20 August, 2017

Politics After The Bond Scam Revelations

By Jayadeva Uyangoda

Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda

As the media predicted last week, alluding to an off-guard comment made by a junior member of the AG’s legal team of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the central bank bond scam, a star witness has turned the public discussion on the central bank bond scandal into a major political drama.

Ms. Anika Wijesuriya, a young woman entrepreneur from an extraordinarily rich business family in Colombo, has done what the Joint Opposition of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, or Mr. Anura Dissanayake’s radical JVP, has failed to achieve in more than two years. In half a day of evidence before the presidential commission comprising of supreme court judges, she has rocked the very foundations of the current yahapalanaya regime. She has also changed the terms of the political debate between the government and the opposition. All these unwittingly though.

Fallout

Ms. Wijesuriya’s evidence provided a detailed account of questionable financial deals between the family of Ravi Karunanayake, the former Finance Minister and Arjun Aloysius, the young businessman whose name has figured as the main actor in that massive swindle. Karunanayake claimed innocence before the commission through pleading ignorance of those deals over the renting of the penthouse apartment. Those explanations were not only unconvincing, but also appeared to be out and out deceit. Denial of any knowledge of the penthouse deal, by attributing the responsibility to the company run by his wife and daughters, has made his case most indefensible. And now the yahapalanaya government finds itself in its most serious crisis since it was formed in January 2015. The UNP’ led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has fallen victim to its own false promise of corruption-free good governance. When Wikremesinghe went lackadaisical about the corruption inquiries into the dealings of the big wigs of the Rajapaksa regime, he now faces what one may call the poetic justice.

Unless Karunanayake resigns or is sacked from the cabinet, the UNP will be in deep trouble. Even then, problems for the UNP will not be over. Attempts to recover the lost moral high ground by making claims to renewed yahapalanaya spirit will not help Prime Minister Wickremesinghe or his UNP. People, even those who supported him and his government, are now totally disenchanted with his politics of deception on the bond scam from the beginning. He is facing a truly serious crisis of credibility before the citizens. Re-building that lost trust between the prime minister and the citizens will require a wholesale clean up of the UNP section of the present coalition government. That process might even put his own position at risk. Ranil Wikremesinghe, like his mentor J. R. Jayewardene, is perhaps not personally corrupt. But, again like his uncle and his successors, Wickremesinghe is presiding over and facilitating corrosive practices of business and political corruption, politically benefiting from it, treating it as the new democratic normal.

Meanwhile, under normal circumstances, democratic politicians who lose public trust so badly, because of their own faults, tend to look for authoritarian alternatives. Wickremesinghe has no access to that option either, thanks to the much-maligned system of diarchy introduced by the 19th Amendment.

Any Beneficiaries?

Who is the immediate beneficiary of this crisis? President Sirisena or the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, or Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the JVP leader, or Gotabaya Rajapaksa? The latter is unlikely to benefit much, even though joint opposition will try to make political capital out of the UNP’s crisis. Rajapaksa brothers and sons have not replied to the allegations of massive scale corruption in any manner that can bring back any political credibility to the former first family. The JVP will certainly benefit from it, since their MPs have been in the forefront of the ant-corruption campaign, particularly exposing the central back bond scam. The new development might be seen by Gotabaya Rajapaksa as an unexpected opening for him to promote his image as Mr. Clean with an Iron Fist, the antithesis of wavering RW. We can certainly expect a new wave of media blitz by his public relations promoters.

But, the person who can benefit most from the UNP’s crisis in the short run is President Maithripala Sirisena. Unlike the Prime Minister, President Sirisena has not got his own Mr. Clean image badly tarnished by defending, and attempting to cover up the misdeeds of the former central back governor. But President Sirisena does not have a totally clean slate either. He is also surrounded by people with little credibility when it comes to the question of corruption while holding political office. Some of his colleagues, who worked for his defeat at the last presidential election, joined him either to avoid investigations and prosecution on corruption charges, or because of the material allure of political office.

