On the day that the former finance and briefly, foreign minister, decided to step down from his positions, democracy was subject to a rare spectacle notable for its brazen shamelessness.
The Prime Minister, also the Leader of the United National Party, was seen escorting then Minister Karunanayake to his ministerial seat on the front benches of the House.
Now, in the Westminster style of democracy and politics, it would be political suicide for the first among equals to show such very public support for a man facing serious allegations of sleaze.
If the first among equals wished to support a fellow party man with years of loyal service both to the party and to the leader himself, the option would have been to grant such support away from the glare of the media and so do privately.
The question that springs to mind immediately therefore, was whether the Leader of the UNP and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for a record four times, was extending such brazen public support for a man gravely damaged by the vilification of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into what was described by the Attorney General’s department in Court as ‘the greatest financial fraud inflicted on Sri Lanka since independence’ simply because he had an intention to return the Minister to high office.
In the style and manner that the Prime Minister had done for Thilak Marapana the current Foreign Minister, who earlier in this government’s tainted term resigned over a conflict of interest scenario.
Throughout his career – 40 years of unbroken service in parliament – the Prime Minister has made no bones that he is a great admirer and supporter of the Westminster style of politics, and once early in his career lectured the opposition Bandaranaike dynasty about the virtues of that system following an election result.
There is an overwhelming requirement for the Prime Minister to answer queries of his inaction in terms of the Central Bank bond transaction. The Presidential Commission have clearly stated that the …. ‘Prime Minister would have been better advised if he had sought independent advice instead of relying on the assurance given to him by Arjuna Mahendran and P Samarasiri…’
If one examines the inaction of the Prime Minister from the outset of this transaction, the Prime Minister’s role is rather crystal clear: he did virtually nothing of any substance and that in turn led to disastrous consequence.
Along that path, one Arjun Aloysious and his friends in the financial markets made plenty of money.
Subject to a thorough examination of the evidence unearthed by the Commissioners, these monies may well be found to be illegally gained and stands subject to confiscation as being proceeds from illegal activity.
Matters would have a far different connotation had the Prime Minister been able to demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, the probity with which he had acted.
Instead of independently verifying that Mahendran had followed his insistence that the system be changed, Wickremesinghe flippantly relied on the assurances of his hand-picked Governor.
Worse was to emerge: under oath the Prime Minister admitted that he had met Arjun Aloysious at which meet the youthful Aloysious had stated “ I am concentrating on my other businesses”.
Instead of checking that this matter had indeed been put to rest, the Prime Minister again chose to rely on the assurances verbally given by Aloysious.
What is shameless is that the Prime Minister, when confronted by a barrage of media and civil society concern about the first bond in February 2015, did absolutely nothing to independently verify that the conflict of interest position he had asked Mahendran to get rid of, had indeed been achieved.
Sadly for our nation, the Prime Minister did not act independently. He instead launched into a full blown defence of Mahendran and his actions.
The result is that this nation needlessly is paying for that inaction in terms of higher interest rates. Some experts place the loss at over Rs 600 billion over the next fifteen years.
Sri Lanka will be broke by the time we pay for this solo misadventure.
Shamelessly the Prime Minister refuses to accede to his mismanagement of this affair and instead is trying to lord it over this land as though every perch belongs to him, his lackeys and members of his favoured club.
The Prime Minister’s shameless, flippant attitude is corrupting Sri Lanka. Of that, the public can have no doubts.
– Faraz Shaukatali