17 October, 2019

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The Politics Of Moral Objection

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The revelations by the website Colombo Telegraph pointing to fraud and deceit by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in an article titled Exposé: Center for Policy Alternatives defrauded and hoodwinked donors,’ are serious and damaging to say the least. Obtaining funds from multiple donors for a single project, submitting invoices for workshops never held, double-billing and entering non-project related expenses in ‘safe columns’ and wholesale cover up of fraud make a sordid story.

It’s a story that doesn’t sit well with the image that the CPA and its all-powerful Executive Director Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (the Board of Directors and all employees of the CPA will not utter a word that is not sanctioned by him; indeed they refer all inquiries on all matters to him) have been projecting to the world.  Transparency and accountability are their bread and butter. Good governance is their after-breakfast cup of tea.  Democracy is their dessert. As for dinner and drinks, there’s a lot of indulgence on the part of the CPA and myopia on the part of donors, according to the Colombo Telegraph. The Colombo Telegraph ‘Exposé’ not only wrecks this portfolio but calls to questions journalists, rights advocacy groups, operatives in certain UN agencies, diplomats and all manner of ‘experts’ who have for years built cases against Sri Lanka based solely on the word of this individual who is now right in the middle of this controversy.

Good governance is their after-breakfast cup of tea.  Democracy is their dessert.  As for dinner and drinks, there’s a lot of indulgence on the part of the CPA and myopia on the part of donors

Good governance is their after-breakfast cup of tea. Democracy is their dessert. As for dinner and drinks, there’s a lot of indulgence on the part of the CPA and myopia on the part of donors

Not too long ago, Sunanda Deshapriya, another individual who has made quite a name for himself in these very same circles and who was let off light by the CPA courtesy Dr Saravanamuttu calling what as clearly a swindle ‘lack of clarity in financial dealings,’ quite unabashedly said ‘this is what happens 90% of the time in all NGOs’. What right, then, do these individuals and organizations have to talk about accountability and other kinds of wrongdoing, one wonders.

None of this is new as far as the CPA is concerned. The outfit received a staggering Rs 58 million to monitor the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in 2010, obtaining money from the Netherlands, the USA, Germany and the UK. We do not know if this was part of the Rs 272.31 million the CPA is reported to have received from various donors between 2007 and 2010 (see also CPA, NPC and TISL are about bucks [big bucks]).  We do know that the CPA regularly solicits donations from the general public to carry out their activities (go figure!). For an analysis of all this (to which the CPA never responded with any clarity), see Is an election a ‘village tank’ for monitors and donors?

So it’s not new. So let’s leave it at that. Let’s talk instead of what this particular ‘Exposé’ elicited by way of response on the website.

Some have cheered. Others have cursed the website for broadly two reasons, a) taking time off from investigating and exposing similar stuff on the part of the regime, the Rajapaksas, ministers, officials and their supporters, and b) for hurting those who are championing causes such as human rights and good governance. ‘This is not the time,’ some argue. ‘This is not the way,’ others offer.

The ‘b’ above is interesting, ‘interesting’ because almost all the objectors are vociferous critics of the Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government. They object to much the same things that the CPA has been accused of. Indeed, most of them don’t offer any critique of the article itself.  So what do we have – honest objection to mismanagement, theft, deceit and so on or regime-hatred, plain and simple? Is it something like, ‘it’s ok if our guys do wrong, but not this Government!’? Or are they placing a greater burden on those in power to do the right thing? That’s not evident in the comments. In any case, if the watchdogs and gurus of human rights and good governance are themselves corrupt, if they are even touted as the ‘true opposition,’ are these objectors just a bunch of losers who have nothing better to do than rant and rave just because their outcome preferences didn’t materialize?

