By Sarath de Alwis –
‘No one should abandon duties because he sees defects in them. Every action, every activity, is surrounded by defects as a fire is surrounded by smoke.’ – The Bhagavad Gita
The Gita was meant for the saintly and not the demonic. The 100 days government has both the saintly and the demonic.
These submissions are made in the hope that the President of the Republic would heed the advice of Krishna and resolve the riddle of the two Arjunas.
This business of Bonds currently under the spot light is perhaps a good omen. It reminds us that in addition to governance being good or bad it could also be ugly. But not to the Present Prime Minister. At a political rally yesterday, he dismissed the entire controversy as a nonevent. Some people he said were susceptible to bad dreams during day time. With that pseudo Freudian flippancy he seemed satisfied that the matter was resolved. He does not realize how ugly his governance style ids. That is understandable. Ugliness lies in the eye of the beholder. It is for the nation to instruct him on the ugly and the beautiful.
The likes of Harsha, Eran, Ajith and Sujeewa exuberant in opposition seem to be exculpatory experts in Government.
The four young UNP parliamentarians are selected for censure because of this writer’s firm conviction that they indeed wanted good governance. This in sharp contrast to their leader and deputy leader who were the last to board the ferry to freedom in response to the call from Ven. Sobhitha thero. For weeks prior to the elections John Amaratunge was assuring the pious that the visit of the Holy Father was not in jeopardy. Nothing would change on the morning of the 9th of January. Part of the problem of the UNP cabinet is that they still cannot believe that it is real!
The unfolding events surprises none but the naïve. The UNP administration is an equally nepotistic web of shadow interest groups. It encompasses a corporate cartel that has stakeholders from both sides of the political divide. The reenlistment of R. Paskeralingam, president Premadasa’s Kautilya as an advisor to the Prime Minister indicates Ranils economic trajectory. No doubt he will educate the young Harsha how to maneuverer in Washington and London and practice free market economics with a conscience.
The present controversy rests on the public perception that the primary dealer connected to the son in law of the Governor has put in a bid for Rs. 5 billion directly and through the Bank of Ceylon.
It is alleged that it was based on information that was not available to others. Strangely the role of the Bank of Ceylon has hardly surfaced. The Bank of Ceylon is now headed by Ronald Perera P.C. He is a high profile member of the UNP Working Committee. Obviously the impugned insider information would have been available to the Bank of Ceylon as well. Information not available to the public may be of value not only to the primary dealer but to the associated bank as well.
Mr. Ronald Perera being the astute lawyer that he is would not have permitted his Bank to participate in an exercise prohibited under the law. In bond trading, information that is not available to the public is an asset.
Now we read in news reports that the three members of the Probe Committee who will probe the Bond issue have been selected by Mr.Daya Pelpola another legal eagle in the UNP working committee.
The central bank explains the present auction system. “ . Since 2000, all auctions are conducted electronically using an on – line system. Before each auction, the debt authority accesses the potential investors via primary dealers to make sure the availability of funds for the full subscriptions. Private placements of Treasury bonds also take place as a contingency to accommodate unexpected borrowings to avoid market shocks by offering large volumes to the auctions and cancellation of planned bond auctions.”
It is possible that Arjun senior is more of a pawn in a larger design. Mesmerized by the romance of two Arjuns, the media and the public have ignored the contextual reality.
The system has not been dismantled. Ranil Wickremesinghe does not want the system dismantled. With the political change of 8th January effectively contained, isolated and quarantined the UNP leadership is on a stampede to dispense patronage. It has drawn a line on the sand and demonstrated who benefits under the new rule. The 8th January change has benefited not the ‘Gama Ralas” but the ‘Gama Kannas’. It is in the interest of the UNP to keep the present system. It allows no one to come to power who is not prepared to play the old corrupt game. That explains the influx of old advisors returning from exile. The term exile needs to be stressed. None of the Presidential advisors fall in to that category. The returning exiles are not advisers. They are performance who were taken by surprise when Chandrika decided thus far and no further.
Arjuna Mahendran gave up a lucrative career in International Banking and his Singapore Citizenship. He was persuaded to take over immediately. His nationality issue was resolved by fast tracking the process.
Had he waited till April to take over, the bond fiasco would have been under the watch of someone else or there would have been no fiasco at all.
Even if he was not the Governor of the Central Bank, the Bank of Ceylon would have been associated with the transaction that is now under the spot light.
According to news reports, the three members of the Probe Committee have been selected by Mr.Daya Pelpola another legal eagle in the UNP working committee.
This writer in an article published on 26th January wrote ‘It is difficult to comprehend the urgency in appointing a Governor of the Central Bank for a term that extends beyond 100 days when the more transparent option would have been to appoint the most senior Deputy Governor for a short-term pending the implementation of good governance parameters which would include the selection of the Governor of the Central Bank.”
Arjuna Mahendran is an exceptionally bright mind. He would have realized the perils that awaited him in the incestuous world of the money market in Sri Lanka. It is very likely that he was handpicked not only for his Banking Brilliance but also for his class allegiance and privileged access to Camelot on Fifth Avenue. Ranil is an impatient leader. He is inspired, devious, ruthless and pragmatic more than principled. His interview to the Indian press on the eve of the Modi visit nearly ruined the delicate diplomacy of Mangala Samaraweera.
The current situation is exceptional. It calls for civic mobilization around the values of a people’s democracy. The nation is not privy to the whole truth about who made what decisions. Mr. Daya Pelpola and Mr. Ronald Perera are not the best qualified to tell the nation the details. We can observe the writing on the wall. As we get closer we should be able to decipher the scrawling. The grafting of the oligarchy to political power over the last decade has fundamentally altered the values in public life.
The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat. The UNP working committee seems to know where the cat is.