20 October, 2020

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Anti-Corruption “Band Wagon”

By Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

These days almost all the media outlets in Sri Lanka are up in arms about the alleged corrupt activity performed by none other than the former Foreign and Lotteries Board Minister, Mr. Ravi Karunanayake. Numerous TV programmes, news headlines, editorials in the newspapers, and articles written by academics and others focus their attention on this alleged illegal activity carried out by one of the powerful ministers in the “Yahapalanaya” government.

Why are we surprised about this story? Why are we raising our voices, giving our opinions, and condemning Ravi K. about this dirty business which is practiced by most of our elected representatives? Are we witnessing an “abnormal” activity carried out by one of our top politicians? Haven’t we heard of such stories in the past? Have these politicians got any moral shame and moral fear for these disgraceful activities? Don’t they find some excuses, and lies to justify their repeated unforgivable corrupt activities? Once they get caught they resign (not all) claiming that they have done the “honourable” thing! Then a few months later they get reappointed as Ministers or Advisers to the government with all the perks and benefits. After Ravi. K’s alleged corruption charges, the public is dismayed by the hypocritical behaviour of most politicians of the last regime who have allegedly ransacked the public funds. The way they speak in public about dishonest and fraudulent conduct of the members of the present regime is laughable. 

Previous Regime & “Joint Opposition”

It is in the public arena that most of the Ministers and MPs from the previous regime and the so called “Joint Opposition” are being investigated for alleged inappropriate use of public funds, fraud, and criminal activities. During the last regime, the alleged fraudulent and corrupt activities were part and parcel of their daily life. No actions were taken against these alleged fraudsters because of their relationship with the leader and his henchmen. Let us refresh our memories about some of the ongoing cases, cover ups and charges against the members of the previous regime and their relatives. Some of these cases can be summarised as follows:

  • COPE Reports under Mr. DEW Gunasekera

COPE Interim Report 2013 – The three biggest losers, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Mihin Air and Ceylon Fisheries Corporation (CFC) accumulated losses amounting to Rs 9.7 billion during 2013. 

COPE 2014 – The COPE report listed a series of major transactions with inadequate accountability. 

No investigations were conducted to find out how they lost so many billions of public funds and why there were inadequate accountability.

Is it fair and reasonable to assume that the public funds had been mis-used for personal gains? 

  • Avant-Garde Case – Alleged Rs.11.4 billion unlawful loss to the government. 

Case Ongoing against former Defense Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse & others.

  • Divi Neguma Case – Alleged misappropriating Rs.36.5 million of Divi Neguma funds. 

Case Ongoing against former Economic Development Minister Mr. Basil Rajapakse & another.

  • Money Laundering – Alleged involvement in money laundering amounting to Rs.45 million. Investigations Ongoing against Mr. Namal Rajapakse MP
  • Distributing “Sil” Clothes Case – Alleged wrongfully spending Rs. 600 million from Telecommunication Regulation Commission   during presidential election. Case Ongoing against former Secretary to the Ex-President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse & another
  • Sathosa Case – Alleged loss of Rs.50 million of public funds for deploying 150 Sathosa employees for political activities.

Case Ongoing against former Minister Johnston Fernando and others.

  • Purchase of a House – Alleged illegally acquired Rs.27 million to purchase a house in Colombo.  Case Ongoing against former Sports Minister Mr. Mahindananda Aluthgamage.
  • Threatening and Demanding Money – Alleged threatening and demanding Rs.64 million from a businessman.  Case Ongoing against Mr. Prasanna Ranatunge & others.
  • Laundering Black Money – Alleged Rs.521 million ill-gotten money to purchase land. Case Ongoing against Mr. Yositha Rajapakse & his grandmother.
  • Fraudulent Share Transaction – Allegedly misappropriating Rs.21 million share transactions. Case Ongoing against Mr. Udaya Gammanpila MP & another.
  • SLTB Bribery Case – Allegedly causing Rs.3.2 million losses of public funds to pay the Deputy Chairman as his salary and other benefits. Case Ongoing against former Transport Minister Mr. Kumara Welgama.

