Following is an open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by minority shareholder activist K.C. Vignarajah.
Congratulations, concerns and best wishes to uplift our motherland.
I have the honour and humility to address you on matters where I have decades of experience, expertise, enterprise and visionary zeal for the betterment of our beloved country and all humanity, through contributions to the creation of equitable socio-economic growth devoid of political bias. This comes naturally to me in the family tradition of:
Goodwill to all, malice to none,
The courage to always do the correct thing,
Fairness and equity in all thought, deed and expression.
Defend the defenceless, help the helpless;
Give voice to the voiceless and hope to those without it,
Service to fellow beings is the best form of service to God.
In the very short time of taking office, you and your team have toiled admirably, to give us much happiness, by your forthright declarations and actions. This is in the midst of huge devastation due to unprecedented monsoonal floods affecting most of our island.
Your team has also given us some welcome surprises, modifying some ideas held by them previously, considering the serious multifaceted crisis our country is facing. To err is human; to forgive (those who repent and reform) is divine.
You have inspired great activity: (a) cleaning the drains, roads and clearing garbage and restricting mosquito menace in a determined manner, (b) removed obstructions and encroachments, restored street lines, widened roads and (c) encouraged live fences and greenery for eco-friendly cities. Happily, these instilled discipline of public and private sector people doing their duty.
You made (d) surprise visits to key centres catering to our citizens. Good example – RMV, where highly-talented private and public manpower is wasted and the Economic Centre and CAA price control, where officials were not doing the duty. You (e) cut down costs, effecting savings of people’s money: number of vehicles, security/personal staff and advisors of ministers have been drastically reduced. They are transferred and put to more productive use. (We expect the corrupt will be weeded out expeditiously.)
Bravo, President – You have (i) banned the display of photographs of yourself/ministers at government departments/public places and similarly naming buildings, bridges and roads – huge cost savings and boost to the morale of our people who are sick of waste and of politico pompousness. You (ii) stopped the use of VIP/VVIP Lounge at BIA for all, except for foreign VIPs, stating that people are the bosses and all officials are the servants of the people. Seventy-two years ago, my father illustrated that even the Governor and top British officers signed letters to our people as “Your obedient servant”. You (iii) drastically reduced the Cabinet of Ministers to 16 and a reasonable number of state/deputy ministers – concerns about some appointees, presumably due to political compulsions. Please keep a ‘24-hour CCTV camera watch’ on them to inspire crucial public and investor confidence. (iv) Your wish to prevent persons with serious allegations of crime being candidates to become representatives of the people in Parliament, Provincial Councils and or any other representative bodies is laudable. This must become a reality ASAP along with the declaration of all assets and liabilities of all candidates at elections and key public servants.
Setting correct economic strategy and tone, your team recommended a moratorium on capital repayment, reducing and freezing interest for one year on SMEs. We earnestly feel that these should also apply to independent minority shareholders (IMS) to give a tremendous boost to decent investing public in the corporate sector as well, while curbing malicious controlling interests and related parties (CI&RP) of public listed companies (PLCs). The IMS should be protected from shareholder fatigue and crisis of confidence, depriving marketability, liquidity, good dividends, valuations, etc. created by CI&RP.
Your are determined not to tolerate any bribery/corruption whatsoever and appoint efficient persons who would uphold the country’s interest as the top priority.
You have recognised that in each sector there are the good, the bad, the ugly and even the evil. Your well-experienced Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera has duly advertised for EOIs from all who could contribute to energise the country’s development.
My slogan over many decades was to build an enterprise society (ES), which energised, enlightened, Creative, Competitive, Caring, Capitalism (ee4Cs), where human capital of experience, wisdom and skills play an important part, which shares the benefits of their enterprise with the wide spectrum of shareholders and stakeholders. ee4Cs is the better democratic socialism. Also ‘debilitate, destroy, Corrupt, Crony, Capitalism (dd3Cs)’, which brought our exotic country to its worst position from 72 years ago.
