14 November, 2018

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You Sir! No Sir, Not I Sir, Who Then Sir?

By Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

The nation waited with bated breath as the PM, in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Central Bank, was called before the Bond Commission.

The people of Sri Lanka had seen the ferocious efficiency with which the inquiry was conducted by the representatives of the Attorney General’s department, turning Mr. Dappula de Livera and DSG Yasantha Kodagoda into popular heroes of a grateful public, seeing their skill and determination in their search through the complex transactional twists and turns of the Bond Scam. 

This very determination seems to have eliminated them from being the persons who would question the PM. Citing protocol accorded to the PM attending a Commission of Inquiry, the Attorney General himself questioned the PM instead. The courtesy extended to the PM included desisting from addressing any follow up questions that would force the PM to go beyond the limits of what he seemed to have planned to say on the day.

It was a cakewalk for the PM, unlike for Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who was forced to resign as a result of what emerged from the questioning by the Attorney General’s department at the Bond Commission. This was a fate that did not befall the other 3 Ministers who attended the inquiry, by whatever magic that ensured that neither Mr. De Livera nor Mr. Kodagoda would question them. The people understood the limits imposed on the Commission, but were glad that it did its best within them.

Going by reports of the PM’s replies to the written questions, and his replies at the Commission itself, he seemed to have absolved himself of any wrong doing. In fact, he hardly admits there has been any wrong doing by anybody at all.

If there were, he seemed to suggest that the Commissioners should look in the direction of Arjuna Mahendaran or Ravi Karunanayake. However he generously concludes that he is sure Mr. Mahendran “acted in good faith”. What a relief for the beleaguered public. Not so bad then, if we were scammed “in good faith”.

If the PM is innocent of any wrongdoing, it is nerve-wracking to think that our country is in the hands of someone of such enormously bad judgment. The large contingent of UNF Ministers who appeared in support of him at the Bond Commission, seem determined to celebrate him unconditionally, including his bad judgment.

The PM’s replies are of great use to all who want to learn how to avoid blame. Just make sure it was someone else’s responsibility while declaring that you had complete faith in them. Examples abound.

Appointment of the Governor of CBSL

Was it the PM who in early January 2015, invited Mr. Arjuna Mahendran to accept appointment as the Governor of the CBSL?

The PM replies that:

  • In a discussion with him, Mr. Ravi Karunanayake agreed that Mr. Arjuna Mahendran was the best candidate
  • Mr. Ravi Karunanayake then recommended to the President, with the PM’s concurrence, that Mr. Mahendran should be appointed.
  • The President, “acting upon the said recommendation appointed Mr. Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of the CBSL.”

So, it looks pretty much like it was Ravi Karunanayake who was immediately responsible for Mr. Mahendran’s appointment.

The Commission then makes a further attempt to pin the PM down on whether it was in fact the Finance Minister, Mr. Karunanayake or the Mr. Wickremesinghe “as the Hon. Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs (which is the Ministry under which the CBSL has been placed)” on whose recommendation Mr. Mahandran was appointed.  But Mr. Wickremesinghe is not so easily pinned down!  He repeats what he said earlier:

“… I discussed the proposed appointment with the then Minister of Finance who agreed that Mr. Mahendran was the most suitable candidate. Accordingly, the then Minister of Finance with my concurrence recommended to His Excellency the President that Mr. Mahendran should be appointed. His Excellency the President acting upon the said recommendation appointed Mr. Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of the CBSL.”

Great stuff. “Not I Sir” is in full swing here.

Surely the question is, with whom did the then Minister of Finance “agree”? Who suggested Mr. Mahendran in the first place? Who “proposed” the “proposed appointment” of Mr. Mahendran?

There’s more.

The method of Bond Issuance

Question: Who decided on the method of Bond issuance?

The Commission tells the PM that Mr. Mahendran says that “you instructed him that, the practice of accepting Private Placements of Treasury Bonds should be stopped.”