The above is a small number of cases which are being investigated and filed charges against the former Ministers and MPs of the previous regime and their close relatives. Reports indicate that nearly 100 of such cases are being investigated.

According to the press reports during the presidential election campaign, one of the former SLFP ministers who is now a powerful member of the “Joint Opposition” had publicly stated “The Government is ours, the army is ours, the police are ours, therefore it is according to what we want that this election is conducted”. Was the former Minister indirectly indicating that the public funds were also their property and hence they could do whatever they would like to do without any checks and balances or accountability?

So, why the “Big Fuss” over Ravi K.’s alleged corruption charges? It appears that this alleged corruption charge against Ravi K. is no better or worse than the ongoing alleged corruption cases against the members of the previous regime.

“Yahapalanaya”

The Hon. President Mr. Maithreepala Sirisena and the Hon. Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe came to power about 2½ years ago promising to eradicate corruption in the government sector and apply the rule of law impartially for such violations committed by anyone irrespective of their political affiliations. The public were also assured that the “Yahapalanaya” government would investigate and prosecute the alleged fraudsters of the previous regime who ransacked the public funds for personal gains. But the reality which we are experiencing today is very much different to the promises given by the Hon. President and the Hon. Prime Minister during the election campaign.

It appears that the Hon. President is unable to exercise his authority against some of the SLFP Ministers in the current regime appointed by himself, for alleged corruption charges during their involvement with the previous regime. The public has not forgotten the revealing statement made by a former SLFP Minister during the Presidential election campaign in November 2014. According to the press reports (the Daily Mirror and Colombo Telegraph in November 2014), the former Minister supporting the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse had said that the UPFA members had amassed dirty lucre as much as they needed and as such there is no need for them to continue the plundering. Accordingly, he had appealed to the voters not to defeat the former President by voting for Mr. Maithreepala Sirisena. It is ironic that the former SLFP Minister has been appointed as a powerful Minister in the “Yahapalanaya” government by the Hon. President.

Though the disgraceful activities of the previous regime as described by the former Minister are illegal, it appears that there is an element of truth in his statement when one reflects on the allegations against the members of the “Yahapalanaya” government.

Though the alleged corruption charges under Maithree / Ranil regime are comparatively less than the previous regime, the alleged mis-use of public funds and protection of culprits by some members of the “Yahapalanaya” are disgraceful and totally unacceptable. The protectors of the culprits and the “dealers” should be exposed and they should be brought to face justice as soon as possible. The allegations against some members of the current regime can be summarized as follows:

  • Treasury Bond Scam – Alleged malpractices in the Issuance of Treasury Bonds during 2015/16 causing approximately Rs. 10 Billion losses to the Sri Lankan Government over a 30-year period. The accused former Governor of the Central Bank was appointed by the present Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. Case Ongoing.
  • Penthouse Rental Charges – Alleged payment of approx. Rs.9 million paid by a private company called Walter and Rowe (Director Arjun Aloysius who is allegedly involved in the Bond Scam) on behalf of the former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake as rental charges for a super luxury apartment. Case Ongoing
  • Weliamuna Inquiry – Reports indicate that more than 2 years ago Rs.3.5 million public funds had been paid by the “Yahapalanaya” for the Sri Lankan Airlines Welimuna Inquiry which revealed shocking details of corruption causing billion of rupees loss to the Sri Lankan Airlines.  Any Actions by the “Yahapalanaya”?
  • Tender Irregularities – It is alleged that there are number of tender irregularities still taking place after 2½ years of “Yahapalanaya” administration. The Hon. President’s own words were more than 50% of Sri Lanka’s public contracts were tainted by bribery and corruption. President said that he knew the people who were involved in this dirty business but he was unable to reveal the names. Why protect these fraudsters from prosecution?
  • Protecting the FraudstersIt is alleged that powerful ministers in the current regime who have strong ties with some of the accused members of the previous regime, are protecting the alleged swindlers by “doing deals” with them. It appears that the Ministry of Justice does not show any urgency to bring these alleged culprits to face justice. Are the “dealers” destroying our democracy?

