|Thursday, 13 March 2003|
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I write with reference to the several letters that have appeared in the national newspapers on the subject mentioned above. The general theme of those letters has been to blame the bank supervisory authorities for the failure of Pramuka Bank.
This is the truth and nothing but the truth, even though some people like correspondent P. G. Henry from Matara, who had written to the Daily News of 27th February 2003, and had assiduously tried to absolve the supervisory authorities from any blame whatsoever.
There is no debate that the banking scene and in the larger canvas, the financial system in our dear country, is in turmoil and if anyone is looking for those responsible for this sad state of affairs, he/she had better have a good look at those imposing towers where the bank supervisory authorities in their airconditioned cubicles are supervising everything else but the banks and the non-bank financial institutions. It beats our imagination as to why our politicians do continue to tolerate the CBS officials who have brought about this mess.
The previous government happily devoured hook, line and sinker, all the dead ropes given by these CBS officials and the position of the present one appears to be no different. CBS is full, these days, of passengers and not people with a commitment to serve the country and you would have noticed it from what they have been saying in the aftermath of the Pramuka debacle.
In the days gone by, CBS used to be a place, which had an abundance of sheer intellectual and academic brilliance before the present set of officers took over.
One of the many deputy governors who are now adding dubious lustre to that once august place recently said, during the course of a media discussion, that it was the despositors' fault that they went to Pramukha to deposit their money and according to him, ostensibly attracted by the higher rates of interest offered by that outfit.
However, as it now appears, Pramuka's "pramuka" business has been the practice of fraud, aided and abetted in no small measure by the bank licensing and supervisory authority.
It has been a House of Fraud masquerading as a Bank.
In other countries when applicants ask for a licence to establish a bank, it is customary for the licensing authority to meticulously examine the credentials of the promoters. Their track record is a primary criterion that is looked into with a fine comb and a microscope, as it were, because it discloses with a fair degree of accuracy as to what is likely to happen in the future. As the saying goes, a thief will always be a thief.
Now, the big question is whether the applicants for a banking licence for Pramuka bank were subjected to a similar scrutiny of track record and other relevant criteria. Given the Pramukha debacle, it appears that the licensing authority had failed in its legal duty and responsibility of scrutinizing and evaluating the cre Whilst the licensing authority failed to apply the necessary prudential pre-establishment procedures, the bank supervisor, on the other hand, does seem to have failed in his statutory duty of examination, supervision and evaluation to determine whether the deposit-taker had built up an unassailable capacity to pay back what had been entrusted to him.
Thereby, the bank supervisor, has become, virtually, an accessory before the fact to the fraud perpetrated by those who ran Pramukha Bank.
The fraudsters may or may not get punished under the applicable law. In any case, it will be several years before their fates will be decided. In the recent ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court to welcome Justice Jayasinghe to the Supreme Court Bench, His Lordship Justice Jayasinghe made pointed reference to the various steps that he had taken as President of the Court of Appeal to avoid the law's delays.
Meanwhile, the fraudsters and the accessory before the fact have sent nearly 15,000 depositors and their families to the wall and one depositor through the wall to a place which is six feet underground. Under the circumstances, the accessory before the fact, as it were, or in other words, the bank supervisor has a legal obligation to make amends to the people who lost their money by depositing with Pramuka in the mistaken belief that their money would be safe because the bank supervisor had declared to the whole world by the process of licensing that, that particular deposit-taker was a fit and proper one to take deposits.
Given this situation, it is the height of ludicrousness for the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to appear on T.V. and declare for the whole world to hear that because people went after a higher rate of interest, any loss to them should be on their lap thereby completely exonerating the accessory before the fact from any blame at all. Under these circumstances, as a part of the financial sector reforms, although not recommended by the WB and IMF, why does the Central Bank of Sri Lanka together with the relevant political authorities not give serious thought to make ordinary human greed a criminal offence punishable with death.
After all, the death penalty is going to be restored, it is heard, as a deterrent measure against the racing crime rate.
According to the newspapers the Opposition party had held a rally ostensibly to protest against the rising cost of living and the rally was named "Janagosha", meaning, not the voice but the noise of the people. What is unfortunate in this country is that, some selfish and artful individuals, both politicians and others, attempt to exhibit that they are the saviours of the country, people, race, religion, etc. whereas in reality there are millions of others who are truly so, but act accordingly in silence.
The Leader of the Opposition had led this protest rally and had acted as if he was blowing a "Nagasalam" (not the correct name of this instrument). Unfortunately, this "Nagasalam" has been revived at a time when we are trying to forget "Masala Vadai" and "Kallathoni" of the past. The reason why certain other bigwigs of the Opposition did not participate in this protest rally is not known.