The first set of objections, i.e. ‘a’ above, are more interesting. Now Colombo Telegraphs has hardly been using kids’ gloves on the regime. If that were the case the website wouldn’t have been blocked so many times. Indeed, the very same objectors have saluted the website time and again for taking on the Government, from the President downwards. The point is valid, however, for those who have adopted a ‘hands-off completely’ policy on all things associated with this Government, from policy to implementation to not too flattering personal eccentricities. Such people are clearly salivating seeing Dr Saravanamuttu at the receiving end of charges much like those he himself utters at every turn (the ‘salivators’ must include NGO heads competing for the same funds for similar projects) and at the prospect of his international backers getting uncomfortable. After all, it is Colombo Telegraph and not the state-owned media that’s saying all this, and many who have backed the CPA and Dr Saravanamuttu are big fans of that website.

The issue at hand is hypocrisy. The bigger issue is that what’s wrong is wrongdoing and not ‘CPA-wrongdoing’. There can be no ‘ok levels’ to it for these are bound to be subjective and conveniently set margins.

Perhaps it is because NGOs set themselves up as paragons of virtue who can do no wrong that people are upset. The truth is that there’s error and deceit in all sectors. NGOs often think of themselves as a ‘parallel state’, but what we see is a society whose sectors mirror one another. The state sector is corrupt (and this is not new or newsworthy any more), the corporate sector is as corrupt (but they are not touched by some – but why?) and the so-called ‘civil society’ (read, some self-styled NGO saints) is corrupt.

There’s a question that needs to be answered: ‘Where and how do we begin to correct all this?’ Self-reflection could be a possible answer – both for individuals and groups.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    THIS IS ONE OF THE WAYS HOW HE IS ROBBING PEOPLE”S MONEY, NOT IN BILLIONS BUT IN TRILLIONS OF RUPEES

    I heard in the grapevine that there is yet another mola-koloppan price reduction is underway. Flour!

    Look at his policy! Wheat flour price kept high in order to make way for rice flour to promote and be used as the substitute to make bakery products to prevent falling of rice prices. Now, rice is scarce in supply for food, due to its usage in beer production. This shows type of brain he has. How can he reduce prices this way in the wake of an upcoming major election? Also, what is going to happen to the policies to protect the rice industry and farmers?

    The other thing is that this means he has illegally earned these massive massive (billions of dollars) amounts of money behind the curtains from business men in gas, flour, electricity etc. 25% of sales in rice, flour, electricity….. etc for the past 10 years has gone into his pocket.

    I will join force with Ven. Sobhitha Thero and Ranil +Anura+ Foseka+ Sampanthan+ Hakim+ Karu+ Mangala+ Nimal+ Maithri+ Ratnasiri+ Mrs CBK+++++ all the leaders to find and bring back these robbed money from people’s pockets illegally to the treasury and to people.

    • 0
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      This Laptop Malinda is a white washing his masters Governance.

      He is Telling ; ” So what do we have – honest objection to mismanagement, theft, deceit and so on or regime-hatred, plain and simple? Is it something like, ‘it’s ok if our guys do wrong, but not this Government!’?” ?????????????????????.
      WHAT,?????? WHAT<????????????
      BUT he Forgot to mention that,
      Embezzling of Donors TSUNAMI FUNDS of Millions of rupees by this So called His Honest, God's Fearing, Three times Buddha praying, Name sake Sinhala BUDDHIST BOSS, JARAPASSA and Defence money theft by Hothambaya + clan.
      when compare to F King's Tsunami money Theft, This C P A Billings are Pea nuts.

      • 0
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        Amare, Yes Laptop Malinda white wash his master who robed tsunami funds etc. So should we just ignore his allegations or forgive Mr. Saravanamuttu?

  • 7
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    Dear Malinda Seneviratne , The Shill and whitewasher

    “The revelations by the website Colombo Telegraph pointing to fraud and deceit by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in an article titled ‘Exposé: Center for Policy Alternatives defrauded and hoodwinked donors,’ are serious and damaging to say the least. Obtaining funds from multiple donors for a single project, submitting invoices for workshops never held, double-billing and entering non-project related expenses in ‘safe columns’ and wholesale cover up of fraud make a sordid story.”