  Anit-Corruption “Band Waggon”

It appears that most of the alleged fraudsters from the previous regime and the current administration are being protected by the responsible politicians in the “Yahapalanaya” because of the Party Politics, Social Class, “Old School Tie”, and Wheeling & Dealing. What we are witnessing today is nothing but a bunch of politicians from the previous and current administrations who have allegedly plundered the public money for personal gains are pretending to be the “Champions” of the Anti-Corruption movement in Sri Lanka for political gains. Most of these politicians who have jumped into the Anti-Corruption “Band Wagon” have lost their self-respect and moral dread. It reminds me of the famous Sinhala saying that ලැජ්ජා නැතිකම මහමුදලි කමටත් වැඩිය ලොකුයිලු” (“Being shameless is worse than getting the post of the Chief Mudaliyar”). 

I conclude this brief article with the following stanzas from Dhammapada:

Easy is the life of a shameless one

who is as impudent as a crow,

back-biting and presumptuous,

arrogant and corrupt.  (Mala Vagga. 244)

Hard is the life of a modest one

whoever seeks purity,

is detached and humble,

clean in life and reflective. (Mala Vagga 245)

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    [Edited out] Comments should not exceed 300 words. Please read our Comments Policy for further details.

    • 2
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      The biggest issue is that during the last 10 years mega projects were undertaken by MARA with borrowed money without proper financial and social impact feasibility. In addition the govt has no clue about the value of assets acquired during this period at Central Govt level and then at Provincial level and with Corporations and SoEs. Also need to identify what was spent for recurrent expenditure and any difference is the money stolen. This can be easily done since we know our borrowings during this period since the lenders are demanding repayment.

      At present UNP politicians are shouting without any facts. They must first collect data and then go behind MARA clan and file charges which is simple.

      Without doing this exercise MARA cannot be held accountable.

  • 1
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    Who is this dude?………None of the above don’t come even close to the Heist at the CB……..Where poor EPF members gave Alousious their hard earned life savings at 4 to 6 % interest ……And bought it back after paying 25 LKR extra for each LKR 100 they lent Aloysious……. Aloysious paid USD 1.4 Million for the Monarch Apartment ………All with real Cash, couriered in Jute bags…….And had enough left overs to buy the Mendis Special Plant, TV Station and a whole host of other valuable assets……..Aloysious has bought Apartments and Lands for a few Yahapalana Ministers but in the name of their sisters, aunties and even in mothers in law…..Yahapalana Doctor Ranil can,t sell those assets Can he, like what he is doing to Mattala Magamapura Lanka Hospital and even Sathosa………UNP Kewattas can’t do maths I guess…………….

    • 6
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      KAS,
      The writer has quite rightly highlighted the alleged corruption charges against the members of the previous regime and the “Yahapalanaya”. He has indicated that the Anti-Corruption “Band Wagon” has been hijacked by the corrupt politicians.
      Your problem is that you don’t see both sides of the coin because you blindly support the Joint Opposition.
      Have a good day!

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        Mate……Politics is dirty business even in so called first world……..I can name a few aundering where Government Ministers have been put in the slammer for eating jarawa ( taking bribes)……..But in poor countries like ours. the Ministers and MPs at all levels of Government take it to a new level……..World Best Treasurer who was brought in to give Yahapalanaya not only took the money but Dry Cleaned it too, and boasted in Parliament how good he is ……And kept all his perks after getting the sack….. And was seen in the good company of the Yhapalana PM Dr Ranil as late as Yesterday………JO dudes did eat Jarawa too… But it looks like they were feeding on left overs from the plates left by Yahapalana Ministers , after they did Fine Dining ..at Aloysious and Mahendran class Restaurants……………

