By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
Sri Lanka badly needs at-least a Ministerial Code if not a code of conduct for all our Parliamentarians. Innocent citizens are unaware of what their elected representatives should practice as reasonable good ethical practices on their behalf. Politicians in our country are undivided when it comes to increasing of their perks – be it salaries or other benefits including pension privileges. But rather lethargic and indecisive when it comes to declarations involving policy and responsibilities. What we see as ‘happenings’ under good democratic governance elsewhere continue to remain as unfulfilled dreams. It is a pity such a situation prevails even under a so called good governance regime! All the more unpalatable after nearly seventy years of being masters of our own destiny.
Breaking news of the Panama leaks shook the whole world in April 2016. Focus was centered on several leading political figures in addition to giants in the corporate field. We witnessed the response of many in public life immediately following this information leak.
In order to complete the record a few names are mentioned below;
On 5th April 2016, ICELAND’s Prime Minister Sigmundur resigned his post when his name appeared,
Ukrainian Prime Minister resigned on 10th April, Industrial Minister of Spain relinquished his duties on 15th April.
Besides the political figures there were several others who resigned on moral grounds such as, Bert Meerstadt, ABN Amro Bank Board Member and FIFA ethics committee member JOHN, and the President of Transparency International Chile,
President Mugabe of Zimbabwe was forced to resign after impeachment on corruption and mismanagement were threatened,
Theresa May fired the one time first secretary of State and her minister for the Cabinet Office Damian Green over a PORN cover up incident.
Michael Fallon Britain’s Defence Secretary was forced to quit on accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him;
Priti Patel, another cabinet minister of Theresa May’s government was removed for holding unofficial meetings with Israeli government officials during a private holiday.
These are some of the recent actions to uphold democracy and good governance while history records other similar events such as, sudden resignation of Lebanon PM; Richard Nixon, US President who had to quit due to the Watergate scandal and the Japanese PM who resigned a few months after his election to power due to his failure to honour election promises.
Alas!, a pity what we experience today here in our country. Governors of Central Banks refused reappointments are made Prime Ministerial advisers. Ministers virtually sacked for unethical conduct are leading political campaigns with the party leaders and enjoy highly prestigious political patronage! They appear in public platforms too and criticize the performance of high profile officials in extremely vulnerable positions that account for the good image of the country such as Auditor generals’, Attorney Generals ‘ etc. etc. Then we have Ministers who when accused of corrupt deals with facts and figures come out and publicly declare they have huge bank balances and therefore no need for them to rob ! Who cares what they have, the people only want to safeguard public money being misused, wasted and robbed.
We are also witnessing strange interpretations which appear to vivify the morale of degraded comrades by some ministerial characters. Most recent is the statement made by a cabinet minister about the Prime Ministers’ responsibility in the Central bank bond scam. While no one is interested in pinning any responsibility to any one, there are several issues that demand scrutiny and clarification due to facts revealed in the public domain on related matters, in the overriding national Interest. The following issues require specific answers rather than conciliatory whitewashings.
1. Are the following actions viewed in retrospect justified?
- The statement made by the PM in parliament on 17th March 2015, where he maintained that CBSL Governor Arjuna Mahendran has not committed any wrong !
- The selection of Mahendran as a suitable person to hold the position of the Chairman of the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka,
a) While being a non-citizen of Sri Lanka who is not able to take the national oath of allegiance and loyalty.
b) With no proven acceptability for such a high post evaluated at a proper forum,
c) With no proven record of an unblemished previous background
d) Being a person connected/related to persons having dealings with the CBSL with a potential for future conflicts of interest and insider dealings or access to sensitive information,
- The contradictions yet to be clarified, about the additional excess amounts of funds made out as required immediately one day before the questionable bond auction of 27th February. Ravi Karunanayake under oath has stated a different amount and the former governor another amount while two cabinet ministers have stated yet a different position. What the PM stated in Parliament as the amount has not been corroborated by other evidence.
- The failure of the PM as the minister in charge of the CBSL to take adequate preventive measures after the 1st Bond scam was reported;
(I) Not sending Arjuna Mahendran at least on compulsory leave to facilitate the ongoing enquiries free of intervention /obstruction
(II) Not monitoring whether the son in law had divested himself of his interests in the primary dealer company licensed by the CBSL
(III) Failure to monitor whether similar events will be repeated as shown in the bond transactions of 29th march and 31st march 2016 in particular amidst the commotion already created.
(IV) Failure to obtain a report on the implementation mechanism and the resulting consequences of the directive given by him personally to the Governor to change the bond auction system
- As the person who recommended Arjuna Mahendran for this post will the PM take the responsibility for ensuring his presence in Sri Lanka for any future legal proceedings that may be required in pursuing the recommendations of the Bond Commission
- The huge loss that is caused is the result of Mahendran following the directive given by the PM to change the Auction system. Mahendran has acted negligently in not getting due approvals of the monetary board before implementing this directive. Who should take or share this responsibility?
- Should the PM take the responsibility for the huge losses made to the EPF and other captive funds as determined by the Commission as some of these funds were allocated to his ministry. (for the first time in the history of those funds)
- Should the Prime Minister take the responsibility for the state of affairs at the CBSL and the EPF since they were specially taken over to be under his ministry changing a long existing system and practice?
- The efforts made and the reported insistence by the PM to re- appoint Arjuna Mahendran as the central bank Governor after 2 Cope inquiries and one 3 man committee of inquiry revealed various questionable acts by him in his performance as the Governor
No doubt this is a serious matter. It leads to several consequences.
(I) The international image on
a) The financial management and monetary policy of the country
b) The prospects of foreign investment and investor confidence
c) The wrong message to donor agencies
d) The global outlook on the democratic functioning and good governance
(II) The political landscape of the country,
a) What is the message we are giving to the youth and future generations
b) How do we make people believe that we are respecting democracy and good governance
c) Will the people have any faith in the good governance promises given to them
d) Will it reflect as a correct action in trying to change into a Westminster Style of Govt.?
Whether the passing of the buck and the running away from the responsibility cause a severe damage to the good name of the UNP a long standing leading Democratic Party in the country is a matter that has to be viewed by the Party members seriously. Honorable acceptance of a responsibility for the lapses, negligence, unsavory decisions, and the huge losses caused to the country will help the world to get a message that ours is a clean country and people are respectable enough to accept responsibilities and so on. Even for the UNP it will be a relief to say that the party is now clean. After all new leaders have to emerge in critical moments. No party or country will sink by changing to a good leader but it may happen if the leadership is wrong.