It is against such a backdrop that the citizens and anti-corruption activists should show immediate interest in the meticulous investigations conducted by the lawyers of the Attorney General’s department. The latter are professionals who have not been known for being so efficient in their normal corruption investigations and prosecution during the past so many years. Yet, suddenly they have found a new spirit of professional pride and commitment. In what particular way the yahapalanaya agenda has contributed to that change is not yet clear. However, before the investigating agencies and public prosecutors become fatigued or intimidated, citizens through President Sirisena must ask them to investigate all those whose names figure in the 5000 odd items of transcripts of Mr. Arjun Aloysius’s short messages, which the AG’s department has produced before the Commission. Obviously Ravi K is only one among many political and bureaucratic names mentioned in those messages. Moreover, Aloysius’s phone messages with incriminating data might have a history going back to days well before January 2015, as should his central bank bond business too.

Citizens

Such a demand by citizens, the media and civil society groups for full disclosure of Aloysius’s messages should not be motivated by partisan politics. It should not aim at proving the mere point that all politicians are corrupt. Our citizens already know it. What is not known to them are the data, evidence and concrete information about how the nexus, or the unholy alliance, between the business and politics works to the detriment of democracy, good governance, and public welfare. Just briefly look at Ms. Anika Wijesuriya’s evidence. She gave the Commission some startling details about how businessmen and politicians make and operate mutually beneficial deals involving public money as well as hoarded private funds of enormous proportions.

These businessmen and politicians are also close family friends. They have school ties through themselves, their spouses, lovers, and children. In Ravi K’s case, the alliance is between the alumni of the Royal College and the Colombo International School, the two most elitist schools in Sri Lanka. These are not the Sinhala or Tamil speaking godaya type mudalalis. They are men and women from a small class of the unbelievably rich and the privileged. All these men wear expensive suits, and drive, are being driven in, most expensive cars. They also freely loot the public wealth as if it is their right and privilege to do so. They are children of the open economy and globalization. They represent a new class of businessmen and politicians, with insatiable greed for accumulation of money and material wealth. Some of them began to capture the state institutions, political parties, the media, and political process during the Rajapaksa regime. By owning media houses, they also try to control and shape the public opinion. It is no accident that Arjuna Aloysius, accused of making exorbitant and ill-gotten profits from his businesses with the central bank, wanted to start his own media house. He has obviously seen the encouraging example of others.

Under the yahapalanaya regime, the same processes and structures seem to continue with a few new names replacing the old.

Others?

When a big minister in charge of the ministry of finance is looking for a house, a businessmen volunteers to donate a rent free pent house apartment. The minister accepts all this generosity of the businessman with no idea of conflict of interest or the principles of governance he himself promoted when out of power. Obviously, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Young Ms. Onella Karunanayake, Ravi Karunanayake’s daughter, is absolutely right. Why only target her father, when there are so many who have been doing it?

Now this is time for the citizens, the media and civil society groups to demand from President Sirisena to continue these probes through more presidential commissions on previous bond scams as well. There is this now forgotten Greek bond issue which the UNP leaders told us those days that it cost the country billions of rupees. Obviously, there have been many Aloysiuses in Colombo who made a lot of money on the bond business. And also politicians and officials who amassed ill-gotten wealth through these deals. Targeting a few individuals like Karunanayake, Aloysius and Mahendarn is not enough. The entire system needs to be cleaned up. That is the yahapalanaya promise. That is what the citizens expect from President Sirisena. That is also the only way he can prove himself to be a statesman, qualitatively different from the Rajapaksas and the Wickremesinghes, while also making a sharp distinction between the two.

Startling Data

Meanwhile, citizens of Sri Lanka should thank the Presidential Commission for providing a forum where concrete details about the unholy alliance between business and politics are exposed. These are details that cannot be obtained under the RTI Act. Neither have such details been discovered by the government’s investigating agencies about highly publicized corruption allegations against the powerful individuals of the previous regime. Now we citizens have some concrete data about how domains of business and politics allow themselves to be interpenetrated and how businessmen capture individual politicians, political parties and even the government’s decision-making process.

This is also the time for the gods of small things. We now have a slightly better idea of how our democracy gets distorted by this dirty nexus between business and politics. Obviously, Sri Lankan citizens can now begin to re-think their political loyalties, electoral strategies and expectations.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    7

    Being a former JVPer who knows how the capitalist plunder the poor, and being a political science professor your analysis just superfical crap. Just think about why every prominent politician is silent just like “eta Kehel Kaapu uguduwa”. I am particularly talking about MY3. He is talking everything except that. Probably, he is scared where this would leads to. Think what Ranil is talking. It looks he sitrying hs best to save some thing. what are those ? Then think, about these under the table transactions how much tax money is govt losing and poor people has to pay all those taxes including the money losing to these theives. Think about if we are not losing money this way, how fast Sri lanka would develop. Then think about why Mahinda Rajapakse is reluctant to vote against I KNOW NOTHING RAVI. So, most of the prominent politicians are reluctant to open this can of worms. Then it says, there 40 other politicians connected to this central bank robbery. Govt borrowed only Rs 20 billion. It says govt will lose Rs 59 billion. What Ranil had to borrow emergency loans for a 30 year period. Think if all these connected are questioned by brillient lawyers what would the out come be ?.

