By Hema Senanayake –
I have no intension to upset you or to excite you by writing what I feel writing in this brief essay. I am beginning to feel that the JVP should be rewarded in big time in the coming general election. I would have never told this if the people were to expel any dictatorial regime through the process of coming election. The expulsion of such a regime was already done by January 08th 2015.
As Minister Rajitha eloquently said what is going to be certain in the next government would be a coalition government of UNP and SLFP or UPFA. Perhaps UNP might get the majority seats and there are chances that UPFA would be the runner up or it could be vice versa. Whatever the case is president’s nominee for Premiership will going to be Ranil Wickremesinghe. This is where I am beginning to be cautious because he has already shown what kind of Prime Minister he is going to be. I was particularly disturbed by Arjuna Mahendran’s case.
Ranil has a buddy. After becoming the Prime Minister he thought that his buddy should be rewarded with a high portfolio. His buddy’s name was Arjuna Mahendran. At the beginning it was rumored that Arjuna was to be appointed as the secretary to the Treasury. Media reported it so. It did not come true. I have a feeling that his appointment as the secretary of the Treasury could have been prevented by the president and his staff. But Ranil did not stop.
Ranil proposed Arjuna Mahendran to be the next Governor of the Central Bank. For Arjuna’s merit he had necessary educational qualification and some international investment banking experience too. Apart from that former Governor Cabraal was an accountant by profession and he was not a banker. This might have provided a justification that if an accountant could have held this position then why it cannot be held by a senior international investment banker. There is big difference between Central banking and investment banking. But Ranil wanted his buddy in the Central Bank quickly. Yet this was not how India thought about this question of appointing a Governor to its Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
India eyed on the former Chief Economist of the IMF. They wanted him to be their next Governor of RBI. He was an Indian-American by citizenship. India invited him to be the Chief Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. It provided him an opportunity to understand the specifics of Indian monetary, fiscal and macroeconomic system. He might have known a little bit of India’s economy from outside as the chief economist of IMF. But when he became a part of the system he got a chance to understand details of the system’s working. Thereafter only he was appointed as the Governor of RBI. Central banking is a serious business. If Ranil knew about it he would have followed the Indian precedence of appointing Arjuna Mahendran first as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance. Senior most deputy Governor could have been appointed as the Acting Governor for a while until Arjuna get familiar with work. In the event Central Bank could have become familiar with any new knowledge he would bring in. At the same time Arjuna could have become familiar with how Central Bank approaches macro and micro economic issues that are pertinent to Sri Lanka. Ranil didn’t do it.
Instead, Ranil wanted Arjuna Mahendran immediately. When Patali Champika Ranawaka protested his appointment citing his Singaporean citizenship Ranil has told Chmpika that he would take personal responsibility of Arjuna’s appointment. So he was appointed as Governor. Ranil did not stop there either.
Central Bank is always listed under the Ministry of Finance. There is a valid technical reason for it. It is the line Ministry which is responsible for country’s fiscal and monetary policy. Not only Ranil appointed his buddy to be the Governor of CBSL but also he took the CBSL under his Ministry. There was no valid reason given. One of my friends told me that listing CBSL under Ranil was done on the request of Harsha de Silva as he was interested having CBSL under him. Whatever the case is Ranil’s buddy is now administratively reporting to Ranil.
Then, it transpired the bond-issue fiasco. Arjuna Mahendran’s involvement was widely speculated. Many economists, financial analysts, primary bond dealers and many others obviously understood that the particular bond issue that involved Arjuna’s son-in-law had a real case of “insider dealing.” It became more serious since the said bond issue pushed interest rates up. This does not mean that Arjuna had direct link with the case. But the problem is that he did not take any corrective or punitive action on those who involved with it.
Even when the opposition’s agitation against the alleged scandal gathered increasing momentum Ranil was insensitive to the issue. But the president felt the heat from London. Media reported that the president talked to Ranil from London and subsequently Ranil had agreed to appoint a committee to investigate the problem. For the committee Ranil appointed another three buddies of him; this time three lawyers of his party. As was expected the Committee found that Arjuna has no direct involvement. In regard to this Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka responded that even an indirect involvement should not be tolerated. Ranil did not bother.
After a few days of submitting the committee report to Ranil, Arjuna was back in the hot seat in the CBSL. Ranil had earlier promised that the committee report would be submitted to parliament. He did not do it. When Eran was questioned as to why? The response was that there was a sit-down protest in the parliamentary lobby launched by some opposition members and due to that he couldn’t table it in the parliament. Wow!
Now 88 members of parliament have signed a petition to the Speaker. It has been reported that nine Ministers and deputy Ministers have signed the said petition.
In view of above it seems that Ranil tricked the nation in this case. His conscience work differently than ours. This is not all. His Ministers and deputy ministers are showing uncompromised support for Ranil.
This was amply visible when Deputy Minister Eran Wickeramaratne responded to a question of Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri during a popular Sinhala TV program known as “Satana.” The question was, as to why higher rate bids were accepted by CBSL in the said bond-issue which would result the government to pay higher cost on interest. Eran replied that yield curve goes up when CBSL increased borrowing from 1 billion to 10 billion. He tried to intimate that it was a case of demand and supply. His position was factually incorrect if he did not lie intentionally. In regard to any private sector bond issue it could have been the case, but in regard to bonds issued by CBSL it is not the case – because it is the Central Bank that predominantly determine the “market rates” not vice versa. If a person has a tainted conscience such behaviors of Deputy Ministers would help him to go wild. That was what happened to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Power corrupts people. This is especially true for those who have tainted conscience. This is why I beginning to feel that there should be more and more JVP members in the new parliament. At least they are honest.
In addition, we saw that JVP did act responsibly during the presidential campaign, hitting hard on the Rajapakse regime. They acted even more responsibly and compromisingly to ensure the passage of 19th amendment.
Yet, I never believe that JVP or even Front Line Socialist Party would establish socialism as they perceive it, if they are elected to govern the country. The reason is that they are yet to understand that the modern economy is a larger physical system which depends upon a highly complex hypothetical system which is known as monetary system. Running it efficiently is not common sense anymore and is not simply a matter of good governance. Perhaps you may now ask whether the UNP or SLFP has this understanding. I would say “NO” but they are well within the loop of International Financial Institutions like IMF. But the problem is IMF knows only capitalist monetary economics.
However, the new leader of JVP Anura Kumara Dissanayake recently declared that JVP is a party which is ready to learn from others. I feel that his message is well resonated with professional groups. If some people had felt that JVP was a political cult, Anura Kumara’a message was a clear signal to indicate that it was moving away from being a cult. More over JVP has already earned 100 marks for their political honesty.