Answer: “It was the view of all concerned in the new Government that in order to achieve more transparency the raising of funds by way of Public Auction was preferable to the private placement method. This view was conveyed to Mr. Mahendran.”

Basically, the unspecified “all concerned” are responsible for introducing a new method of Bond issuance without adequate thought to its consequences on the economy. The PM is not individually responsible for making that decision, even though he was the Minister in charge. No accountability seems to accrue to him. Is this the case with all Ministers? Is the Cabinet completely unaccountable for its decisions and are Cabinet Ministers unaccountable for their decisions?

Due Process for changing methods of Bond issuance

Question: Was the right procedure followed in implementing this sudden change? The Commissioners ask the PM:

“Did you, in fact, instruct Mr. Mahendran, on 24th February 2015, to immediately stop the practice of accepting Private Placements of Treasury Bonds?”

The PM predictably says what amounts to, Hey don’t look at me! I had complete faith in the Governor to take care of all that!

His actual answers to the two questions trying to elicit who was responsible for the sudden change which occurred overnight were:

  • “…I insisted that Mr. Mahendran should consider the issuance of Bonds by way of Public Auction in accordance with the economic policy of the Government and I expected that he would comply with due procedure.”
  • “…it was expected that Mr Mahendran would take appropriate steps in accordance with due procedures to give effect to the objectives of the Government as expeditiously as possible in the light of concerns expressed by me.”

Mr. Mahendran, it was You, Sir!!

The sudden increase in the amount of the Bond Issuance

The Commissioners want to know why such a large amount of Bonds were issued when they had evidence that it was not necessary. They say:

“…the evidence before this Commission of Inquiry suggests that, the funds required for these payments were to be raised only in the months of April or May 2015 and that, there was no requirement for any funds for this purpose to be raised at the Treasury Bond Auction held on 27th February 2015 or at Treasury Bond Auctions to be held during the month of March 2015.”

Answer:

  • The Minister of Highways stated that there was an urgent need of funds for road development projects, which were undertaken by the previous Government for which the Treasury was unable to provide funds.
  • The Interim Budget also involved additional expenditure including an increase in recurrent and capital expenditure in March.
  • I requested that the concerned Ministers and officials of the Treasury and CBSL meet as soon as possible.
  • Subsequently, they including the Governor CBSL had met on 26th February 2015 and they determined that Rupees Fifteen billion was urgently required.
  • Mr. Mahendran informed me that evening he may be able to raise money far in excess of Rupees One billion in the Bond Auction fixed for 27th February 2015.

Mr. Mahendran, it looks again like it was You Sir!

MR. Mahendran’s Son-in- Law’s involvement with Perpetual

The Commisioner’s ask:

“What action would you recommend against misleading and false statements made to the Prime Minister of the country?”

Reply: “I believed that Mr. Mahendran acted in good faith.”

The Clincher! It’s all his fault! The ultimate “Not I, Sir!”

From the point of view of the citizens, checks and balances are there in systems and processes in order that errors of bias of this sort can be mitigated. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s ‘beliefs’ are his private matter and cannot be relied upon beyond a point! But the Auditor General who pointed these out is out on a limb!

And to further questions, more of the same by the PM:

  • “In this regard the due procedure I expected Mr. Mahendran to follow was to work within the rules and guidelines set by the Monetary Board and follow best practices relating to the running of a Central Bank. Beyond this, I was not expecting to give any instructions or exercise any supervisory role.”
  • “As stated earlier, I had no reason to believe that Mr. Arjuna Mahendran would face a conflict of interest, and there was no special reason to satisfy myself that due procedure had been followed.”

Mr. Mahendran! Tsk! Tsk!

But what about checks and balances? Who is responsible for satisfying themselves that due procedure had been followed?

The US Treasury

What about the text message that seemed to suggest that Arjuna Aloysius was meant to meet with Mr. Wickremesinghe regarding the US Treasury?

