Tuesday, May 30, 2017

logoTuesday, 30 May 2017

Port City – ‘China Harbour Engineering Company’ corrupt: Harsha de Silva No less a person than Dr. Harsha de Silva – Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs castigated the Rajapaksa Government for partnering with a corrupt Chinese company for its ‘Port City’ project when he was Economic Affairs Spokes-person of the UNP when in opposition.

He was strident in his claim that China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) was “banned by the World Bank” from 2009 to 2017 “after being caught in a string of corruption scandals”. He also alleged “fraud” on the part of CHEC. The words ‘corruption scandals’ and ‘fraud’ need emphasis. http://www.ft.lk/article/257776/Port-city--pump-and-dump--deal--Harsha

Hey presto! This same CHEC is now firmly in the saddle as the major partner of the Yahapalana Government’s version of the ‘Port City’ project now renamed ‘Colombo International Financial City’. This project coming under the Western Province Megapolis Plan is effectively the flagship project of the Yahapalana Government. Harsha de Silva went further and described the project as “Colombo’s largest land scam”.

How can Harsha de Silva refer to a “clear vision” when the Yahapalana Government in which he is a key Minister demonstrably does not have the will to address the scourge of corruption and impunity in the country? - FT file photo

While the Rajapaksa Government granted 20 hectares of land to CHEC on a freehold basis and the balance land on a 99-year lease to the project company, the Yahapalana Government proposes to grant the entirety on a 99-year lease with nothing on freehold. This includes the 20 hectares to CHEC. This must be viewed in the context where de Silva himself opines: “99-year lease that is almost the same as selling”!

Be that as it may, what the Yahapalana Government must now tell the country is how China Harbour Engineering Company which was deemed very corrupt under the previous regime is now suitable to be the principal partner in the Yahapalana Government’s version of the ‘Port City’ project? Does de Silva still consider the ‘Port City’ project “Colombo’s largest land scam”? If not why?

This project similar to most projects in Sri Lanka under successive governments lacks public consultation and transparency. Other issues that concern the Port City are: environment, livelihood, social and indeed the implications of the proposed ‘Colombo International Financial City’ which include the possibility of money laundering.

All those who voted for change for the promised ‘good governance’ are disgusted that let alone making those concerned in the previous regime accountable for alleged egregious corruption and abuse, the new regime has ventured on its own brand of alleged terrible corruption in which the Central Bank Treasury bond scams with its endless investigations figures prominently. This will haunt the Yahapalana leaders for years to come. Another huge disappointment is the failure to introduce in Parliament a credible National Audit Bill which was a major campaign promise. 

Harsha de Silva: Are you contributing to instability?

This writer is still awaiting Harsha de Silva’s response to his above titled article in the Colombo Telegraph. https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/harsha-de-silva-are-you-contributing-to-instability/

The questions/issues raised relate to Harsha de Silva’s assertion in his article also in the Colombo Telegraph, ‘Sri Lanka’s role in the Indian Ocean and the changing global dynamic’: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-role-in-the-indian-ocean-the-changing-global-dynamic/

To the best of my knowledge this was not published in the mainstream English print media in this country. 

“The Government of Sri Lanka has a clear vision of what it

wants to be in the world today” 

In my article I was not for a moment referring to anything connected with the Indian Ocean. De Silva knows this. The readers of my article know this.

I asked him how he could refer to a “clear vision” when the Yahapalana Government in which he is a key Minister demonstrably does not have the will to address the scourge of corruption and impunity in the country.

 I inter alia also asked him: “By not meaningfully acting on your own evidence and promises, are you not letting down the many people who believed in your apparent championing of good governance?I request you in the public interest to provide credible answers to the questions and issues raised herein.”

Harsha’s deafening silence

Cannot Harsha de Silva’s damning allegations against the Rajapaksa administration in the context of his deafening silence after becoming a Minister under Yahapalana be considered even slanderous? They include:  

i) Money laundering

After raucously alleging with a slew of files in tow in the presence of Eran Wickramaratne, another Yahapalana Minister, that the Rajapaksa administration was responsible for casino, drug, ethanol mafias and money laundering in locations such as St. Nevis & Kitts, Seychelles and Dubai, he has now gone silent while in Government.

Here is the link to his 17 December 2014 press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FkVBvpBEMY  

23-amritii) “Regulator has been captured by the mafia”

In relation to the then resignation of SEC Chairman Thilak Karunarathne, he alleged: “Regulator has been captured by the mafia.” http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/regulator-captured-by-the-mafia-harsha-21228.html

Will he reveal the names of the “mafia”? If not why?

iii) Greek bonds

After alleging: “Government invested about Rs.3.3 billion on Greek bonds even though it was aware that the Greek economy had broken down and this careless investment incurred a loss of about Rs.2.2 billion,” he further said: “the same people who manipulated the share market were behind this racket as well.” He has now gone silent. http://www.dailymirror.lk/22651/govt-violating-financial-norms-harsha 

iv) Hedging deal

After alleging: “The country funds were gambled in the derivatives market through the hedging deal resulting in a loss of 27 billion rupees, the EPF funds invested in the stock market have incurred a loss thus far of up to 12.2 billion rupees and the Greek Junk bond deal has resulted in a loss of close to eight million dollars,” he further said: “individuals responsible for these transactions have to be held accountable.” He has now gone silent. http://www.dailymirror.lk/20723/economic-hit-men-in-lanka-harsha 


Harsha de Silva cannot trot out the excuse that issues of corruption are now outside his scope in his current role – Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs. He must be reminded that his primary responsibility is as a Parliamentarian. Is not combating corruption the responsibility of all Parliamentarians?

What is at issue here are his own damning allegations on corruption. Does he not have the moral responsibility to stand by them or apologise to the people if he is wrong?

As Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs he considered it within his scope as recently as April 2017 to write the article: ‘Calculating GDP growth: A sorry attempt by some to mislead people with ‘alternate facts’’ http://www.ft.lk/article/609411/Calculating-GDP-growth:-A-sorry-attempt-by-some-to-mislead-people-with-%E2%80%98alternate-facts%E2%80%99

The question also arises what meaningful action he took on issues of corruption he himself raised so stridently while in opposition when he held the position of Deputy Minister, Policy Planning and Economic Affairs under Yahapalana? Did not the SEC fall under this ministry?

His response is awaited.