    Yes. It is very good to expose Corruption, even though the donors donated voluntarily, and nobody got hurt or killed. Thank Colombo telegraph for being neutral and impartial.

    Malinda, why cannot you find the single impartial standard of Colombo telegraph, instead of following Double standards.

    Let’s see the commissions taken by the Rajapaksa family and their clones , shills and whitewashes. None of the other media will expose that. What about Aluthgama Violence? Uva Violence?

    1. The money was collected involuntarily and forcefully from the People.

    2. The MaRa and their Clones and shills takes commissions ranging from 10% to 70%,, out of the State Funds collected from the people or donors who donated on behalf of the people.

    3. Why Malinda, MaRa clone, you do not write about them? Nor allowed in your Job description?

    DAILY MIRROR EDITORIAL : The cancer of corruption
    Posted on October 5th, 2014
    FRIDAY, 03 OCTOBER 2014 00:00At a time when the cancer of bribery and corruption has reached the worst proportions, the JVP on Wednesday made disclosures that were shocking.

    The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s Voice Against Corruption unit gave documents with figures and details to the Commission appointed to probe allegations of bribery and corruption.

    The grave and the deadliest dimension of these charges are that they have taken place in the health service where for millions of people it is a matter of life or death. The unit’s convener and Provincial Council member Wasantha Samarasinghe in the complaint said Japan had donated Rs.770 million to buy C.T. scanners and dialysis equipment, mainly for the North-Central Province where thousands of farmers and their families have been severely affected by a kidney disease of unknown origin. He said only Rs.300 million had been used to buy six C.T. scanners and 50 dialysis machines. Mr. Samarasinghe charged that the balance, a massive Rs. 470 million had apparently gone into the pockets of officials or politicians.

    The activist provincial councillor also alleged that a fraud amounting to about Rs.500 million had occurred in the purchase of C.T. scanning and dialysis machines in the Central Province. Mr. Samarasinghe charged that a high ranking official was involved in this racket. Adding to the mystery, this official was a director of the company through which the equipment was bought. Even more mysterious was that the company’s address was of a building belonging to a former provincial health minister.

    The JVP’s Voice Against Corruption unit warned that if the Commission did not take action on these charges and bring the culprits to justice immediately, the JVP would urge the people who are against bribery and corruption to surround the offices of
    the Commission.

    Corruption in any sector is a crime and a plunder of the people’s money. Tragically, the worst corruption seems to be taking place in the most vital area – the health sector. For several decades now, transnational pharmaceutical companies known as the multimillion dollar pharma mafias have been allowed to operate freely in Sri Lanka. As disclosed in an article in the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, the pharma mafia is blocking the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on Professor Senaka Bibile’s essential medicines concept. Through this concept, quality drugs could be made available to the people at affordable prices. But the pharma mafia is alleged to be involved in heavy bribing of Health Ministry officials and even some medical specialists to prevent the implementation of the NMDP.

    Wednesday’s disclosures of health sector corruption amounting to a huge Rs.970 million underlines the urgent need for the Government to act swiftly and effectively in restoring a health service where the well-being of the patients is given top priority. Otherwise it might be a case of the Government allowing ghosts from the graveyard to run or ruin the health sector.

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      Professor Senaka Bibile’s valuable work was opposed by the big drug companies from the outset. It is not in their financial interests to encourage the national pharmaceutical industry (while they continue to collect indigenous Ayurvedic knowledge in the hope of developing new drugs they can patent).

      Allowing the international drug companies free reign is a disaster in any country, since their motive is to sell their products, not to keep the population healthy. In fact, drug sales are increased by keeping the population unhealthy and keeping them on drugs for longer and at bigger doses than necessary.

      We will do well to heed the warnings of Professor Peter Gotzche: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIIQVll7DYY

      Professor Gotzche from Denmark is one of the few senior academics internationally who is exposing the pharmaceutical mafia in clear and direct terms.

