By Sam Panditha –
We have seen Dammika Perera swearing in as an MP and a Minister, without any public mandate. He resigned after the Aragalaya victory and will carry the record as the shortest duration Minister in Sri Lanka. Why not resign also as a National List MP- he has no legitimacy for that !!
The few days he was active, daily he made press statements presenting his“ideas“ for solving the crisis and then made a strong attack on Ranil Wickremesinghe that he should resign immediately as the Finance Minister. Further he challenged Ranil Wickramasinghe for a TV debate.
Many consider Dammika Perera as the leading OLIGARCH in the Country. (Definition- A business oligarch is generally a business magnate who controls sufficient resources to influence national politics. A business leader can be considered an Oligarch if the following conditions are satisfied:
1. Uses monopolistic tactics to dominate an industry;
2. Possesses sufficient political power to promote their own interests;
3. Controls multiple businesses, which intensively coordinate their activities.
In Russia and the former Russian Republics (Kazakhstan Uzbekistan etc.), after the fall of the Communist system, friends of the President (Russia Putin etc.) were handed over the state companies for a pittance, possibly sharing the loot with the Political leader. In Sri Lanka our Oligarchs have benefitted in different Head of state patronage and loot sharing.
Dammika Perera who started as a Casino owner, from the casino proceeds and with huge political patronage has built an empire. The two largest Finance Companies (LB Finance and Valibell); main shareholder in key Banks (Sampath, Pan Asia); Monopoly of the Ceramic and bath ware sector (Rocell, Lanka Tiles). Many Hotels (Kingsbury, Fortress and Maldives) Key companies Hayleys and affiliated Companies, Singer Company to name a few.
There are at least five other Oligarchs in Sri Lanka. You can identify them through their initial business lines and the current status. 1 Arms dealer to largest construction Company, 2. Used Car importer to owning finance microcredit and other operations in Sri Lanka and abroad. 3. PC salesman to hospital owner and electronics goods company. 4 Tea exporter to largest liquer company, hotel owner. 5 Steel Company owner to Dubai Hotel, Rubber, cement and steel companies.
Most Oligarchs have another key characteristic. They obtain illegal financial gain through the cooperation/ corrupt favours from Political leaders. Some also become partners in crime and even launder/share the ill gotten money political leaders generate for them. They may be the custodian of the politician stolen money.
After the ARAGALAYA, the new Government must establish a special commission to enquire into Oilgarchs and how they amassed the wealth. Any illegal and unexplained wealth to be nationalised.
Let us analyse some key statements from Dammika:
1. He will donate Rs 50 Mn daily to the country. The unpaid tax bill on his Casino operations was over RS 1 BN. This saviour of Sri Lanka, by not paying the Rs 1 Bn tax. Saved Rs 25 Mn a month from the interest. He paid the back taxes the day before swearing in as an MP. What track record of honesty. Now the patriot who resigned as a Minister, but he should still pay the Rs 50 Mn a month GIFT to the country.
2. His resignation call on Ranil for mismanaging as Finance Minister is strange. He talked about Cash-flow. Did he mention such disssatisfaction when Basil/ Cabral were running the show and ruining the economy?
“I do have an issue with his PM post. As the Finance Minister, the PM should not walk around reciting people’s problems at this time. The cabinet had given approval for the ten-year multiple visa, which was taken after completing all the relevant documents a month before. It’s been a month, and the project is still stagnant in the Treasury. There is a habit of the PM to stop the project because it helps to bring dollars into the country. More than 50 people have come here to get the visa after paying US$100,000, and another 300 are in the queue. If we implement that project, US$30 million would be brought into the country this month. The PM won’t let the
3. Coincidence of his Ranil resignation call was the day after the Government announced higher taxes on Casinos. “ to streamline casino industry to boost tax collection”
4. Another complain against Ranil was obstructing Dammika “BRILLIANT” idea to raise $30 Mn, by asking BOI owners to pay $100,000 and obtain a 10 year Sri Lankan visa. Which investor would forego $100,000 for a 10 year Sri Lanka, which they are automatically entitled anyway as BOI Investors? He blamed in his TV address that Ranil blocked the approval this and $30 Mn, was lost. But a week before, all media carried Dammika giving out such investors the ten year visa certificate. If Ranil has blocked the legislation, how did Dammika issue such certificates and get all the news coverage that he initiated the program.