It is very much appreciable that the "Daily News" published a cartoon aptly depicting the sound emitted from the "Nagasalam", as some shortcomings of the player of "Nagasalam" at the rally. If the player of "Nagasalam" was a true patriot, Sinhala, Buddhist, why did he not play a "Hakgediya"(conch shell) or a "Horanewa" (trumpet) which the traditional instruments depicting Sinhala, Buddhist culture?
Playing the "Nagasalam" at a public protest rally could be construed not only as a cheap gimmick but also as an act of instigating communal discord, which the majority of the people in this country wish to forget.
I watched the TV with immense pride as a classic symphony in batting unfolded before my eyes - a symphony in cricket. As young Atapattu marvellous Marvan cut, pulled, hooked and drove - virtuoso style. Great! So great that I was tearing in pride.
This performance against an attack noted to be one of the best in the world of cricket. 72,000 South African fans yelling their hearts out was dumbfounded at what was happening before their eyes and when the Little Lion finally fell.
"The ranks of Tuscanny could scarce forbear to cheer". They stood up to honour him. A standing ovation. This was akin to Chithrasena, master of the ballet at his best, attaboy Marvan, you made us proud. Now coming to the grandmaster Aravinda, mixing caution with aggression the bat straight, right behind the ball, and eyes on the ball to the very last second. No unnecessary risks, he was playing for his country. Will there ever be another Aravinda for the pleasure and edification of our children and grandchildren. I swelled my chest in pride.
Thank you Ara, you were really great.
'When the one great scorer comes
To write against their names!
He writes not whether they won or lost,
But how they played the game.'
MAJOR S. MERVYN DUNUWILLE,
The Traffic Police is making a big hue and cry about restricting parking on Galle Road and Duplication Road in order to encourage the free flow of vehicles.
There is nothing new in it as that rule has always been there. Only that, Traffic Police favoured friendly and helpful shopkeepers, hotels, garages and school van drivers who were unaffected by the "No Parking" rule. This type of selective enforcement has made a mockery of the no-parking rules.
The most important thing Traffic Police should do is to get the Duplication Road opened at Muslim Ladies College.
After having received the compensation and used it to put up new buildings, the refusal to permit the road construction is not at all acceptable.
The Traffic Police, RDA and the Government authorities should take a firm stand on this issue and open up these few meters of the Duplication Road thus completing this important alternative road which has cost over Rs. 2,500 million.
This school should take a lesson from the adjoining St. Peter's College who very graciously surrendered over 3 times the land area in the wider interests of the country.
"The forfeiture of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process. Let the states that still use the death penalty stay their hand lest in days to come they look back with remorse knowing it is too late to redeem their grievous mistake."
- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, December 2000 Judicial hangings are one of the few horrors that our country has been spared for over a quarter of a century, and the Civil Rights Movement cannot credit that the government would now restored them.
It is the responsibility of an enlightened government to give the lead towards the adoption of more rational and humane approaches to the ills of society.
The clear international trend is steadily against the death penalty, over half the countries of the world having now abolished it.
We must certainly be concerned with crime control and law enforcement. But the death penalty is no answer.
Nowhere in the world has it been shown to have any special effect in reducing crime.
If we now hang a few convicts it might create a superficial impression in some minds that the government has taken "bold" action against crime, while the real problems remain unaddressed.
These are not only deep-rooted social issues, but also the painstaking, difficult and undramatic task of improving our investigative and other law enforcement machinery at all levels. "The greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended, convicted and punished. It is that which is lacking in our criminal justice system". (South African judgement of 6 June, 1995 holding the death penalty unconstitutional as constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
All eleven judges of the Constitutional Court wrote judgments striking down the death penalty.) As one judge pointed out, punishment should be commensurate with the offence, but it does not have to be equivalent or identical.
"The state does not have to engage in the cold and calculated killing of murderers in order to express its moral outrage at their conduct".The death penalty is irreversible. Can we say that our investigative, law enforcement, and legal system is such that there is no real possibility of innocent people being convicted and scapegoats being hanged? Miscarriages of justice, of which the poor and the disadvantaged are the most likely victims, can never be rectified.
Executing murderers means that society, in a chillingly systematic and calculated manner, kills people to teach people that killing people is wrong.
The restoration of hangings would degrade us all.
I read with interest that the Sri Lanka Government is planning to reintroduce death penalty. I also saw a picture showing Minister Amaratunga inspecting the old fashioned crude gallows that are to be repaired, and a nylon noose to be imported from Cuba.
While I do not venture to argue the pros and cons of death penalty in the perspective of an outsider living in a country where there is no death penalty, I would like the Government to carry out executions as humanely as possible. Most countries at present use either electric chair or lethal injection. Sri Lanka being a Buddhist country should try and give up this idea of death penalty, but if it must reinstate, it should be carried out in a humane manner.
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