21 July, 2018

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Citizens’ Justice For The Mother Of All Scams

By Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

There is now little doubt that a scam has been perpetrated with no remorse on Sri Lanka as a whole, by those who were meant to protect its financial integrity. The scam was pulled not once, but twice, within a few months. Incredibly, the second one took place after a Parliamentary committee had established that an unprecedented fraud had taken place and several irregularities that enabled it were identified.

From the many reports in the media, the massive swindle has resulted in a loss to the government of Sri Lanka (read the collective wealth of its citizens) of at least Rs. 11 billion, just for a start. And all this took place in the most sacred precincts of the Central Bank, allegedly at the hands of its guardians.

Thanks to some diligent media interest, on most evenings one got details of how the scam was carried out, as investigations revealed an astounding lack of ethical restraint and shocking disregard for the ordinary citizens who would eventually pay for what was essentially a colossal bank heist. The outrage of the presenters of the evening news as the Presidential Commission report was released was palpable as they hosted a special segment dedicated to this misdemeanor.

The consequences of the whole sorry affair fell on the heads of the innocent citizens, much like the stinking garbage mountain of Meetotamulla, burying them under increased interest rates, the falling value of the rupee, increased cost of staples, more government loans, and a loss of faith in the Parliamentarians who could not credibly explain their own shameful involvement in it.

In a brilliant deconstruction just weeks after the first scam was carried out on the 27th of February 2015, an analysis of the fraud was posted on Groundviews by Prof. Sam Samarasinghe and Dushyantha Mendis. Their analysis is clear enough for an amateur to understand the irregularities. Through the various in-depth analyses on TV and in the newspapers, it has become clear to regular citizens that the country and its people have been robbed by sophisticated financial maneuvers thought to be beyond discovery due to their complexity. It has come to light only due to the courage and integrity of a few officials, a relentless media, concerned citizens, and some Parliamentarians.

The story started with the Central Bank, presumably after due consideration of its experienced officials, offering the figure of 1 billion in Bonds, the lowest offered in the last 6 auctions. The story ends with The Central Bank accepting 10 times its own original offer, at high interest rates, for a thirty year period, to the unprecedented and vast benefit of some of the dealers and a proportionate and enormously excessive cost to the country. According to the Presidential Commission, crimes have been committed and it recommends criminal proceedings against several of the actors involved including the Finance Minister at the time.

That the President chose to address the nation on the day the report of the Presidential Commission was handed over, shows that this was a scam of monstrous scale, in a country that has not been short of them. It is an indelible slur on the slogan on which this government was elected to power. It discredits the very notion of ‘Yahapalanaya’ or ‘good governance’ which will forever be associated with ‘Bondscam’ in the minds of the people. 

It is incomprehensible how some officials could go along with suggestions that were so enormously detrimental to the welfare of the people on a scale and in a manner that had never been attempted even in South Asia where corruption is endemic. How could they do this to their own country and its people?

This brings us to the observation that the Governor of the Central Bank was not a citizen of this country, and couldn’t be expected to restrain himself on account of patriotism. This makes those involved at all levels who are in fact citizens, a callous group who would use their expertise and their privileged positions to wittingly burden their country and citizenry with long term financial difficulties instead of relieving those burdens.

How is it even possible not to consider the consequences to the people already struggling to survive, who are now burdened much more? How is it that reducing the people’s burden was not an overriding consideration not only for politicians who thrive on their support but for the officials who are in positions of power to do so?

Obviously a country cannot rely on the integrity of its politicians nor that of its officials. That is why there are systems in place to prevent fraud. It is now clear that in the one place that should be double locked, doors and windows have been left open for theft.

Since the risk is as high as has now been demonstrated, an urgent task has to be the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Commission to improve the system of controls at the Central Bank, ensuring its independence, and to introduce similar measures at the other government institutions that have been implicated. For a start, it might be prudent to legislate that the Central Bank’s top official should be a citizen or dual citizen (which is the same thing) of Sri Lanka.

Perhaps it is providential that an election is at hand, and the people will have an opportunity to respond. There is something right with a country that ensured that such a scam could not be conducted completely in the dark. The retired senior officials who sounded the alarm, those courageous officials who refused to go along, the whistleblowers who risked very real danger to their lives, the decision of the President to appoint the Commission, the outstanding personnel of the Attorney General’s Department who were part of the Commission, a lively media with a social conscience, and some dogged politicians and concerned citizens, brought it out into the full glare of an incredulous but grateful public.