The Commissioners ask:

“…A text message sent on 14.01.2017 by Mr. Aloysius’s Personal Assistant Steve Samuel appears to be reminding Mr. Aloysius of a meeting with you regarding the US Treasury. Was there a meeting scheduled between you and Mr. Aloysius on that date?…did you in fact meet Mr. Aloysius on 14.01.2017 regarding the US Treasury or any other matter?”

Answer: “There was no meeting scheduled between Mr. Aloysius and myself, nor did I meet Mr. Aloysius, on 14 January 2017, regarding the US Treasury or any other matter.”

Clearly, that would not have been proper at all.

However, Mr. Wickremesinghe seems to have met with a specialist from the US Treasury himself, dashing any hope that Mr. Aloysius may have had of joining in!  The Daily Financial Times reports that “A specialist brought down from the US Treasury, said Wickremesinghe, introduced the Government to this system.”

Who then Sir?

The PM, despite his great technique, failed to look anything like Caeser’s wife. So questions remain.

We put our faith in the Commissioners, to present their observations and conclusions leading to a process of  clear identification of those who are accountable, directly and indirectly, for the scam, the chain of command or decision-making, and thus enable the President to take appropriate action, including recommendation of controls and monitoring as in Sarbanes-Oxley after Enron, so that the country and its citizens are never again subjected fraud on such a massive scale by seemingly unrepentant perpetrators.

*The author was part of the Sarbanes-Oxley team as an accountant at GSK in London when the US Federal law was first applied in the UK.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    7

    Ms. Sanja De Silva Jayatillaka,

    Is Mahinda Rajapaksa releasing another batch of his stolen public funds and distributing to the shills?

    Or is MRa on Ganja?

    Just curious!

    • 8
      5

      Amarasiri,

      Mr. and Mrs. Jayatillaka De Silva are like leeches that will not leave the skin until it is gorged with blood. Since MS & RW do not let these parasites to get closer to the regime, they are looking for someone in the MR camp to hang on to. Poor MR has turned into a drunkard (addicted to brandy) after he lost the executive power and all respect/dignity. Even his family members and close associates are keeping away.

    • 8
      3

      Dear Sanja,
      Funny. You forgot to ask these highly legitimate questions for 10 years. While Rajapassa clan was looting the nation. I like your social engagement via writing. However, your credibility and motives are somewhat dubious.
      Cheers!

      • 1
        0

        Ms. Sanja de Silva Jajatillake,

        ‘You forgot to ask these highly selective questions for 1o years”

        Are you on Ganja, Sanja, paid for by the stolen billions from MaRa? Just curious!

  • 7
    1

    As I heard, sujeewa Senasinghe wrote the book during the 100 day govt during which only one scam happened. Then after the 100 day govt, for the second COPE committee, one Tamil MP was removed and Sujeewa Senasinghe was appointed with so many other UNP MPs. that itself says cover up. So many similar incidences can be just coincidence. AG did not ask Ranil’s phone, phone conversations etc., Otherwise, it says, Ranil asked Banks to lose. Again we get the question why BOC was not asked to buy the bonds instead BOC bought bonds for PTL. AG did not ask anything about phone conversations among GALLEON RAVI (A former Money launderer), Ranil and Arjum Mahendran or anyone else. Many things are hidden under the parliamentary privileges. It should be second only the Great Train robbery. that is among known robberies. Other than that All 225 including the previous govt look very well trained RATs. They try to hide but refuses to go away. They know the taste of it very well.

