4 June, 2023


More Submissions In Defence Of Arjuna Mahendran

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

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.

ArjunaThe 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.”

Emphasis mine.

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.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Sarath De Alwis says:

    “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”

    The black cat is found in Deputy Governor P Samarasiri who chaired the controversial treasury bond auction without so far coming into spotlight by any critic of the issue in question. According to the minutes of the tender committee which have now been leaked to the media, there are only two signatures on the minute sheet: one by Samarasiri and the other by an Additional Superintendent of Public Debt. There are two signatures of two managers who have vouched for the veracity of the data in the minutes.

    Old central bankers say that the treasury bond tender committee appointed by the Monetary Board consists of a wider membership than just two coming from the public debt area. Its membership had consisted of the Deputy Governor in charge of public debt as chairman (in this case DG Samarasiri), Assistant Governor in charge of public debt (who acts as Vice Chair), Director of Economic Research (to give economic wisdom to the committee), Director of Domestic Operations (to advise on the liquidity position of the market) and Superintendent of Public Debt as Secretary. In good old days, the case for approvals and rejections had been clearly laid out in the minutes signed by all members. But the minutes leaked to the media are just numbers certified by the two members referred to above.

    Strangely, this practice has been done away with by Samarasiri. The Committee of UNP Lawyers can examine whether it has been done by Samarasiri through a one-man decision or whether the committee had been reconstituted by the Monetary Board using its wisdom. If the latter is correct, there should be a board paper justifying the truncation of the committee. If not, it is the arbitrary decision of Samarasiri who has been designated by Mahendran as the Senior Deputy Governor as the newspapers had reported against the CB’s convention of designating the most senior DG as SDG. Samarasiri is the most junior DG in CB.

    Thus, it appears that Samarasiri has paid tribute to Mahendran by being a yielding hand to him for the lavish treatment he had been given which he did not get from Cabraal who promoted him but kept him on a side as the present central bankers say. Hence, if Mahendran is guilty, so is Samarasiri.

    So, is it a case of both Raigamaya and Gampolaya, two crafty men seeking to cheat each other in Sinhala folk story, getting together for a cause that benefit both of them?

    • 0

      Let us face facts. Ranil blundered.He could have appointed professional central bankers presently in s/lanka.

      No, neither the UNP leader nor the Former SLFP leader believes in Professionals. The chosen have to be from the old school / relatives / or friends and in one case part time pimp.

  • 2

    The author speaks a lot about every body else (beating about the bush) but does not talk about the sky high interest rates offered at this instance. Who was responsible for that? Insiders claim that it was SOLELY decided by Mahendran. Will the author shed some light on that, say yet in another article with less volume of words and without the recourse to quoting religious scriptures? I realize that more irrelevant matters one has to say in defense implies that there is really no defense for something hideous committed within a span of 60 days of the era of Yahapalanaya. Any one is at the liberty to say that this kind of expose’ was not there even during the era of Jarapassa who was booted out recently for the sake of a cleaner administration.

    What is necessary now is for President Sirisena to appoint a Judge/s or retired Judge/s of a superior court in terms of the Commission of Inquiries Act to examine every aspect of this matter. It is President Sirisena who promised a thing called Yahapalanaya. Hence the responsibility of curative action lies within him, come what may and should not fall into the Ranillian camouflage of the three lawyer committee lacking credibility.

  • 0

    ” Arjuna Mahendran is an exceptionally bright mind ”

    Yet the author suggests that he is a mere pawn in a larger scheme concocted by lesser minds, because ‘of his class allegiance’. It does not wash. The buck stops with him.

  • 0

    White cat.

    Alice in Wonderland would say This is getting Curioser and Curioser.

    Ajit Nivard Cabral of many a financial scandal at the Central Bank,Hedging deal and all,most probably,has his Loyal men still at the Bank.Arjuna Mahendran,with his Singapore experience,may have not known the Srilankan style of undercutting!

    I am,by no means holding a brief for Mahendran,but just wondering like Alice.

  • 1

    How come there were no such dirty deals in forex / bond dealings under utterly corrupt (so it is claimed) Cabraal era under – listen to this – the worst corrupt man the world has ever seen- Mahind R?.
    Assuming it did happen, what wood these goons say if the then Premier appointed three mates to carry out the investigation?

  • 1

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has
    crowned all this today with a statement
    in Parliament.

    He has hit every one except himself.
    What is worrying is this. Ranil has
    already passed judgement on how it
    happened. He spoke volumes. Why have
    an investigation at all. Will a team
    of UNP lawyers recommend against
    Ranil’s findings?

    It looks like he has been watching too
    many World Cup cricket matches. He hit
    round the wicket today scolding all and
    sundry. That included the Editor of the
    Daily Mirror, his uncle’s newspaper.
    He even had a shot at his uncle.

    Obviously there is something going wrong
    with Ranil.

    • 0

      Fiat Justicia @ above:

      I have to fully agree with your reading of PM. His statement in Parliament is similar to the proverbial Sinhala saying “Where are you going? In the bag? Those are coconuts”

      He has taken liberty to pre-announce the findings of the so called Committee of lawyers.

      The whole incident stinks with several of the top people in CB too being involved. Governor has applied for leave of absence but who has been appointed to act for him? It is DG Samarasiri who in fact chaired the controversial Treasury Bond Auction Committee. Both of them plus the Additional Superintendent of Public Debt who had signed the tender committee minutes should have gone on leave.

      It is a great cover-up. But the market is now better informed and UNP will pay the price in the forthcoming elections.

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