The angry TV presenters of one of the media houses showed their outrage at the extent of the loss that resulted to the country by immediately recounting the unconscionable plight, 70 years after Independence, of school children studying under trees, villages without clean drinking water, desperate farmers without irrigation, and communities isolated for lack of roads that they had encountered during their programs, all of which could have been addressed with the money that was lost to the country. This is in addition to the direct losses to the EPF and Mahapola fund. Their anger is our hope.

These educated professionals, mostly young, are refusing to countenance the contempt displayed by this and other such corrupt practices by a political elite without pity or mercy for the citizens who entrust to them the care of the country and their welfare by voting them into parliament.

The voters who are tempted to stay at home through disappointment, should make the effort to go out and have their say, for in those people who showed courage and integrity, there lies a glimmer of hope. This is a chance to show moral revulsion and administer citizens’ justice to those who tried a scam so monumental and morally offensive, and nearly got away with it.

*The writer was member of the team that applied the Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory framework at GlaxoSmithKline, London, in the aftermath of the Enron scandal.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    You should study what MR CLEAN MAN RANIL had said at different places during this scam. It looks he is simply a Sociopath – LIAR. He is shameless and carries on. Investigation by experienced judges have determined that the whole gang was con-men. Some say it is only the courts that decides it. They do not want to understand these people went infront of the judges with a gangs of lawyers,. LAwyers invovled every where in the process. that involves writing the COPE report. did you watch how HArsha de Silva shook his head for signing the COPE report. He said that it was a joke probably the Mafia boss wanted him to do.

    • 3
      1

      Sanja’

      Thanks for the impartiality and the objectivity. It’s a great read.

      Keep up the good work! …….looking forward to many more……………….

      • 3
        0

        Ooh, what humility and modesty from Sanja! [Edited out]

  • 7
    2

    This has been going on from 2008, what was writter doing during Rajapakse period. What was the writer doing When Rajapakse Family was robbing in Billions. According to Commission report Arujun Aloysius doing this even before 2015. who was the beneficiaries. There were central bank governors. Why selective. Was this writter travellung around the globe for the sake of Rajapakse. Surely this scam has been goung on from 2008. This need to be looked into. Culprits both current and old. but the fact of the matter is Rajapakse supporters trying to make it out they were saints these are the Satan. For Satanic deeds both are same.

    • 4
      0

      One relief we have is that these scams are being investigated and hopefully perpetrators brought to book unlike before when whistle blowers simply disappeared, taken away in white vans.

    • 1
      2

      Raja you are deliberately making false statements here. No where in the report did the Commission say that the scam was going on before 2015. Perpetual trustees commenced business only in 2014. Are you suggesting that they started business with a scam. Your comment typical of the LTTE/UNP falsehoods being spread.

  • 3
    0

    Maithripala Sisena’s govt is corrupt. He is lieing to people saying he would use his Sword. In order to remove from politics why courts are needed. MY3 appointed even people discarded. So, it is a corrupt govt from the beginning. voters, in another month or so, go for another round of cheating to elect a new gang of the same. Where I am living the attendance is some times about 35%.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 5
    0

    Sanja
    The spam was big – how big we may get to know at a later stage.
    “Mother of all spams?” How are you so sure? There are spams which had priceless human lives.
    Your last paragraph says it all. There is no doubt as to what you want us to do.
    .
    Do you realise that the Lankan politics has evolved into a pathetic state? The choice is between bad and bad. If there is a knock on your door, do we open or hide? Is the door then smashed up? The infamous white-vans? Contract killing police? Disappearances of media persons?
    Food for thought Sanja.

  • 4
    0

    I agree entirely with Ms. Jayatilleke: these people have no remorse, no concern for the nation and its vulnerable people, not concerned about the health, poverty, education etc of the common man/woman. They ONLY seek their own personal benefits. I wish someone will write a sensible essay on the slide that happened app. ten years after Independence. When you take the ordinary politician, except for a small minority, they are all mostly und=educated and come from poverty stricken background. I see that in the upcoming Local Government elections, there are some mind-boggling number who have filed their nomination papers. In terms of per capita, I think that we have the largest number of politicians of various levels to “serve” us !!!

  • 0
    0

    Ms. Jayatilleke, why dont we push for the Sarbanes Oxley Regulatory measures or something similar in Sri Lanka?!

    • 7
      1

      K. Soysa,
      Perhaps you don’t know that this very voluble Sanja is Dr. DJ’s current wife?
      Aren’t you asking for feathers from a tortoise, asking her to implement Sarbanes Oxley in Sri Lanka?
      These are the very people who pillaged the country for a decade.
      She talks about ” angry media reports” on this “mother of all scams”, but fails to identify it as the Sirasa network, which uses her husband to push Killi Maharajah’s ideas of good governance.