  • 3
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    Only avenue left for Sri Lankan public to vent their frustration and anger is to make a noise because they know law does not apply to corrupt politicians and rich and power full same as to general public. Majority of the general public with very low anticipation vote to change the government during elections knowing full well power will change from one set of unprincipled dishonest greedy self-enriching lot to another identical lot of clones.
    But what choice have they when President, Prime minister , Ministers, RB Governor, Attorney General, Custom’s head, Government department heads and family members and friends of politician’s are been indicated on numerous crimes from Murders, theft, sexual crimes looting of public money without any meaning full conviction.
    Only thing left is to make a noise to the deaf.

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    You write: “Treasury Bond Scam – Alleged malpractices in the Issuance of Treasury Bonds during 2015/16 causing approximately Rs. 10 Billion losses to the Sri Lankan Government over a 30-year period.”
    The current State minister of Finance, Mr. Yapa Abeywardena (an ex- bank executive) has clearly calculated the loss would be over Rs. 1 trillion (Rs. 1000 billions) over a 30 year period. It’s now considered to be the biggest scam in Sri Lanka’s financial/Banking history.
    Mr. Jayaweera, are you trying to whitewash the Yahapalana crooks by underlining, highlighting, and giving us wrong statistics? Your tone and allocation of space for certain ‘issues’ in this article also raises some suspicion!
    Did you hear what Wasantha Samarasinghe (JVP) revealed today at a press conference? He said that the entire footnote clique that went against the COPE report has allegedly received Rs. 150-200 million each from the Central Bank loot. This has been said to him by none other than Ranjan Ramanayake who was also tried to be bribed by scammers. I hope Minister Ranjan R will provide some clarification shortly.

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    No doubt the “Anti Corruption Band Wagon” has been very active in bringing in a huge momentum to expose and initiate action on some of the cases that the people have been discussing for a long period of time. Today, we are informed why some of those and very many cases are not moving either expeditiously or in the right direction. Among very many reasons are the “Lack of Resources” provided to the Law Enforcement; ” Lack of Commitment” on the part of the Authorities; “Negligence” in evolving system changes/adjustments within the existing mechanisms etc..etc… These matters have now been “exposed” by the concerned elected representatives of both the major political parties of the Government. Even as of 18th August, if you had seen the “Satana 30 Minutes” political discussion aired by Sirasa, you would have noticed one of a Junior Minister of the UNP directly accusing the Minister of Justice and making him solely responsible for the “Near” brake down of the investigations and the long delays of cases already filed. Interestingly, this Deputy Minister, Mr. Ajith Perera went on to inform haw this matter was discussed at the respective Party Working Committee at which meeting the Prime Minister was present and there was not a “Single” who came forward to speak on behalf of the “Accused” Minister. So now we KNOW, why, and how these cases of corruption and crimes have been proceeding at snail speed OR even SHELVED and WHO is RESPONSIBLE. It appears that there has been a “BANDICOOT” living to “Eat” the plantation germinated by the “Anti Corruption Band Wagon”. What do we do now and HOW do we proceed?

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      Dear Douglas,
      Thank you very much for your valuable comments which I have read with interest. As you have correctly stated that the people have been discussing these disgraceful activities for a long period of time (nearly 40 years!). Now the problem is the anti-corruption band waggon has been hi-jacked by the corruptors. You have raised two very good questions. “WHAT do we do now and HOW do we proceed?”. Sir, I have no answers to your questions other than to say that we have to” GRIN and BEAR” it.
      Best Wishes.

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    The big “fuss” about Ravi K’s alleged corruption was that unlike most of the political crooks, Ravi was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
    As for the alleged part, its obvious that it was in the least, a serious conflict of interest punishable by a firing. Being the upstanding citizen he is/was, Ravi K threw his wife and daughter under the bus.