5. Dammika Perera also announced that he will not go through any tender procedures as a Minister. We know that! In 2011 he was apponied as the Secretary- Ministry of Transport.
What qualifications did he have to take that position. Not a civil servant, not an expert on transport. Only a confidante of Mahinda Rajapakse- budding Oligarch. His period as Transport Secretary saw the most corrupt transport related deals and as he says NO TENDERS. The Matara – Kataragama railway, Galle – Mattala, Kottawa – Kaduwela – Katunayaka outer ring Road, over 100 Km 4 lane highways around Hambantota. These were the over-priced and corrupt contracts signed under his watch. Country downfall started from these corrupt deals. Please give us a list of the contracts you signed.
6. Under MR, Dammika Perera was appointed Chairman of BOI and did his first stint as an Oligarch. “Dhammika under fire over ‘quick’ BOI approvals”). Being the biggest businessman in the country, he was disqualified due to self-interest to head BOI. He would have used the position to prevent any competitor investment, support cronies investment, giving friends massive BOI tax credits, and assigning all state lands for his companies as fake BOI projects. Please give us a list of BOI projects you approved with the names of companies and the Government lands given on 99 year lease.
7. Dammika is a main beneficiary of GOTA import bans. Tiles and sanitary ware prices were increased by over 300%. What is the reason for this increase? All the inputs for tiles and ceramic ware are sourced from the Country. Clay local, labour local, electricity local. Only the ceramic glazing coating is imported and under 10% of the total manufaturing cost. With the import ban on tiles and the monopoly enjoyed by ROCELL and LANKA TILES he simply raised prices by 300%. While cars, motor bikes, spares were import ban items, electronic items such as TVs, Fridges, fans ACs etc were allowed in. They are mostly sold by SINGER a company owned by Dammika. The struggling poor massess were forced to pawn their Gold jewelery and surrender the leased vehicles to the Finance Companies. LB Finance and Vallibel key business lines are Gold Pawning and Vehicle Pawning, They made a killing from the imposed economic hardships.
8. Dammika Perera must also answer for the Rathupaswala deaths of protestors. They protested against his Company Hayleys, contaminating the water around the factory. Gotabaya as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence came to his assistance to quell the mass protest and supported the Army attack on the protestors, which resulted in three deaths..
9. Dammika Perera is alleged to have purchased the old Australian Embassy in front of the Colombo Museum and building a mansion. Some speculated that it was actually bought for Namal Rajapakse and Dammika was a front. Strangely after the mansion was build, Government tried to move the road in front of the mansion, to a new road built on the land owned by the museum, so that the mansion front can be a traffic free area. Fortunately, the Museam land was in a trust and they challenged the attempt to move the Road.
10. The Country savior Company Hayleys imported 21 containers of harmful clinical waste from UK. Only Customs found by accident and forced the repatriation. He nor his Company was ever charged for the offense. How many such harmful containers did he import before getting caught?
11. Another Dammika project is to open private Universities in Sri Lanka and expect thousands of foreign fee paying students coming to Sri Lanka and generating Forex. Also he claims this will stop Sri Lankan students going to overseas Universities and the drain on Forex. This is a wild assumption. No Sri Lankan University is even ranked in the top 1500 universities in the World. Who would bother to register in a Sri Lankan private University?
12. Dammika Perera has also written a book – “Sri Lanka 2030 A Developed Nation” .full of half baked ideas.
Let’s look at the very first action. “Increase foreign currency bank deposits by USD5 billion in the next 5 years.”
“Issue a 10-year residence visa for foreign citizens who would deposit USD100, 000 in banks for 10 years in Sri Lanka. If this scheme is initiated, Sri Lanka can generate USD 5 billion of foreign currency deposits.”
Which foreigner wants a ten year visa in Sri Lanka wasting USD 100,000? There are better countries that give visas free to foreigners. How many such foreigners would actually invest?
The balance of the book is vague actions by each Ministry. A National Plan is not written around Ministries but as a strategic vision. The implementation would be the responsibility of different ministries.
Dear Mr Perera- you are the Richest Oligarch in the Country and the partner for Rajapaksa stealing. Just as you resigned from being a Minister, just resign as an MP too. You had no right to be an MP