    • 2
      1

      All you scam-fighters, here’s a great idea to catch all the crooks irrespective of whose side you are on ………… Ranil or Mahinda ………. UNP or SLFP ……… Yahapalanaya or JO ……….
      What say you? Or is the silence going to be deafening? Sound of silence; eh? …………
      ……… “Now there is an excellent setup in place to investigate all the scams and murders ( murders – well, let’s say “involuntary deaths” ……….. to make it a little more palatable for Gota, Mahinda ……. supporters. :)) …………….
      The purpose of the presidential commission was to target and expedite the investigation of the bond-scam. ……….
      There is a request by some people, to make use of the same presidential commission to investigate all the scams. And force the AG to investigate all the scams with the same vigour that was shown in unravelling the CB bond scam. That will nail the AG if he shows the lackadaisical attitude he has shown so far to go after Rajapakse’s crooks. ………..
      It’s an excellent idea. I hope all you guys will give it your full support.
      Ranil or Mahinda, crook is a crook; right? :))
      Now, this will show who really wants to catch the crooks and who just wants to play partisan politics.
      ………… Finally, It’ll separate the patriots from the smart-patriots. …………..”

  • 0
    1

    I think MY3 is keeping the election promises, he shoukd establish special courts to prosecute these thieves and to get reimbursed what they stole or to acquire their illgotten wealth back. Should introduce a few more good lawyerrs and epand it. there are many cases that went under including the money laundering case of Ravi K.

  • 0
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    According to a press report it has been revealed at the same Bond inquiry that Maithri, Ranil, Mahinda and Karu Jayasuriya all attended the wedding of Arjun Aloysius. This was in 2012.

  • 2
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    Jeyadeva Uyangoda,
    What a disection to expose the advanced tumour mother Lanka has been carrying since SLFP Aomeba split from UNP Amoeba and LSSP, CP Aomebas joined the SLFP.

    You are niyamai with this :
    “When Wikremesinghe went lackadaisical about the corruption inquiries into the dealings of the big wigs of the Rajapaksa regime, he now faces what one may call the poetic justice”

    The irony is the Southerners will never bring in a younger 3rd force.
    It looks like they will bring back MaRa family to power soon.
    MaRa soon will start visiting Andhra& Kerala Temples more than visiting Buddha Gaya.

    In my view , your sincere view
    ” Obviously, Sri Lankan citizens can now begin to re-think their political loyalties, electoral strategies and expectations” is going to be a pie in the sky.
    Only hope is a collaboration among JVP -Maha Sangha -Tamil & Muslim parties, JHU and sending the UNP seniors from SLFP-LSSP-CP- Pvithuru HU , on retirement to Buddha Gaya to re learn Theravada.

  • 5
    1

    Ranil is very much involved in the Bond scandal. It was he who brought the previous CB gov. from Singapore and defended him in Parliament. He has to go….

    Given that Ranil has refused to resign over the many defeats he has suffered leading the UNP (like they do in other civilized democracies), I am not going to hold my breadth!

  • 0
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    • 3
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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      Thanks. Excellent. Keep up your good work.

  • 1
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    • 2
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      PolPot-gey Maama

      Thanks. Excellent. Keep up your good work.

  • 1
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    • 2
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      PolPot-gey Maama

      Thanks. Excellent. Keep up your good work.

  • 2
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    This article is a joke with serious words used in between to intrigue the reader but far from facts.

    “Bond Scam” is a loosely used word with no meaning unless and until someone proves collusion between Aloysius and his father-in-law and to make it a crime you need to establish intent to defraud.

    What has happened does stink and could be unethical but was any laws broken for it to be illegal?