      • 2
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        You do have some whacky ideas !

  • 6
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    Malinda Seneviratne you have jumped the gun! The allegations of fraud are yet allegations. Until the other side is heard in a formal enquiry nobody should suggest conclusions. Anyone can make allegations but until established by a formal enquiry having heard the other side they remain allegations and therefore worth nothing.
    Can you see what a cheap journalist you have become? Good for a rag and not for a respectable journal

    • 2
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      Oh Prem…You must be heart broken see the how harshly people have “jumped the gun” to accuse the MR goverment for corruption!(Because we are not hearing from the goverment side and no investigation proved the accusation yet.)

  • 2
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    Thanks Malinda for highlighting this.

    Apart from allegations fraud and swindling like the one levelled against Pakisothy Savaranamuthu’s CPA, the NGOs operating in Sri Lanka are known to spend more than 60% of all project funds given by donors on what is broadly termed “administration expenses”. These include salaries and allowances of NGO operatives, their travelling expenses, and entertainment allowances. Out of the balance 40%, 30% are siphoned off by contractors and other intermediaries involved in implementing the project. That leaves the so-called beneficiaries with just about 10% of any project fund benefits.

    I have personally seen the high spending style of some of these NGO operatives. I know a guy in Batticaloa who previously worked in a local government body who is now the local head of an NGO. He had a hand to mouth living and his parents and in-laws were not rich. But, after becoming an NGO operative he has built a two-storey house costing a few million rupees. People in the village are questioning where come the money for this guy to build such an expensive house. He is one example of these NGO operatives.

    Foreign governments and donors give funds to these NGOs in order to carry out their own agendas. Most of these NGO operatives are known to receive training on various subjects such as good governance, transparency, and project management by US embassy in Colombo. These training sessions are in fact seen as ‘brain washing’ sessions aimed at eventually turning them into ‘fifth columns’. US is well known for using these people to create unrest and dissension in countries not seen as friends by the US Administration. Sri Lanka is one such example.

    People like Pakiyasothy Saravanamuthu, if they are proved guilty of these allegations of fraud and corruption, should be sent to jail like the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha. Not just the NGO wallahs, but anyone who enters public service like the politicians in Sri Lanka, should face the same fate for corruption and commission taking. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka we do not have principled and tough judges like Judge Cunha we find in India. I am not saying that the Indian judiciary is clean and pure but there are some like Judge Cunha who apply the law impartially. Despite the government prosecutor dragging his feet in many ways in favour of Jayalalitha, Judge Cunha stood firm and delivered a judgement which many legal experts say will stand despite the Himalayan efforts being made by Jayalalitha camp to save her from continued imprisonment.

  • 1
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    It looks like Malinda is behind all this – I gather this is about bills and receipts from nearly nine years ago- the reason why Sunanda was sacked from CPA. So why this attack and character assassination just before elections. We have gone through all this many times before with Sri Lanka’s best and brightest Dhanapala etc…luckily judging from the comments people have seen the light. Malinda the crusader against corruption but never a word against the Rajapakse’s only his fellow intellectuals..,,envy, hypocrisy, a chip on the soldier perhaps….

  • 1
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    SELF REFLECTION – is the impossible answer – as Malinda has demonstrated we can write reams about the wrongs of others –

    just say this over and over again a million times – I screwed up ….

  • 0
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    For once, I have to agree with Malinda here…. And he is spot on.

  • 0
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    Another poor article written by this nincompoop, the journo who has received laptops from the Medamulana King and attempts to deceive the public with the garbage that he writes. No point in CT in publishing this crap from this scumbag. To compare a drinks bill against the monumental robbery of citizens monies by the current regime is a joke and only an imbecile can express such a view. Dr Paki, dont be side tracked by these simians who only understand the law of the jungle.

