t is interesting to note that the much hyped report presented to the parliament by the Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Sunil Handunnetti on the controversial Central Bank bond issue has so many fathers. Also it is encouraging to note that the report was a unanimous one. It is more interesting to note that Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera had said that his party, the United National Party (UNP) had expected a tougher report than what has been presented in the Parliament.
This is Sri Lankan politics. The whole country knew as to what was going on in respect of the investigation on the bond issue which was making headlines for around twenty months since February last year, thanks to the media. Now, some of the leaders of the present government that made history by passing the “ninth best Right to Information Act in the world,” according to them,wanted to bridle the fourth estate, apparently being annoyed by the revelations of some dramatic events related to the COPE meetings. But, Deputy Minister Perera, taking a different stance on the media coverage on the controversy told during a brief interview with a television channel on October 30 that proceedings of the COPE meetings should be telecast live.
The unanimous COPE report accused that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran was directly responsible for the questionable bond transaction and called for legal action against all responsible persons. Mahendran was appointed by the present so-called government of good governance or commonly known as yahapalana government for the rest of the tenure of former Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Mr. Cabraal relinquished the post soon after President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to power in January last year. Hence, the new government also has to bear the moral responsibility for all what had happened in this regard.
It is ironic that the government which came to power mainly on two promises- bringing in democracy to the country and eradication of corruption - had to be accused of making way for one of the largest frauds in the country’s history. It is more ironic that it was accused so by none other than the leaders of the former regime who had been likened by the present leaders to Suharto of Indonesia, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, Mobutu SeseSeko of Zaire, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Alberto Fujimori of Peru.
Now the report is out. What’s next? We have had such reports in the past with revelations of plundering of mind-boggling amounts of public funds by the politicians and their henchmen. The best case in point was the report presented by former Chairman of COPE Wijedasa Rajapaksha in 2007 which revealed that 160 billion rupees had been defrauded by men with political backing from 22 public institutions. A similar amount had been plundered according to a report presented by a former Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) Rauff Hakeem. Unfortunately the culprits indicated by the two reports were let go scot free, probably due to the invisible links between the thieves and the powers that be during the time of the reports.
It was the political parties such as the JVP, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the joint opposition along with the civil society organizations that had to be credited for being vigilant of the bond issue and for keeping the issue live throughout the past twenty months which ultimately bore fruit. However, their whole exercise would be in vain if they relax their vigilance and push for the justice for the people whose hard earned money had been plundered.