Mr. Prime Minister.
Ball is now in the court of PCoI
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe must be applauded for volunteering to appear before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the alleged Central Bank Bond scam to “clarify any matters with regard to the references made to him at the sittings”.
Whatever the reasons the PCoI had for not summoning him in the first place, it now has a golden opportunity to seek clarification from the PM if indeed he appears before the PCoI.
It must be said that the “references made to him at the sittings” were relatively marginal.
I am confident that the PCoI will maintain its credibility by going well beyond this in the context of:
1. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), the issuing agency for Treasury Bonds, falling under the purview of the Prime Minister
2. The PM hand-picked Arjuna Mahendran a foreign national to be Governor – CBSL
3. In the context of the widespread demand to not give Arjuna Mahendran a second term as Governor due to his perceived role in the alleged bond scam, it was the PM that robustly endorsed him for a second term.
4. Being fully confident on the propriety of the issuance of Bonds, the PM robustly defended the same in Parliament despite the evidence that subsequently transpired before the PCoI.
5. Malik Samarawickrama who did not hold a ministerial portfolio at that time and who was Senior Advisor to the PM and Chairman of the UNP has confirmed attending the initial ‘Breakfast’ meeting in February 2015 (presumably with the concurrence of the PM) on the issuance of Treasury Bonds. PM Wickremesinghe is UNP leader.
6. It is disappointing that the AG’s Department had no questions to ask from Ministers Malik Samarawickrama and Kabir Hashim (UNP General Secretary) when they appeared before the PCoI and did not seek to clarify whether a discussion regarding funding to the tune of Rs.15 Billion could be concluded over a ‘breakfast’ meeting. One wonders what the funding requirements must be to have a formal meeting! No questions were also asked as to how an ‘advisor’ can request funding.
7. Dr. Harsha de Silva - Deputy Minister, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs where the PM is the Minister in charge.
On Dr. de Silva’s contribution to the controversial ‘footnotes’ saga in the alleged bond scam ‘The Sunday Times’ of October 30, 2016 reported as follows:
“As is clear, the thrust of these footnotes is to make clear that Mahendran has not been responsible for any impropriety.
The UNP is confident that it can, through the documentation Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva has received, prove its case that its man Arjuna Mahendran is not to blame.”
As if this were not enough, consider his response to the following question from a journalist on the ‘Footnotes’:
“Minister do you at any point now regret the footnotes on that COPE report? Going by what is being revealed now, do you regret it or was there a lack of information at that point?”
What does his response from (21:25:40) indicate? The clarification sought from Harsha de Silva has still not come.
8. Rosy Senanayake - ‘Deputy Chief of Staff’ in PM Wickremesinghe’s ‘core team’. It was alleged at the PCoI that COPE documents relating to PTL CEO Kasun Palisena’s testimony were given to ‘PTL owner’ Arjun Aloysius by “Rosy’s son” identified as “Kanishka Senanayake”.
This has been denied by Ms. Senanayake on the grounds she was not a COPE member after the August 2015 parliamentary elections. Does not the question arise whether in her capacity as ‘Deputy Chief of Staff’ in PM Wickremesinghe’s ‘core team’ she would have access to COPE reports? Although requested, she has still not clarified this position.
9. R. Paskaralingam - Advisor to the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs (Ministry held by PM Wickremesinghe) is said to have been present at the meeting convened by then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake with Chairmen of State Banks (BoC, PB, NSB) relating to bidding at the Bond auction.
I have previously stated that this is one of the largest financial scams to have taken place in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka. The muted response of the opposition exemplifies the rot in the governance of this country.
The sooner this issue is put to rest, the better. The country seems obsessed with this alleged scam while placing other instances of alleged corruption also under the Rajapaksa regime and issues of governance on the back burner.