Colombo Telegraph

Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy Named ‘Sri Lankan Of The Year’

The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy has been named as LMD’s Sri Lankan Of The Year (SLOTY) award for 2016.

Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy – Governor CBSL

We publish below the award citation in full:

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has been the subject of increased scrutiny over the last year and more, to a degree unseen in the decades gone by. One can hardly ignore the fact that while the nation’s monetary authority is expected to act independently, politics and mismanagement have weaselled their way into the bank’s modus operandi, with no less than the former governor of the esteemed institution coming under the spotlight for alleged wrongdoing.

This sorry state of affairs led to calls by sections of civil society and the media for the ex-governor to vacate his seat of authority – appeals that inexplicably fell on deaf ears for too long, even as public confidence in the Central Bank and the coalition government was eroding at every turn of the saga that unfolded.

However, the urgency of a plausible solution to the apparent impasse came to the forefront, when the term of Arjuna Mahendran – who took over from his predecessor Nivard Cabraal in January last year – ended on 30 June.

So in July, following high-level discussions between members of the nation’s political top brass and in the face of growing opposition to the reappointment of the incumbent, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy was installed as Sri Lanka’s 14th Governor of the Central Bank.

The appointment led to a collective sigh of relief in media circles, and among businesspeople and many of those who call the shots in political circles these days, because it averted a potential leadership vacuum at CBSL.

In addition, the largely unexpected choice of the then advisor to the President was a welcome move in restoring confidence in the monetary authority, whose image had been tarnished by the allegedly heedless acts of not one but two of its immediate predecessors.

It was a matter of utmost consequence for Sri Lanka’s financial system that confidence be restored in the nation’s highest fiscal authority.

Given his impeccable professional credentials – including a 16-year stint at CBSL and a posting at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London – and a perceptibly apolitical persona, Coomaraswamy was considered a natural fit for the arduous job at hand.

At the time of assuming office, he stated: “The Monetary Law Act established some very specific responsibilities for the Central Bank. And it is up to us to fulfil those responsibilities in a very technocratic, objective and free way.”

Coomaraswamy also acknowledged that “the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is one of the great institutions in this country,” adding that he was ‘acutely aware that a primary responsibility, arguably the primary responsibility, of the Governor is to uphold its reputation and credibility.’

And a mere five months into his tenure as CBSL’s Governor, all indications are that Coomaraswamy’s appointment has resulted in a welcome change to Sri Lanka’s country image. And this has proven to be so in finance, banking and economic circles.

In fact, on a recent edition of our twice-monthly TV programme Benchmark, the Managing Director of JB Securities Murtaza Jafferjee expressed his view that in terms of monetary policy stability, with the new Central Bank Governor being instated, “confidence will return and we will see a better market next year.”

And if snippets in the press about a rumoured meeting with the nation’s Commander-in-Chief are even half true, right-minded citizens of our precious land will take their hats off – because apparently, the new CBSL Governor said he has been troubled by “some political sections.”

He was told something along these lines, it has been reported: “You hail from a respectable family. I hope you are quite capable of safeguarding the honour of your illustrious family and that of the institution you are in charge of. We are with you… Take decisions without fear.”

If such a one-on-one took place, the CBSL’s incumbent chief must’ve been relieved – for he has stated his firm belief that independence (presumably to a practicable extent) sans politics is essential for him to fulfil his duties as the head of the nation’s monetary authority.

It is for this reason – and dare we say, in the hope that he will continue to inspire his peers and others in positions of high authority to maintain the sense of professionalism, integrity and stability we’ve witnessed thus far – that Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy is being conferred LMD’s Sri Lankan Of The Year (SLOTY) award for 2016.

He is LMD’s 22nd SLOTY, and joins a line-up of illustrious men and women who have done the country proud over this magazine’s lifetime.

And it goes without saying that Coomaraswamy epitomises the calibre of public servants that Sri Lanka so desperately needs to take the country forward.

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