It was expected that yesterday (Friday the thirteenth, no less) would be the final day for the commission probing the issuance of bonds by the Central Bank. We understand that there may well be a further two sittings before the end but certainly the CoI has neared the end of the road. All that is now left is for the report to be compiled – no easy task – given the some nine months’ worth of work the CoI has put in.
Under the collective watch of both Presidents Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa it may have been unthinkable that two nay three senior cabinet ministers would be summoned to a legal proceedings and answer questions. Even if this CoI is a fact finding mission. There was a fear psychosis under both these Presidents.
We must also acknowledge that the efforts of the CoI and their legal team from the Attorney General’s department has elicited great and grave detail of what has been described by Yasantha Kodagoda from the AG’s department, as ‘the greatest financial scam to affect the people of Sri Lanka since independence’.
Many including the perpetrators of the heist have breathed a collective sigh of relief. However the coming to the end of the CoI has meant that the public gaze will now shift towards the President of Sri Lanka who will be the recipient of the report.
President Sirisena perhaps would not have expected to be confronted with the depth of the information that has come to light. Under oath the most astonishing details have been uncovered. Most of the sums of monies involved runs into millions of rupees which contrasts sharply with the state of the economy where a coconut now sells at around Rs 100. That all time staple of modesty and a challenged personal finance base, of pol sambal and rice is in grave danger of becoming extinct with the masses greatly and gravely affected by the rising cost of living.
In that background information that reveals the amounts that have been expended in forms of bribes or inducements or donations has caused the public interest to have been completely aroused.
Over a given five month period, two dealers at the Employees Provident Fund are said to have received a staggering Rs 97 Million in what was described as a bribe.
The CEO of a company that has been accused of receiving privileged or price sensitive information is reported to have been paid a bonus of Rs 100 million.
The company itself has reported profits exceeding Rs 12 billion over three accounting periods.
Although a complaint has been lodged with the Bribery Commissioner many moons ago against Arjuna Mahendran, seemingly no action has thus far been initiated against him. Many questions have been raised as to why there are zero ravel restrictions in place and he is able to fly in and out at will.
The arrival of the top duo from the UNP – also the holders of senior cabinet positions – caused the expectation levels of an eager public to rise to new heights. The reality was a stark and cold difference. It was as though a ton of hot bricks had landed on the heads of the people of Sri Lanka.
The usually energetic Dappula De Livera who at times the Commissioners themselves appeared to have difficulty in reining in, was uncharacteristically silent. The public were left to their own devices to speculate quite why this was so and many posed a question as to whether the Attorney General’s representatives were under any form of instruction from those above to remain silent. It would also be relevant to note that the two ministers – Malik Samarawickrama and Kabeer Hashim – had been summoned not by the AG but by the Commissioners themselves. If there were nuances in that the public are yet to be enlightened on the subject.
There was one question which perhaps caused much of the country to revel in mirth: that was when they were asked if any person connected to Perpetual Treasuries and their wider group of businesses had donated or supported financially, the UNP coffers. No one seriously expected Malik or Kabeer to answer anything other than no. Their questioning in comparison to Ravi K was a walk in the park.
The fact is Sri Lanka has no laws relating to political fund raising or funding for that matter. The talk of the town in the café world of Colombo society was that several other politicians had been the beneficiaries of financial inducement but unfortunately there was a distinct lack of evidence in this respect. On the other hand had Mr Hashim and Mr Samarawickrama been asked if the party had received financial funding the answer would have had to have been an emphatic yes?
The people of Sri Lanka are therefore being forced into submission and into a line of thinking that the culprits in this swashbuckling transaction, has not donated, given or lent even a rupee towards the betterment of any party let alone the UNP.
At the end of the day when all is said and done and dutifully reported to the President, the one thing the public of this nation can take pride in will be the manner in which the Attorney General’s department conducted their assistance to the Commissioners throughout.
And the other fact of the matter is that in spite and despite all of the efforts put in place in pursuance of the truth, the whirlwind profits made by a select few at the expense of the many, is still very much on play.
It is shocking that Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy and the Commissioners at the Bribery Commission, have not taken any action against Arjuna Mahendran and his son-in-law. There is no law that dictates that a Commission must cease to exist before an indictment can be brought in. That is as different as chalk is to cheese.
All in all it is rather a cheesy affaire.