Celebrating the fifth anniversary of great,non-violent bank heist
A series of daylight robberies – technically-termed ‘Issue of Treasury Bonds’ – was committed from the beginning of the millennium at the government banker’s coffers under the watchful eyes of its heads, both local and foreign. Ironically, in some cases, they were aided and abetted by the political authority at highest levels in successive governments (albeit 2001-2004 records gone missing?). In a highly-polluted environment where the dirt, little by little, being swept under the carpet, we on behalf of the voiceless victims – especially the EPF contributors – recommend naming February 27 the day on which the mother of all bond scams was committed as ‘Black Bank Day of Sri Lanka’ in remembrance of the educated, tie-coat clad ‘gentlemen’ who sweat and toiled to make certain scams successes and the unprecedented cover-up acts that followed.
Rupee depreciated, inflation rose above single-digit level, public debt increased, monetary policy had to be tightened and growth retarded dropping GDP index below 3; country driven back by decades.
Rupee depreciated, inflation rose above single-digit level, public debt increased, monetary policy had to be tightened and growth retarded dropping GDP index below 3; country driven back by decades
The writer who contributed with utmost confidence eight percent of his hard-earned emoluments of over 38 years to the safe custody of Big Bank’s EPF Fund, with high hopes of withdrawing the same with an added 12% by his employer plus interest from investments by custodians, for eking out a living after retirement, was shaken exactly five years ago when he learnt the traumatic news in the first week of March 2015. Further revelations (though yet to be officially confirmed) about the then ruling party’s chairman, a complete outsider, had access to a crucial meeting at its Singaporean governor’s office on the day before Black Day (for planning the crime?), along with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, the then Highways Minister Kabir Hashim, Treasury Secretary, where they agreed on the government’s necessity to raise Rs.15 billion. This strange and unprecedented occurrence of an outsider participating in the crucial CB meeting has left men in positions at fiscal authorities around the globe bemused. They were also taken aback with surprise after listening to subsequent statements made in Parliament by the then Prime Minister and others who wrote books, made ‘footnotes’ exonerating the directors and producers of the drama.
However, the findings by PCoI and various authorities including the five-volume report by forensic auditors on specific details of the tragic drama from the generation of idea to planning, writing the script, stage settings, rehearsals by live performers, who will use themselves or lifeless figures such as puppets; the time and place of performance, dramatic and non-dramatic roles played before an empty audience from 2005 to 2016 are alarming. Some of the main functions of the CB are to administer the country’s money and credit, set interest rates for commercial banks, print and issue currency, control inflation and regulate the activities of commercial banks.
The specific intricacies of the matters involved in this controversy cannot be discussed in a limited space of a newspaper article. Allegations of insider dealings, government’s slow approach, why the CB accepted at the auction an amount that was very much in excess (10 times) of the figure that had earlier been announced to PDs who would bid at the auction; the necessity to issue 30-year bonds instead of shorter terms are puzzling. An advertisement was published on February 25, 2015 offering bonds valued at Rs.1 billion, though the request by treasury to the Public Debt Department of the CB dated February 23 was for a funding of Rs.13 billion.
Reasons given by the then Superintendent of Public Debt was that when investors knew the government requirement was lofty, the offers would be at a higher rate of interest; therefore they intended to raise the balance Rs.12 billion through direct placements. The governor’s visit to PDD (which is out of bounds for him) on the 27th, asking the PDD to accept bids for Rs.20 billion, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent’s response objecting to his advice and Mahendran’s subsequent request to accept bids for Rs.10 billion enhances the claim for making February 27 a ‘historic’ day.
Furthermore, Perpetual Treasuries Ltd (PTL), the governor’s son-in-law headed primary dealer, receiving a huge loan of Rs.13 billion from Bank of Ceylon within minutes enabling them to bid for more than half of the total value of bonds sold and the day before the second tragic scam on March 29, 2016, the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake (according to the report by forensic auditors) summoning the Chairmen of Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank and National Savings Bank for an urgent meeting, where the minister advises the three banks to bid at low yield rates at the auctions scheduled to be held the very next day, assuring them that the Central Bank would not accept bids at higher rates, adds to the confusion.
The specific intricacies of the matters involved in this controversy cannot be discussed in a limited space of a newspaper article
The 1,257-page PCoI report (2015- 2016 scams) recommends action against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake under two vital counts; firstly under the Bribery and Corruption Act on his responsibility for the allegation regarding the payment of rent for an apartment by Walt and Rowe (belonging to the Aloysius family); two, further legal action against ex-minister Karunanayake for giving false evidence at the commission.
The thieves of our savings in the EPF would go scot-free; corrupt politicians who shared the loot and those who helped cover up are planning to go before people in two months time for an extension of their terms in Parliament. President Sirisena who concealed the COPE report prepared by the then COPE Chairman Dew Gunasekera MP by dissolving Parliament the day before it was scheduled to be presented in August 2015 to help the scammers in Parliament currently holds chairmanship of the most powerful political alliance in the island. Political crooks in all parties who received contributions for the 2015 election campaign out of this scandal were honoured with Cabinet portfolios as deputies, non-Cabinet ministers and as party general secretaries after the August 2015 elections. Rogues will continue to enjoy life with their kith and kin using ill-gotten wealth until the day the voter will decide their destiny.
The President has already laid the foundation. Laws and regulations, institutions are not allowed to be undermined by the interference of scrupulous political elements, undoubtedly a major achievement of the new government under Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Authorities must be more responsive to public anxieties and disapprovals for successful arrests of the culture of corruption entrenched in our society. All individuals whose names are being revealed in the PCoI and forensic reports should resign from all positions presently held in political parties and State institutions until they are fully exonerated at a respected judicial forum. Party leaders have a sacred duty when considering their applications for nominations for the forthcoming general election. Can they do it? Some of the leaders themselves are in it.
Rogues will continue to enjoy life with their kith and kin using ill-gotten wealth until the day the voter will decide their destiny
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