    Worse than the scam was Batalanda Ranil claiming credit for a “new culture”. Really? Quitting a week after getting busted is considered a “new culture”. Even the most ardent Ranil/UNP fans have to admit that Mahendran couldnt have done it without the explicit approval of RW who has conferred himself with the “Mr. Clean” title. How about “Mr. Clean” telling us how they got the money for the 2015 elections?

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    With all corruptions, murders, rape of women what not….. during the last regime, what would have been the situation in the country, if MR came to power again? No one talks about it and the ordinary people who still go behind this lot should have been educated about this would be disastrous situation to which was fortunately stopped on January 8, 2015.

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      B.S. Perera: NOt only MR every one who could steal, steal from the public. NOw, the question is they, those thieves, among themselves hijacked the whole process. All the politicians are silent. In some comments Ajith Perera is praised. In that 6.2 million votes celebration at viharamaha devi park, ajith Perera also talked very promising. Yet, newspapers say those two anti-corruption crusaders ajith Perera and Sena wijesinghe also got houses from Perpetual Treasruies. It is no point of talking about Rajapakses, Jackal Opposition. they had stolen public properties. Extra illegal weapons in Avant guard ship is a useless case against gotabaya Rajapakse.

  • 4
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    Dear Mr Gamini Jayaweera: Thank you for the response. Please do not give up. It is a defeat to “GRIN” and “BEAR”. This country needs the services of people of you caliber and strength. With the fall of the MR REGIME and the incoming of the “PSEUDO YAHAPALANAYA”, we have been able to correctly identify the “POLITICAL ROGUES”( not excluding the “NGO NADE”) of both sides who have ruined this country, economically, socially and politically, during the last last few decades. Don’t you think that itself is a WIN? Now we have found answers to “WHO”, “WHY” and “WHAT” for all the MISERY that has fallen on the country and the people. Yes, your are absolutely correct – We can “GRIN” at that those FINDINGS. The time is NOW ripe to give up to “BEAR” or “Live with it” and evolve a complete SYSTEMIC OVERHAUL of the Governance of the country. We NEED two things to be done. (1) The PEOPLE of all walks of life must be RESURRECTED from being belonging to a SERFDOM of present day Politicians. (2) A vigorous SEARCH must be undertaken to identify the CORRECT TYPES of LEADERS who could be entrusted with the responsibility of Governing and in turn who would be made ANSWERABLE and ACCOUNTABLE. Of course, I do agree that these two factors need to be extensively discussed and debated; but don’t you think worth doing it for the sake of the future of the country and the people. We barely have two to three year time period to get engaged in this SEARCH and RESCUE operation. I know you CAN DO IT. Please do your part.

    NB: Your address to me as “Sir” is not acceptable. I am neither, nor intend to be “Sir” to anyone. Let us be colleagues engaged in a common struggle. Thank you.

  • 3
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    Gamini Jayaweera reflects the frustration of the vast majority of Lankans through the title “Anti-Corruption “Band Wagon”.
    No Sir, “The Anti-Corruption Chariot ” has just started to roll. We need more Gamini Jayaweeras, Nagananda Kodithuvakkus, Laksiris, Jehan Pereras (to name a few) to keep the chariot going.
    We had high hopes when we cast our votes on 08 January 2015. We expected the endemic corruption, nepotism and culture of impunity to be bridled. We were disappointed but there is a silver lining – we are able to speak our minds. This has now become a force which even white-vans cannot stop.
    The political power game is played between two major groups. The groups are able to horse-trade MPs. There is a case to illegalise MPs changing sides. This grabbing power at any cost must end.

  • 2
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    Thank You Mr Jayaweera for this Roll Call of Dishonourable Deeds that await resolution. As I read out this article to my driver, from the comfortable back seat of my cruising limousine, his only answer was a weary “they are all the same sir, no one will get caught”.

    My driver is right. There is a perverted honour among thieves and our political milieu does not forget this. Only the common man and woman will suffer, today and tomorrow, until we kick the buggers out. But where’o’where are the honest and capable people of this land to do the job?

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