  • 0
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 5
    1

    A little disappointed, eh, Sis? [Edited out]

  • 8
    0

    Fortunately for Mr. Arjun Mahendran, the Prime Minister of Singapore , Mr Lee Kuvan Yeo is not among the LIVING. If he was present at this time of the day, this Mr. Arjun Mahendran would have been rotting in jail whether the Sri Lanka Presidential Commission finds him guilty or not. Perhaps our PM and a bunch of Ministers and Juniors also would have been subjected to a “Out Of Bound” from Singapore for every many years. I remember, in the 1980s how a Minister in the Cabinet of Singapore committed suicide merely on been summoned by Mr. Lee Kuvan Yeo to question on a scandal in the relevant Ministry. That was how Singapore was built to the benefit and to be enjoyed by the Singaporeans. In contrast our country has been built and is been shaped for the benefit and enjoyment of the “Elite” class of Politicians ; but not for the Sri Lankans. The relevant evidence and clarifications by our PM clearly indicate where our country is been led and destroyed. Our ex Finance Minister who had to step down from his portfolio due to the involvements in the “Bond Scam” will never follow the example of that Minister of Singapore who committed suicide. Instead he still is the Vice President of the ruling UNP and enjoying all the “Comforts” of a Minister under our PM. That is still no MIRACLE in Sri Lanka; but as usual as always.

  • 3
    2

    It is ironical to say this bond enquiry . Suppose it was during the MR time …do you expect anyone questioning him or any one of his family..?
    What a joke is this ?
    I think it is a show off to fool public.
    If you want to have such a honest public enquiry.
    We should have done it with people of last regime .
    Ok

  • 7
    1

    it does look like a man with 40 years political experience can be conned so easily by othersland he has the brass to con the commissioners
    when it comes to party matters no one can believe what he says in future
    earlier it was koheda yanne mal le poll replies [like sujeevas] now it is pure and simple cons
    what will happen to the country in next few years I dread to think

  • 8
    1

    Ranil has never ever ever taken responsibility for any of his multiple electoral defeats.

    Why expect him to do now?

  • 7
    1

    PM said he realized Mahendran/Aloysious had a conflict of interest. He told Aloysious/Mahendran combination to get out of perpetual.

    Aloysious told him he was going to sell the shares of Perpetual at the right price.

    In his evidence PM says he thought Aloysious had got out of Bond trade and was now selling Arrack through Mendis Special. The PM even admired the Arrack at a private party held with Aloysious and similar minded people.

    But didnt Maahendran or Aloysious/Ravi/Paski/Malik tell our brave and intelligent PM that Aloysious was the source of the billions of money made by the government via the Bond sales and that the conflict of interest continues ?

    This nation is not stupid

    • 1
      1

      Kolla Think If Ranil Baba were the Army commander and he had to run the War. Pabakaran would be the Eelam president. Am I right ?. why did we have a stupid baby who is no different to I KNOW NOTHING RAVI and say I am very Naive and I didnot know anything like this was happenng. Ranil Baba did not know how to do it when the first bond scam was reported during the 100 day govt. He got Sujeewa Senasinghe to write a book and MY3 to dissolve the govt so that firsst COPE report would go to Recycling bin., Then he did the same robbery twice more after the new govt and appointed Sujeewa Senasinghe to FOOD note gang of the COPE committee.

      • 3
        0

        Hot damn! Never mind Ranil Baba, once upon a time, if Dr DJ had his way there would have been Eelam and the Sun God would have been king.

  • 3
    2

    We all know Dayan Jathilake Agenda. Immatarial of the out come of the bond scam your writting is in line with your better half. it is biased and it is obviouse that the writter is seeking the Diplomatic life style she was enjoying during MR regime.
    What Most of us have forgoton is Mr Jayathilaka was a prominent Minister in the eastern provincial council alighned with a Tiger Group.

  • 5
    1

    Sanja,

    would love to read a write up from you with a little bit of help from your better-half about the helping hambanthota robbery, hedging deals etc……or is it a case of selective dementia and all you can remember is stuff that happened after january 2015? i’m sure you and your husband long for the super luxurious life style that you both enjoyed as ambassadors under MR’s watch. The frequency with which you and DJ churn out articles these days suggests you both are bored and desperate and missing the good life…

  • 5
    0

    Now the Duo has ganged up on Ranil and UNP!
    Wimal Sankkili Karuppan is trying to be in the good books of MY3
    Sanja and DJ try and write something about Wasim Thajudeen or Ekneligoda, lasantha.

