By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
There are many things happening in the world relevant to the modern context of things happening here.
Plato wrote as given below:
“What is right is right and what’s wrong is wrong ………. What is fine, no doubt, is everywhere legislated as fine and what is shameful as shameful but not the shameful as fine or the fine as shameful”.
Politics is a dirty game. Why is it so categorized? Because it is a game mostly played by wicked players. These players have no heart or compassion for the large numbers who elevated them to the position. Those down trodden and oppressed majorities are paying a high price to watch the dirty game of politics. The electors’ expectations to free them from bondages and social miseries are shattered by the nefarious political game players. Politicians are not only failing to deliver the goodies but they are far distancing them from the basic ethics and moralities the public demand from them.
In such a scenario we are compelled to look elsewhere to at least find out whether things are the same everywhere. To our great consolation, there are instances which we can site as exceptional cases of good political leadership influencing ethical conduct.
Photo courtesy Ishara Kodikara and Facebook Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka
The recently elected French President Macron has insisted that his ministers must be morally irreproachable. His commitment in this regard has been so well acknowledged that he has been nicknamed “Jupiter” comparing him to the all-powerful Roman God of heaven and earth who embodies a sense of morality and the obligation of duty to correct behavior.
Four of his newly appointed cabinet ministers including a President of his powerful coalition partner from Mo-Dem party resigned their ministerial portfolios due to allegations of corruption. Bayrou, President of the coalition ally said before resignation to a press briefing, “that he had been the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign but decided to stand down to prevent the government being exposed to controversy”.
The ruling party declared that their departure has “simplified the situation”. No doubt the step was a relief to all concerned and the country at large. Some of the members of the party of the resigned ministers are at the center of an inquiry into misuse of funds from the European Union.
The Anti-Corruption Police is conducting investigations into allegations of “breach of trust and concealment of the offence”.
In Pakistan President Nawaz Sheriff stepped down when the Supreme Court ordered to remove him from office over allegations of corruption. Accusations against him were mainly based on the famous “Panama Papers”.
Michel Termor President of Brazil was charged for corruption and helping a young entrepreneur who has made billions of dollars by transactions with insider trading.
Most recently in Australia two of the ministers of Malcum Turnbull government resigned from their portfolios on alleged corrupt practices.
Stuart Robert was alleged to have dealings with a mining Co in which he has shares linked to a trust. The Company was found to be a generous donor to the Liberal Party.
And this Minister was engaged in negotiating a deal with the Company and has participated in an overseas trip to China in that connection. Although there was no intention according to him and the conduct in question did not directly relate to his ministerial duties, he resigned with the commencement of the probe against him.
The main count sited as a violation on his part was that he has acted inconsistently with the statement of Ministerial Standards!
Health Minister Ms. Sussan Ley resigned based on an expenses scandal against her. It was also revealed that she had not correctly accounted for her overseas travels in her tax papers, although there was provision for certain expenses to be allowed for such purposes legally. In tendering her resignation she made the following public announcement. “I accept community annoyance, even anger with politician’s entitlements and it demands a response…….” Whatever she has committed or what is remaining to be revealed, she bowed down most respectfully to public opinion!
In this context our situation looks rather pathetic! If we look back to the Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam which caused much alarm and concern in the financial market of the country, the response to such by our political authorities fall below any respected standards anywhere in the world. The shock waves it created throughout the nation spilling over to the international investors many of whom rushed to withdraw their foreign investments, was not of sufficient magnitude to arouse the conscience of those in authority under whom the alleged corrupt act was perpetrated.
This was one glaring incident with no parallel in the history, which received the highest and strongest patronage of the politicians to cover up the issue instead of paying any noteworthy attention to the public cry that erupted after the scam came to light.
The first event associated with the scam was the Bond auction held on 27th February, 2015. After officially deciding to call for investments up to Rs. One Billion, it has now being established that the Bank officials were pressurized to accept bids up to Rs. 10 Billion. According to evidence it has been revealed that they were asked to accept all bids submitted which amounted to Rs. 20 Billion. To justify this highly unorthodox directive the then Governor of the CBSL Arjuna Mahendran is reported to have stated two things.
One, that the government was in need of additional funds going beyond what is estimated in the cash flow statement of the Treasury.
The other reason attributed by him is that the Prime Minister wanted him to do away with the direct placement procedure hitherto followed with regard to Bond Issues by the CBSL.
There have been questionable acts preceding the first Bond Issue directly related to the issue. On 24th February, 2015 the Economic Management Committee which is under the PM has met and taken a decision that the development activities of the country should proceed with available funds only.
But strangely on 26th February, 2015 a meeting has been held at the CBSL premises which was attended by Cabinet Ministers. Ravi Karunanayake, Kabir Hashim, Governor CBSL Arjuna Mahendran and some officials of the Road Development Authority. Mr. Malik Samarawickrama also participated this meeting, in his capacity as adviser to PM.
At this meeting, as reported the need for urgent additional funds for Road Development activities has been decided and identified an immediate requirement of Rs. 15 Billion for this purpose. When this meeting was held the CBSL had already announced the issue of 30 year Bonds to the value of Rs. One Billion.
There are several matters that arise in the wake of this state of affairs.
- The creation of a need for an additional amount of money urgently to the extent of Rs. 15 Billion over and above the estimated March Cash Flow statement appears to be an ostensible move than a genuine urgency.
- The directive to do away with the direct placement purported to be given by the PM as declared by Arjuna Mahendran is not a decision of the Monetary Board as it should be.
- The intervention of the Governor at the time of closing the bids at the auction on 27th February, 2015 is unprecedented and becomes highly suspicious due to the fact that the beneficiary of his intervention has been his Son-in-law’s Company.
- Governor Mahendra has taken another step that causes suspicion by intruding into a meeting of the Market Operations Committee of the CBSL on 27th February, 2015 in the morning, just before the Bond Auction and influencing the MOC to increase the bank rate with immediate effect. What is intriguing is that this directive by the Governor is in contravention of a decision of the Monetary Board taken earlier not to change the Bank rate.
- The adverse effect arising out of this arbitrary action is compounded by the fact that this decision led to a disturbance of the market trends causing an artificial upward movement of interest rates.
- When the Tender Board of the CBSL met in the afternoon following the closure of the Bond Auction on 27th Feb 2015 Governor CBSL has instructed over the telephone to Deputy Governor Samarasiri who chaired that meeting to accept the offers up to Rs. 10 Billion disregarding the limit of One Billion already announced.
- The highly risk prone decision of the PM as per the instructions given to Mahendra to do away with direct placements and conduct the Bond Auctions to secure all fund requirements only by auction has caused unexpected volatility in the Bond market with a resultant adverse ripple effect to increase the interest rates.
- The failure to investigate the alleged irregularities of the 27th February, 2015 Bond Auction has paved the way for the perpetration of a bigger fraudulent deal in March 2016 Bond Issues.
- The strange and suspicious manner in which the EPF coming under the control of the CBSL has maneuvered to slip the bidding at auctions but has subsequently swept the secondary market at much higher states to the benefit of selected market players.
From the foregoing there is enough and sufficient evidence of lapses, shortcomings, irregularities and wanton decisions that cost the nation huge losses for which all politicians connected directly should be held responsible and therefore they must take steps to relinquish their public office with immediate effect.
Talking about the past is not the solution and such statements would be considered as evasive, red-herrings only to deceive the public.
*Rusiripala Tennakoon – Former Chairman of Bank of Ceylon