(Text of an Editorial Appearing in “The Island ” of October 13th 2017 Under the heading “Eloquent silence”)
Today is Friday the 13th. Not all of us are troubled by triskaidekaphobia, but its association with Satan reminds us of the proverbial man who sold his soul to the devil. The day is of significance to Sri Lankans owing to the conclusion of the proceedings of the presidential commission of inquiry probing bond scams. The evil forces behind the biggest ever financial fraud in the country will heave a sigh of relief today.
Ministers Malik Samarawickrema and Kabir Hashim testified before the presidential commission on Wednesday. Interestingly, while Hashim, the General Secretary of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party (UNP), was giving evidence in connection with the Central Bank bond scam, Shalila Moonesinghe, the leader of the party (New Democratic Front), on whose ticket Maithripala Sirisena was elected President in 2015, was remanded over an international financial scam!
Nobody apparently took any interest in the two ministers’ evidence for obvious reasons. Disillusioned, people no longer expect the big names involved in the bond scams to be brought to justice. They are now convinced that yahapalanaya and Rajapaksa palanaya are only Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
The yahapalana ministers were asked whether Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius or anyone connected to him or his company had contributed funds to the UNP. In a country where there are neither laws governing campaign funds and expenditure nor mechanisms to trace them only a nitwit will answer that question in the affirmative. (One is reminded of the idiotic question in visa applications; the applicants are asked whether they intend to commit act of terrorism in the host country!) It was only natural that the question was answered in the negative before the bond commission. The two ministers were seen leaving the commission, beaming from ear to ear. Their former Cabinet colleague, Ravi Karunanayake, must be wondering why he was not so lucky.
The aforesaid question, put to Samarawickrema and Hashim, should have been posed to Aloysius, who earned and handled huge profits from the controversial bond auctions. But, he has been allowed to remain silent and there is no way any information can be elicited from him.
Money bags usually lavish funds on both main parties as well as prominent candidates of all political stripes in the run-up to an election so that they stand to gain whoever wins. Slush funds consist of black money which finds its way into the hands of politicians in the fray. This is the name of the game in politics. That may explain why some cantankerous Opposition firebrands, who take to the streets at the drop of a hat, have chosen to go slow on the bond scams. If their hands had been clean as they claim they would have launched a frontal attack on the government.
The only way anyone can find out whether the UNP (or the SLFP) has benefited from the largesse of Perpetual Treasuries or any other company for that matter is to conduct a probe and trace its sources of funding. This is a gargantuan task because neither parties nor politicians are required to maintain records of their campaign related funds. The UNP-SLFP coalition claims to be on a mission to usher in good governance, which consists in transparency and accountability among other things. They should put their own houses (read Sirikotha and the Darley Road office) in order before they have others’ assets probed.
Sirikotha was in straitened circumstances towards the end of the Rajapaksa rule. It was struggling to raise funds even for settling utility bills. But, following the change of government in January 2015 it bounced back overnight so much so that it outspent the SLFP at the general election which followed a few months later. Similarly, the SLFP headquarters which had been in utter penury for 17 long years got a massive cash injection after its victory at the 1994 general election. Political parties are the fountains of corruption.
The Attorney General’s Department officials assisting the bond commission chose to remain silent when they were asked whether they had any questions for the ministerial duo. All intelligent Sri Lankans will read their reaction as a silent protest or even an expression of no faith. Their disappointment is palpable and frustration understandable. They have done their best for the sake of the public. They can rest assured that the right thinking people won’t think less of them because of the unfortunate turn of events we have witnessed during the past several weeks. People know the intrepid officials have not succeeded in achieving their goal because some boot-licking bureaucratic lackeys above them have put paid to their valiant efforts.