  • 2
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    Malinda is a paid servant of Rajapakse. I suggest that we all should stop commenting on any of his articles to teach him a lesson. If there are no comments for his articles he will at least then learn a lesson that we do not care to comment on what he writes as he is serving Rajapakse.

  • 0
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    If there is any issue against Sara or his NGO its OK to investigate and find out what really happened. But in this case it is very clear that Dogs are barking towards the moon because they are scared or mentally ill. We have seen many things before they go to elections. But we have to remember even Stalin couldn’t save his power for ever. many has rest in dustbins.

  • 0
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    90% of the commenters here just got their arses torched by Malinda :D

    • 0
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      David Blocker alias Siva Snakran Sama@
      Really – I never thought the MS has studied medicine (Proctocology) – he only got all kind of creeping nature – his honesty -if he had once upon a time was now being raped by MR kalliya clans.

    • 0
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      Wee Tamizh D:Siva Sankaran Sarma Menon

      “90% of the commenters here just got their arses torched by Malinda :D”

      Hence Malinda ought to throw a big party all the commendator.

    • 1
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      Did not know that Malinda liked to torch arses!

  • 1
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    Anyone with an iota of good sense should be able to understand that very few of the NGO lot do good for anyone but themselves.

    The embassies and Intl NGO’s have budgets and the local branches have to utilize their allocations or the following year they will lose it! So, it is about spreading the $$s around. To this, a few KAPATI Sri Lankans have created s system whereby they will tailor-make the project to suit the NGO’s goals and targets. The local NGO leadership wants to show activity and results, and as long as someone can post a few photos of smiling seminar participants, or mal-nourished kids with plates of rice, or wrinkled up archchies waiting to have their eyes checked on, it has worked for everyone concerned.

    $100,000 is nothing for an NGO in the over all scheme of things. Has anyone seen an NGO employee using anything but an A/C vehicle ? Has anyone gone into an office with A/C? Gone are the days when being a social worker(A misnomer of a bygone era! ) doing work with society. Now, it is about projects, seminars, pamphlets and Power-point presentations. None of which means much to the ultimate (supposed) beneficiaries of all this expense. Herein lies the problem. It is big one, that starts from the foreign funding entity and ends up in the pockets of local NGO kingpins. They are all feeding at the same trough.

    In the rush, the Rajapakses want to take a slice of the pie but are afraid to do that, in fear of exposing their rackets too easily to the ‘suddas’. If and when they can find a local (kalla) to do their bidding, the stealing has been done on a grand scale.

    The ‘big brother’ to the foreign NGO project is the ‘unsolicited’ proposal game played by the Rajapakse clan. Create a project(racket) out of thin air, find a donor/investor/funder from somewhere (preferably China), have a dim-witted/compromised Minister sign the agreement with the foreign entity, and then steal the funds wholesale. Of course, have a grand foundation laying ceremony with the appropriate dignitary photos. Just remember, everyone up the ladder gets a cut!!!

  • 0
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    Anybody who runs anything can be made into a racketeer depending on how you present the facts. It is clear what is going on here with this gang of Malinda Rajiva et al. Think about it. First the attack on ICES and Rama Mani shut them up, then we go onto Dhanapala and the Friday Forum made him step down, then we have the attack on Sanjana and ground views and now attacks on CPa ans Sara- Always they find some bills receipts and some mumbo jumbo accounting. This is a pattern. These people work on an agenda and it suits the agenda of the MOD, No-one is fooled anymore. Sara we know is made of sterner stuff despite the flower in his hair

    • 0
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      @striper
      Oh no! I wasn’t not aware of this ICES – Rama Mani shut up case, please tell us more. I know about Dahanapala issue. He had to resign, yes yes. Attack on Sanajana?? What is it? Who attacked him? We know he abused a CPA tamil woman using F word like Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But didn’t know that he was attacked. CT why didn’t you report about that clean man was attacked? Striper, where was this attack took place? New York Nonis’ party?? Or Gallery Caffe? And P S’Muttu also attacked? when and where? Please please tell us?

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