People’s participation in rapid socio-economic growth is best done through well-regulated, efficient, widely held PLCs in a free, fair stock market. It is an essential catalyst to create and maintain equitable, egalitarian, ES, which will also monitor and support all positive related activities. They should additionally be supplemented by good corporative movements, which enable different layers of wide enthusiastic participation.
I have been a good governance activist of private sector investments and a ‘mentor, monitor and moderator’ (MM&M) in regulatory matters in the public interest areas. This was in addition to creating enterprises as the pioneering professional of the apparel exports industry and foremost stimulator of supply chain ventures, management services and to export industry causing multiplier effect and enthusiasm.
I made a comprehensive case to consider all IMS, other than controlling interest and related party (CI&RP), to be treated as SMEs. They are equally affected by bad governance and economic mismanagement and should be offered the preferential interest rates and write off excess interest rates charged and moratorium on repayment of capital.
During the time of former CBSL Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal in 2014, the AWPLR was only 6.2 percent. IMS are very much involved in equity investments in enterprises, which will in turn bring the much-needed local and foreign investor confidence.
In 1948 – we were then second only to Japan in Asia, later in 1955, Singapore PM Lee Kwan Yew (LKY) “wanted Singapore to be like Sri Lanka in 25 years’ time – 1980”. However, in 1980, President JRJ requested “LKY” to create “a plan for Sri Lanka to be like Singapore in 25 years – by 2005”). LKY said after due study, this could not be done because of the rampant nepotism, discrimination, bribery and corruption.
Our so-called leaders flouted many laws and orderly conduct, by letting off VIP crooks arbitrarily. The government became a joke and the country was perceived to have become a failed state over the years. Former PM RW in 2014 claimed that majority in Parliament were uneducated, rogues, crooks, druggies and other criminals. Last month, people claimed he and his cronies had added to the misery and dismissed them.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) members have slept on duty and failed miserably. Strong action has to be taken against the officials who have perpetually delayed and thereby denied justice to public shareholders who risk their hard-earned money in ‘equity shares’, which promote desired equitable growth.
The outgoing Chairman Ranel T. Wijesinha (RTW) of the SEC had tried his best to motivate and restructure the SEC. We had pleaded with him to wake those who have been sleeping on duty, to perform their sacred duty by the trusting investing public.
The roles of independent directors, IMS to curb the controlling interests (CI), insider dealing, conflicts of interests (CoI), related party transactions (RPT), etc. I had referred to legal technicalities being the excuse by the SEC officials, ignoring the intention and substance of the laws of giving protection to the shareholders and investing public.
It was heartening to note that at a 1-1/2 hour discussion the undersigned had on August 2, 2019, with the SEC Chairman (RTW) and the directors of all the relevant divisions, RTW told them that I was correct on the matters I raised. He countered the officials who gave various excuses, stating that “some actions may be legal but harmful to the investors”. The wrongdoings of the CI have to be dealt with urgently.
Former Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy (Dr. IC), who acted honourably, did a splendid job within his limited independence. Both Dr. IC, RTW, former CJ Priyasad Dep, former SEC Chair Indrani Sugathadasa, among many others, need to be given suitable posts of independence to MM&M.
The choice of P.S.M. Charles as Governor of the Northern province is a good move. She has excelled in all her previous positions of high national priority – G.As, NTFC, Customs.
National reconciliation is of foremost importance, as the polarisation has been widened with all good professionals protesting the National Anthem being sung only in Sinhala, whereas it was in both languages in a politically lucid moment.
The National Anthem from time of independence until the divisive, ruinous ‘Sinhala Only’ policy had alternate verses in Sinhala and Tamil and there was much unity and sincerity in our pledge of loyalty to our country.
To strengthen your hand dealing with the enemy within, you must foster clean strong talented opposition leaders, like Sajith Premadasa, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne and Dinesh Weerakkody, with balanced views.
It is a tremendously critical time for greatly needed course correction – if the true potential of our country is to be realised.
K.C. Vignarajah – In the best interest of our country, its image, economy, investing public and IMS