      • 1
        0

        oldcodger

        “She talks about ” angry media reports” on this “mother of all scams”, but fails to identify it as the “

        Please bear with me. Are you saying Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka is the mother of all hypocrisy, selective amnesia,……..

        The “victim’s” wife of public sacking and accused of working for NGO as if it is a criminal enterprise by mother/father of all crooks and war criminals, a double whammy of sort.

        If you were him would you still volunteer to help the criminal fraternity in anyway possible to get elected to top offices in this island?

        “Perhaps you don’t know that this very voluble Sanja is Dr. DJ’s current wife?”

        Are you saying previously he had a few wives? If true blame the victims.

        Don’t blame the clan if ever it manages to establish a fascist state. Blame the voters particularly and the official/unofficial b***s carriers.

        How is the New Year for you?
        Where is KASmaalam K A Sumanasekere?
        Have you noticed close similarity between Ambassador Bandula Jayasekara’s typing/uttering and the KASmaalam’s?

      • 1
        0

        Mr. Codger, the very FACT that Sanja is connected to the big wigs is all the more reason that these fool-proof rules and regulations must be implemented. We have the Finance Act and the Administrative Regulations in place but still, these adventurous and enterprising men and women find ways to circumvent these laws. Still, like the recently implemented regulations in countries like Venezuela and some African States, SOMETHING must be done.

        She was a member of that committee that studied the Enron scandal (so she says) This act is fool-proof to the extent that no Western nation can and will allow funds to be banked in their banks, unless supported by Due Diligence documents. I also believe that even M.E. banks can be held accountable. These details and process need to be checked.

        • 1
          0

          Mr. K Soysa,
          Do you really believe that ANY legal framework will work in this country? There are laws against murder , but how many people were killed by the forces in 1989 for example? There are laws against corruption, but even Maithripala Sirisena has fired the chaiman of the commission.
          Legal frameworks will work only in a truly democratic country, not a feudal serfdom disguised as one.

  • 1
    0

    Is it that De Silva is referring the Justice Citizens who delivered their judgement for the Old Royals in their mass looting and genocide killing, in 2015, one after other, January and September, two times in one year?
    can’t you see the crowd whom the Justice Citizen hired to hang the criminals has become “Arjuna to Dhuronaachariyar. (The disciple who beat the guru in the art he learned from his guru- thus Yahapalanaya has beaten the Chitanta). So is that now Ranil has capacity to teach Old Royals when in the local election, the Justice Citizens hire Old Royals to hand Ranil?

  • 1
    0

    This is Srilanka ! The whole of the country is a Generous Meethotumulla
    where the rulers are Garbage collectors who are in the nick for decades
    now ! Investments through Garments manufacturing flooded in a manner
    history had never seen since independence, under JRJ . Politicians
    distributed the textile Qotas among themselves and their henchmen and
    opened factories everywhere with bank loans up to Rs forty million for a
    project , backed by politicians ! President of the time , prime minister or
    other minsters led openings and I was at an opening attended by Ranil
    as the chief guest and the owner of the factory today is a deputy minister.
    My point is , plundering public money on various projects has been a deep
    rooted and unstoppable practice in the country that is now progressed into
    this scale with this much of courage and indescribable level of confidence
    to escape ! How long will the heat last ? LG poll is an opportunity for the
    villager and the urbans to at least avenge their looters but will this happen ?
    Looters are the garbage collectors who plan to turn garbage into some
    utility ! And looters also have already found an escape route by trivialising
    the effects of a negative result .For them this is JUST local governance !
    If by any chance the result is not so bad , then that would be a public opinion
    poll for them .

    • 1
      0

      WW.
      v good and v appropriate.
      Looks like the looting will persist, mostly undetected.
      ? the country’s fate. Sad.

  • 0
    0

    Shooting the messenger is the classic Sri Lankan thing to do. Who the writer sleeps with is not really anyone’s concern. Her writing is reflective of some of the facts in this fiasco, maybe not all of it. Still, a scam of monumental magnitude was perpetrated on the people of Sri Lanka, by those elected by them. The President and the Prime Minister bear total responsibility and in another honest democracy like Norway, they would have all resigned and gone home.

    In Sri Lanka however, they will never to do such an act of self analysis and guess what! Who is waiting in the wings to take over…..the Rajapakses!

    Did Gamini, Lalith or Premedasa ever get to enjoy the millions pilfered through the massive programmes of the 77 -86 UNP administrations? No! Why any one the current miscreants can never learn from history, is the lesson we all are failing to learn also.

  • 0
    0

    Mother of all Scams or Mother In Law of all scams?

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