as to what they should or could do when the money-markets opened today, because major decisions including bond issues had to be authorised by the Governor. After discussions with the Prime Minister and Minister Samarawickrama, the President’s media office announced he had decided to appoint Dr. Coomaraswamy. Minister Samaraweera had agreed to release Dr. Coomaraswamy who was working as a consultant to the Ministry. Finance Minister Ravi Karunananayake was overseas attending meetings in China and Japan when the CB appointment was made. The President’s office said he made the appointment on the recommendation of acting Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena.
The President later addressed a meeting to mark the International Cooperatives Day and made what many analysts saw as one of his most hard-hitting speeches. This indicated he had decided to play a more powerful role in affairs relating to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the United People’s Freedom Alliance and the National Government. The President said one of the senior ministers in the former Rajapaksa regime had charged that the President was being subservient and taking orders from the UNP. The President slammed this former senior minister who is still loyal to the so-called Rajapaksa clique which describes itself as the Joint Opposition. In a language that he seldom uses, the President said this former minister and other ministers had regularly bowed under the table to lick the feet of the former almighty king of Sri Lanka and did not dare to question any of the former dictator’s authoritarian decisions. The President said it was only he who had the courage to defy the former dictator and in November 2014 he crossed-over to give leadership to the people’s revolution of January 8, 2015.
Whatever the controversies, charges and counter-charges, we will see from today an eminent economist as the Governor of the Central Bank. We hope this will pave the way for widespread relief measures which are to be provided to the people after the President, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister hold consultation from today on the widely criticised increases in the Value-Added Tax (VAT). Government insiders also say there is likely to be an announcement soon on what they describe as the ‘revolutionary changes’ to further liberalise the economy, attract huge foreign investments and bring Sri Lanka in to the global economic growth sphere. We hope that with the compromise on the CB issue, the two major parties would be able to work together more deeply and sincerely to put Sri Lanka on the path to economic growth that is sustainable, eco-friendly and all-inclusive.