By Amrit Muttukumaru –
The brazen duplicity of our politicians unleashed on the people of this country with impunity makes one wonder whether we even deserve a vote. Under no circumstances is the writer advocating even a little bit of totalitarianism. What is amazing is that most of our present day politicians better known for their brawn are doing this to us on a regular basis. What does this say of us?
An excellent current example of such duplicity is the reaction of the UNP led yahapalana government to the ‘New York Times’ exposé alleging that one of China’s prominent government owned entities – ‘China Harbor Engineering Company ‘(CHEC) had funded the 2015 re-election presidential campaign of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the tune of “at least $7.6 million”.
1) UNP parliamentarian Ajith P Perera – State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy states:
“We have reason to believe that Mr. Rajapaksa’s election campaign was funded by the Chinese company”
The company referred to is ‘China Harbor Engineering Company’ (CHEC). (‘Daily Mirror’ 3 July 2018)
2) In the context of the article alleging “The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times” why did the government have to wait for the NYT exposé when it had the information necessary to go public?
3) Why did UNP minister Ajith P Perera reportedly inform the ‘Daily Mirror’ that the authorities concerned “could not disclose information on their investigations to the public” when it is obvious that the main source of the NYT article were government documents?
4) Despite having “reason to believe” that CHEC had at least partly funded the 2015 presidential campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa, why did the yahapalana government continue to have CHEC as the source of funding and main partner in so-called flagship ‘development’ projects which include the Hambantota Port and ‘Colombo Port City’ now renamed ‘Colombo International Financial City’?
5) UNP minister Ajith P Perera is not the only person to have misgivings on the integrity of CHEC.
6) Dr. Harsha De Silva – Deputy Minister, National Policies and Economic Affairs whose minister is no less a person than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when in opposition while describing the ‘Colombo Port City’ (now renamed) as “Colombo’s largest land scam” alleged that CHEC was “banned by the World Bank” from 2009 to 2017 “after being caught in a string of corruption scandals involving the Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Guyana, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.”
He is now a major proponent of the renamed ‘Colombo Port City’. Why is no one demanding that De Silva explain himself? When an ‘educated’ person such as Dr. Harsha De Silva is on record on this matter, what can be expected from the majority of our politicians?
An acid test to determine whether the people of this country – particularly its leaders – political, corporate, professional, NGO and media are serious about combating corruption is whether they will make a clarion call to forthwith stop the practice of issuing dual citizenship at least until the country reaches an acceptable level of equitable development. This must be applicable to those holding (i) all elected political office (ii) senior bureaucrats at least at Secretary & Deputy Secretary level (iii) Chairpersons & CEOs of Corporations & statutory bodies (iv) Chairpersons & CEOs of regulatory agencies (v) Heads of entities responsible for law & order (vi)Directors of quoted public companies (vii) Sri Lankan Diplomats. It must also include immediate family members of such persons. Any deviation will disqualify those concerned from holding office.
This writer believes that a fountainhead of egregious corruption are divided loyalties and ability to evade accountability. When Sri Lanka is the ONLY COUNTRY of which we can be citizens, would we not nurture the country with love?
The writer will appreciate having the views of others in the larger interest of the country. Howls of protest and castigation from vested interests is anticipated!
An issue that needs to be addressed is the whole gamut of campaign finance and accountability. For starters, will the authorities concerned in government forthwith release to the public domain the documents which allegedly were the source of the NYT exposé?
For a plethora of reasons which include ‘insurance’ in the context of egregious corruption perpetrated by all sections of the political divide, it is obvious that successive governments will only make stifled noises now and then to give a veneer of hope for the people. For example, where is the opposition outrage in the aftermath of the egregious bond scam whose mastermind has still not been identified? Why is there no concerted demand to hold PM Ranil Wickremesinghe responsible for former CBSL Governor Arjuna Mahendran being able to leave the country and thus evade due process for his alleged role in the bond scam? Was it not the PM who hand-picked Arjuna Mahendran a foreign national to be CBSL Governor and was it not the PM despite the widespread demand not to give Mahendran a second term due to his perceived role in the bond scam who robustly endorsed him for a second term?
Just consider the ‘games’ being played even to release to the public domain all the documents relating to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which probed the Central Bank Bond scam. In this connection, the Attorney General is reported to have stated that “certain secret documents submitted to the Commission of Inquiry by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the Monetary Board, recommendations should be sought from these institutions prior to releasing the documents”. Should not CBSL Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy clarify this?