Thursday, July 27, 2017

The bond drama


President Maithripala Sirisena has extended the term of the presidential commission of inquiry probing bond scams. Investigations have taken a dramatic turn and several key witnesses have not testified yet. The commission, therefore, needs some more time to complete its work, but care has to be taken to prevent the probe from dragging on indefinitely.

A campaign against corruption, in this country, is as arduous as a war on terror. Perhaps, it is more difficult than a military campaign. But, for the ongoing presidential probe the public would have been kept in the dark as regards the nexus between the bond racketeers and politicians; they would have had to settle for what the second COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report says of the bond scams. President Sirisena can rest assured that all right-thinking Sri Lankans will rally behind him if he succeeds in ensuring that the bond racketeers are brought to justice and the massive losses they have caused to the state coffers and the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) are fully recovered. Now that he has talked the talk—very eloquently at that—he has to walk the walk.

The strength of the bond racketeers, protected by powerful, corrupt politicians pretending to be paragons of virtue, shouldn’t be underestimated. They wield tremendous political power and have huge slush funds at their disposal. Therefore, the need for keeping a close eye on their political manoeuvring cannot be overemphasised. They may be licking their wounds and looking beleaguered, but the possibility of a devastating Parthian shot cannot be ruled out; they won’t go down without a fight. It may be recalled that a dispute over the appointment of the Central Bank (CB) Governor last year almost brought down the so-called unity government with the UNP going flat out to have the then Governor Arjuna Mahendran, under a cloud, reappointed. President Sirisena stood his ground and the UNP fell in line, but succeeded in having another person of its choice appointed CB Governor.

It has been reported that a high-ranking CB officer, backing the bond racketeers, has removed a whole slew of files from the CB in spite of objections from the bank security personnel. He may be desperately trying to cover his tracks by obliterating vital evidence. Who authorised the removal of those files? A thorough investigation is called for. There may be an all-out attempt to derail the bond investigations because their findings are sure to destroy some government top guns’ political future.

Strangely, trade unions, whose leaders claim to be ready even to lay down their lives for the sake of the working class, have chosen to ignore the colossal loss the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) has suffered due to the bond scams. The lid has been blown off mega pump-and-dump operations which caused the workers’ superannuation fund to haemorrhage a huge amount of funds. But, the silence of the trade unions is deafening. Have their leaders been bought off?

All those desirous of having the bond racketeers hauled up before courts must not be complacent; it is a mistake for them to leave that uphill task entirely to the intrepid Central Bank officials and the equally courageous and brilliant Attorney General’s Department counsel who are unmasking the bond racketeers and springing surprises for the corrupt undesirables in the garb of politicians. The public must pledge solidarity with the indomitable state officials on a noble mission.

The Joint Opposition (JO) leaders must be ashamed of themselves for soft-pedaling bond scams and trying to cover their nudity with the SAITM issue. They stand accused of political horse-trading with the UNP, which controls the state outfits probing corruption charges against them and their kith and kin. If they think they can regain lost ground by bellowing rhetoric and holding rallies they are mistaken. Their single-issue agenda aimed at ousting President Sirisena won’t be appealing to the people faced with a plethora of burning issues which have gone unaddressed.

Of what use is an oppositional force which ignores the biggest ever financial racket in the country?