    Central Banks don’t always sell bonds by auctions there are times when private placements are made where the bank avoids the cost and time lag and the investor gets a better return. It is the banks responsibility to negotiate prudently. Has anyone proved that the bank failed in this fiduciary duty? Aloysius as a prudent manager will get the best deal he could but did he use means that broke the law of the land? At least to date its not established.

    Coming to RK: Should he resign? I think NOT. To date no one has established that he broke any laws if he did this would have been dealt in court not parliament.

    Sri Lankan parliament is like a den of thieves and those same guys floating a No-Confidence motion on ethical grounds is laughable.

    RK is not off the hook because he should have known better as a designated accountant.

    • 1
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      Burt,
      “Coming to RK: Should he resign? I think NOT. To date no one has established that he broke any laws “
      Well, he could be gulty of accepting a bribe by taking the apartment.
      ““Bond Scam” is a loosely used word with no meaning”
      Yes, I agree with that. Somebody else would have bought the bonds if Aloysius didn’t. It was the government which wanted money.
      Also, all the huge figures being bandied about are “losses ” over THIRTY years. Nobody seems to remember that interest rates were in double digits 10 years ago, and they well might be over 25% in 5 years.
      However, if Ravi and Aloysius colluded , they must be punished.

  • 2
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    The “Public Opinion” is definitely swinging away from the Main Subject Matter of the “Bond Scams” of 27th February and March 6th, 2017. Some times I wander whether Ms. Anika Wijesuriya’s revelations in evidence and connected questioning of Ravi K were a well crafted “Plot” to “Shift” the attention of the people away from the “Bond Scam” engineered by “Three” powerful “Big Wigs” of UNP with willing participation of the PM, who dislodged the “Independence” of the Central Bank and “Usurped” its control. On the other hand, the self styled “Joint Opposition” under the “Supreme Command and Control” of deposed “King”, Mahinda Rajapakse has taken a “Leap” to cash in out of a situation that has some relevance to the “Bond Scam”. This, “JO Club” knows a “No Confidence” motion is not going to win; but if a debate takes place there will arise a “Chance” to overshadow the main topic of “Bond Scams” that go back prior to 2015. So it is very pertinent to separate the two viz (1) The “Bond Scams” and (2) The Ancillary evidence that emerge during the course of investigations. If not, we will lose track of the “Main Subject” matter of “Bond Scam” that the country and the people want to explore and “RECOVER” the “SWINDLED” National Wealth that perhaps run into millions, billions and possibly trillions. The facts emerging under (2) above must be handled along with the matters related to “Bond Scam” but definitely on a separated basis of “Corruption” and “Bribery”.

    • 2
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      “Some times I wonder whether Ms. Anika Wijesuriya’s revelations in evidence and connected questioning of Ravi K were a well crafted “Plot” to “Shift” the attention of the people away from the “Bond Scam” engineered by “Three” powerful “Big Wigs” of UNP with willing participation of the PM, who dislodged the “Independence” of the Central Bank and “Usurped” its control”

      Many people too wonder!!

  • 1
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    Good stuff Prof Uyangoda. The truth has now come out, kicking and screaming, on the unholy symbiotic relationship between our political class, business class and growing noveau-riche, and the shenanigans that they get up to.

    Sri Lanka, and Colombo in particular is now getting a reputation for being the latest honey pot, and it is attracting all types looking to garner a bit of the easy moolah. Commissions, dodgy deals and scams proliferate. Nice if you know someone from the relatively small number of fixers, but don’t worry if you don’t, after all money talks loudly. Political ‘big-shots’ still carry a lot of clout and are most useful when it comes to ‘shaping’ things up. Always keep one in your pocket.

    This little affair with the once honourable minister is but ‘a passing cloud’ (as they say). A satisfactory get-out has been worked out, and everyone will live happily ever after. Honest Ranil (aka Teflon Ranil) will survive – his back room boys from Batalanda to Bambalapitiya are already on damage limitation. Hon Prez will enjoy his hopper feeds and his reputation survives.

    There will be superficial changes, some gains, some losses. Nothing major. But one thing is sure; the usual crooked dodgy bastards will continue to fleece the public purse at will but with greater care next time (and without involving the unpredictable International school bimbo’s).

