Colombo Telegraph

Has Bond Commission ‘Cleared’ PM Of Any ‘Involvement’?

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

Although we the commoners have to await the Bond Commission Report being placed in the public domain prior to commenting whether there is a silver lining for our beloved country wallowing in the mire of virtual unrestrained corruption, Cabinet Minister Faizer Mustapha has affirmed:

“Bond Commission had clearly said that there was no involvement whatsoever by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the bond controversy.”

This is preposterous since at the core of the alleged Bond Scam are the following indisputable facts:

Core of Bond Scam

1) ‘Conflict of interest’ arising from then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s son-in-law, Arjun Aloysius – owning/controlling PTL (Perpetual Treasuries Limited) – a Primary Dealer.

2) Arjuna Mahendran – a foreign national being handpicked for the position of Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) by the Prime Minister although aware of the ‘Conflict of interest’. The PM himself confirmed this in his affidavit and while testifying before the PCoI.

3) The CBSL the issuing agency for Treasury Bonds which normally falls under the Ministry of Finance being brought under the purview of the Prime Minister.

4) The PM continued to have Mahendran as CBSL Governor although he was aware that Mahendran had reneged on his ‘assurance’ to him that his son-in-law (Arjun Aloysius) will sever all links with PTL prior to his appointment as CBSL Governor.

5) The PM robustly defended and endorsed Mahendran for a second term despite the widespread perception of Mahendran’s role in the alleged Bond Scam.

6) Being fully confident on the propriety of the issuance of Bonds, the PM robustly defended the same in Parliament despite the evidence that subsequently transpired before the PCoI.

7) During his testimony at the Bond Commission the PM stated: “Mr. Aloysius did say to me he need bit of time to dispose his share holding to get good price. (shares of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd or shares he held in other entity in the name of PTL). I met him (Aloysius) at one or two parties, and there he told me that he was pursuing his interests in Mendis distilleries.”

What is at issue is the integrity of the CBSL. How can the PM who is also responsible for the CBSL even consider a “bit of time” to resolve a ‘conflict of interest’ concerning the Governor and that too articulated “at one or two parties”?

Other Issues

1) R. Paskaralingam is Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister.

It was revealed by the Chairmen and senior officials concerned of the Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank and National Savings Bank during their testimony at the PCoI that then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake had ‘instructed’ them at two meetings convened by him in March 2016 “to make bids at the treasury bond auctions at lower interest (yield) rates” resulting in their respective banks being deprived of ‘substantial profits’. It was alleged during their testimony that these ‘instructions’ were given in the presence of the PM’s Senior Advisor, R. Paskaralingam.

The PM in his affidavit denied any knowledge of such meetings and in his testimony also denied any knowledge of his Senior Advisor attending such meetings. If indeed Mr. Paskaralingam attended these meetings, would it not have been SOLELY in his capacity as Senior Advisor to the PM? Is there not a major management failure in this respect? Surely the country does not need the services of McKinsey & Company to arrive at this conclusion!

Those who testified included: Chairman, Bank of Ceylon (Ronald Perera), Chairman, People’s Bank (Hemasiri Fernando) and Chairman, National Savings Bank (Aswin de Silva)

2) Dr. Harsha de Silva is Deputy Minister, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs where the Prime Minister is the Minister in charge.

On his role in the controversial ‘footnotes’ saga in the alleged Treasury Bond scam, The Sunday Times’ of 30 October 2016 reported as follows:

“As is clear, the thrust of these footnotes is to make clear that Mahendran has not been responsible of any impropriety.

The UNP is confident that it can, through the documentation Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva has received, prove its case that its man Arjuna Mahendran is not to blame.”

Response to Journalist on ‘Footnotes’

“Minister do you at any point now regret the footnotes on that COPE report? Going by what is being revealed now, do you regret it or was there a lack of information at that point?”

Watch his response from (21:25:40) – what does it indicate?

Although requested, to date Dr. de Silva has not clarified this position.

3) Ms. Rosy Senanayake is Deputy Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s ‘Core Team’ at ‘Temple Trees’.

It was alleged at the Bond Commission that COPE documents relating to PTL CEO Kasun Palisena’s testimony was given to ‘PTL owner’ Arjun Aloysius by “Rosy’s son” identified as “Kanishka Senanayake”.

This has been denied by Ms. Senanayake on the grounds she was not a COPE member after the August 2015 parliamentary elections. Does not the question arise whether in her capacity as ‘Deputy Chief of Staff’ in the PM’s ‘core team’ she would have access to COPE reports? Although requested, to date she has not clarified this position.

Unusual Decisions

Despite all this, did not the PCoI take some unusual decisions in regard to the PM?

1) Unlike in the case of other witnesses, the PM was given questions in advance by the PCoI to enable him to provide answers by way of affidavit.

2) Unlike in the case of other witnesses, the PCoI decided to invite the AG himself who wasn’t involved in the investigation up to that point to personally lead evidence for the first time. Up to this time, Messrs. Dappula de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda – Senior Additional Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor General respectively lead evidence.

3) Unlike in the case of other witnesses which included former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who were grilled by Messrs. Dappula de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda, limited questions were posed to the PM. The PM was at the PCoI reportedly for less than an hour to clarify matters arising from his affidavit

4) Much is being made that the PM ‘volunteered’ to come before the PCoI although ‘not summoned’ like the other witnesses. The media has even reported that PCoI Chairman – K. T. Chitrasiri (Supreme Court Judge)  “emphasised that the question of compelling PM Wickremesinghe to appear before the commission had never arisen”.  I respectfully ask (i) in view of the facts and circumstances should not the PM have been ‘summoned’ like the other witnesses? (ii) if not why? (iii) what does this indicate?

Conclusion

In the above context, if Cabinet Minister Faizer Mustapha’s assertion:

“Bond Commission had clearly said that there was no involvement whatsoever by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the bond controversy” is factual,  this in conjunction with the appalling state of governance, terrible corruption in high places and impunity clearly indicates the presence of a ‘Deep State’. It needs emphasis the PCoI is a ‘Presidential Commission’ in which two of its three members are sitting Supreme Court judges.

A consequence of this are the ‘fly-by-night’ FDIs the country is attracting in recent times which include some who were even nabbed at the airport with undeclared cash. The only exception are the controversial Chinese investments which are largely driven by geo-political considerations.

After nearly 70 years of independence the country has come to such a sorry pass that we have to suffer the ignominy of:

The US State Department” reportedly fielding “a Resident Legal Advisor in Colombo to provide anti-corruption and asset recovery training and also support the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC)”

It is noted that when the PM came before the Bond Commission to testify as its last witness, he was “accompanied by his attorney President’s Counsel Faiz Mustapha” who is the father of the said Cabinet Minister, Faizer Mustapha.

Back to Home page