  • 0
    0

    I forgot to thank you for using as your title the same words I used to describe ravis evidence before the bond commission

  • 3
    0

    Oh sweet, smiling, Sanja, welcome to the Circle of wringing hands. In anguish, no doubt.
    Regardless of what Ranil said at the gentle cross-examination, the fact is that the jury in the court of public opinion had already decided that THIS Yahapalanaya mob is just as guilty as the previous mob of the Great Liberator who presided over the blatant denuding of the public purse. BOTH parties have concealed with great skill their modus operandi and the resulting loot. In the words of that party song “somebody know but nobody tell, but somebody bad stole the wedding bell”.

    Our first instance of sticky fingers in operation was that lark about ‘Helping Hambantota’. What cheek that was, remember? For about the last about 15 years, accessing the public purse has been the preferred sport of the privileged selection of our politicians who found themselves in power. Somehow, every bugger had his (mostly) snout in the national trough.

    So this Ranil fiasco is just another episode in this sad era. Like all the other episodes going back to at least 2004, nothing will come of our ‘investigations’. The bird has flown, the filthy lucre has evaporated. Look at the prosperity of the politicians over the last fifteen years to get some idea of where it might have all gone.

  • 1
    0

    Excellent clarification! Thank you.

  • 3
    1

    Okay lets start from Helping Hambantota in 2004 and End with Bond Auction and anything else from 2015.-2017 nov 22. MIG, Murders of journalists, Raviraj, Pararajasingham, Welikada Massacre, Hedging, Dubai Marriott, Properties in LA, Texas, Mauritius Seychelles, dubai. japan etc. CHOGM Etc etc etc.

    • 2
      0

      Ay Mudson, don’t forget the public slapping of our High Commissioner at the Court of St James by the FM Enforcer Sajin Vass G, when both were accompanying HE President The Great Liberator to the UN. That more than anything led to Sri Lanka becoming the laughing stock of the diplomatic community.

      Dr Mackwood couldn’t even go back to say cheerio to HM The Queen, and Sajin ended up facing charges one-on-top-of-another for all the devious business he did after becoming The Great Liberator’s paddikam carrier. He should be given 20 years but he is still free as jaybird, entertaining in style anyone who will visit him, at his mansion built on stolen, ill-gotten gains.

      Who to tell these things to?

  • 1
    0

    No where in the world have clean politics ,not excluding first world, we all have to do comparison. Needless to say the regime we had prior to 2015. There was No law and Order in the country . Neutral people in this country , now can see how the people
    are enjoying the democracy in the wild ass way without any disturbance with the support of robbed wealth of country injected to the radicals to topple the government
    before a legitimate election to cover up their mass robberies , & Murders.
    We have to thank President & PM for saving the country .
    Where were all these pundits & Kulappuwas prior to 2015 ?

  • 0
    1

    The PM of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu in spite of his busy schedules has to face rigorous police questioning over some private family transactions. The people of Israel have faith in the independence of the prosecution and judiciary.
    Sanja De Silva Jayatillaka is pointing out that the robustness of Lankan prosecutors and judiciary is wanting. We, the silent majority of Lankans knew this all along and we share your angst.
    Sanja, please be even-handed in your sermons!

  • 0
    0

    Where are that so-called civil society organizations like Friday Forum who taught us about the Good Governance? Those people said that they will come forward if this government goes wrong. But we cannot hear any voice from them. The PM is implicated with strong evidence against him, at least his conflict of interest with Arjun Mahendaran and his Son in Law. Therefore, the PM should step down because he cannot escape from the crime. In other countries like South Korea and Brazil, the relevant head of the government had to step down for crimes that are less than the bond scam in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    0

    SDSJ.
    Spot on.
    The set up of the legal system in SL needs drastic changes. Perhaps a Presidential Commission with commonwealth input is the answer. Justice moves at snails pace in SL.

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