  • 1
    1

    sira is like alibaba in the midst of forty thieves despite ranils reassurances which nobody believes
    between Scylla and charibdis he will find the next few years difficult to negotiate with the present team which does not take good advice
    he has to succeed as the alternative is much worse

  • 3
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    For those who praise MY3 including Jayadeva Uyangoda,……. though you may have forgotten or would want us to forget that it was MY3 who dissolved the parliament to prevent the CB bond robbery being fully exposed before the last general election. From the beginning, RW+MY3 tried their very best to sweep it under the carpet. Even the present PCoI was introduced to divert the gathering public outcry. There are much more bigger fish than Ravi K involved in here. It goes back to the regime change project planning done in Singapore and elsewhere. So RW+MY3 duo will try to drag it as long as they could with the help of Jayadeva Uyangoda and the others who will continue to try and confuse the masses. But the problem is the stench is too strong for these buggers to hide it.

  • 2
    1

    “Recovering” moral high ground and credibility with reference to RW seem to denote that the writer, perhaps, by his association with the elite in elitist clubs has been made to believe the misconception that was propagated about “Mr. Clean”; Uyangoda seems ignorent that the “Robber Barons” had been liasing with UNP right along. One would wonder about his own knowledge and credibility as well, and in general about the credibility of not only the politicians, but also those who pose as interlectuals.

  • 2
    1

    Why don’t the Mahanayakes protect the Sinhala race from their politicians instead of drumming up communalism in order to hide corruption? Is it because they are too comfortable with their Benz cars and the comforts that corruption provides?

    Instead of commissions without powers, there should be criminal trials of these politicians as they, unlike common thieves, have stolen public money.

  • 0
    0

    Prof Jayadeva Uyangoda puts it mildly “People, even those who supported him (Ranil) and his government, are now totally disenchanted with his politics of deception on the bond scam from the beginning.”
    What next? From the frying pan into fire?
    “The new development might be seen by Gotabaya Rajapaksa as an unexpected opening for him to promote his image as Mr. Clean with an Iron Fist, the antithesis of wavering RW.”
    What an alternative!!

  • 2
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    The main point made in this excellent analysis by Dr Uyangoda is that the Yahapalanaya government has lost its main plank. Although nothing compared to the deliberate daylight robbery of public funds that took place during the last regime, and for which we will be paying for a lifetime, the Bond incident has hit this Government at its softest and most vulnerable point. The article also shows that the JVP campaign against corruption over all these years has not had the slightest effect on corruption – although they may have won a few votes. Should they change their strategy? Or do we accept that all this is part of the “democracy” that we have.

  • 0
    0

    One bit the dust. Let’s go after the others………..Though I do not agree with Anura Kumara Dissanayake most of the time, his description of Ravi K ignominy was apt. It is like a kasippu hora getting caught during a murder investigation. The murderer(s) are still out there receiving protection………………..

  • 0
    0

    UNP headship of Ranil Wicks that two issues has been challenged in “good governance” and “rule law” last 32 months in power. The Party in charge (UNP) that day to day management has that shifted to by committed Financial crime is unprecedented scale of corruptions after independent of Ceylon 1948 by UNP cartmentship..

    1 CB Bond scam that UNP’s hard cores has been committed crime of Trillions of Rupees of belongs to Public Funds people has been looted by echelons gang of UNP ruling party. This is a NEW Culture of politics governances of Democracy has been an introduce by Ranil Wicks.

    2 Then in 2015 January 8th, of that after 32 months Misrule and Mismanagement of Economic, Politics and Social issues by “Rainbow Revolutionary” leadership that NO LONGER be able to pay Services Debt .

    In fact Mid of so-called “Rainbow revolution” that ruling parties alliance of headed by MS, Ranil Wicks and CBK of came know that it would be teetered on the verge of declaring BANKRUPTCY.!!!
    Yet the days had gone their Ruing Party govern has learned that NO LONGER be able to pay all its local requirements and Foreign Services Debt. Needless to say when investors lost confidently ruling party that BAD Governances and Foreign Govt. realized that UNP Ranil Wicks’s misbehaved.
    By UNP foul play of Financial Crimes(e.g Bond scam) and lost of zero-investment of FDI, had played by two unarmed banks of ……IMF and World Banks. Two institutions put new watch that policy of by conditions NO REFORM said NO MONEY? These two Britton Wood Banks(established 1945) preferred by overall structural adjustment Programs . …..Sri lanak.
    In nutshell this core of political, economic and social crisis challenge by current parties in lopsided of power and its policies. The governance and economic is lay on uncertainties in future…Island is hot again.

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