Bond issue chaos and renewed fight against corruption | Page 2 | Daily News

Bond issue chaos and renewed fight against corruption

If the Treasury Bond issue reached the lowest depth of corruption the country has seen, it also led to the worst display of behaviour in parliament by its members. It was a situation of bedlam where those expected to display the dignity of the House, the supreme legislature, showed instead an abundance of thuggery, obscenity, and the distortion of privilege to the extremities of rowdiness.

The pandemonium in the House showed the political impact of the Treasury Bond issue and the findings of the Presidential Commission (PCoI) that probed it. The House met at the request of the Joint Opposition (JO) and UNP, keen to debate the contents of the PCoI Report. Those who called for the special session of Parliament for this highly divisive purpose, made the mistake of not ensuring the PCoI report would be tabled in the House by the time of the debate. It was a mistake in strategy by the JO who sought to make use of the debate to attack the government, especially in the context of the Local Government poll campaign now being fired up.

President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned in his statement on the PCoI report on January 3 that the Report would be presented to Parliament, and needed to be presented to the people. But he did not give a date for its release. The JO members, who saw the opportunity for a blistering attack on the government, especially the Prime Minister and the UNP, quickly rushed to call for a special session of Parliament, but did not ensure that the Report would be with them.

The Prime Minister too called for a session of the House, seeing in it the opportunity to make his own statement on the Bond issue, and do a twist on allegations directed at the leadership of the previous government, the Rajapaksa Regime.

The result was the ugly and wholly unparliamentary chaos and bedlam on Wednesday, where allegations were made by the JO against the Speaker for not arranging to have the Report to be presented in the House, many of such charges being irrelevant; and the chaotic situation prevailed in their having to listen to the Prime Minister’s statement on the Bond issue. The JO would serve itself better if they pay more attention to the procedure of the House, than political tactics, and avoid such hasty situations, which led to an unprecedented collective insult to the parliamentary process; and also gave the Prime Minister and the UNP the opportunity to make its own politically tactical statement, when the relationship between the UNP and SLFP in the coalition of governance stands at its lowest.

Who are the thieves?

Unuth Horu – Munuth Horu – these are all thieves is the substance of the political finding in the Bond issue probe. It was well described by President Sirisena at the inaugural polls rally of the SLFP at Anuradhapura, Wednesday, when referring to the parliamentary chaos he said: “Just as a pickpocket calls out ‘there is a thief, there is a thief’ while snatching someone’s purse, the two factions in parliament today accused each other of being thieves. But the people know who the real thieves are”.

The Bond issue situation certainly shows some advantage to the SLFP in the immediate situation, and definite disadvantages to the UNP. But the issue is certainly much wider. The search for thieves, among political rivals today is largely the result of the failure of the Yahapalanaya government to fully implement its pledge to bring to justice the perpetrators of corruption of the former regime. The new pledges to find the thieves in politics and governance, is certainly opening a new area of search, of those in the present government, as well as those in the Rajapaksa Regime. The question that both the President and Prime Minister will face in the days ahead is how well and with what speed, it could act against those involved in the Bond issue, and seriously act against the corruption of the previous government. This certainly raises major issues for the SLFP, especially with its present ministers, who held such positions in the Rajapaksa Regime, too.

While the PCol Report on the Bond issue could give immediate political benefits to President Sirisena and the SLFP, it also raises issues about the continuance of the National Government - the agreement for which has already ended. The leaders of both parties say they will look at the issue after the Local Polls on February 10, but, the rivalry and antagonism between the UNP and SLFP rising in this poll campaign, certainly shows moves for a breakaway than future unity.

Of special significance here is the speech made by SLFP Minister Susil Premajayantha at the Anuradhapura rally on Wednesday. He made it clear the main enemy of the SLFP was the UNP, and the time for dealing with this enemy was fast approaching. He has been one of the key figures active in seeking a pact between the SLFP and SLPP for this poll, which failed, and has now led to a clear rivalry between the two groups – in government and opposition.

The situation would certainly come to a crisis if the JO goes ahead with its proposed motion of No Confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament. Having publicly opposed the UNP and its leader through the poll campaign and over the Bond issue, it will certainly be a very tough call for the SLFP members in government to oppose such a No Confidence move. This will be a major political challenge to President Sirisena, who still talks of the unity of government. It also required the SLFP (in government) to realize that the UNP, while facing a major crisis in popularity, still has a majority in parliament, which could be increased with the offer of portfolios to those in opposition. Can the SLFP vote against Ranil Wickremesinghe, and remain in a “coalition of unity?”.

The Presidency

This rivalrous situation could also have influenced President Sirisena to seek the Supreme Court’s judgment on his term of office – whether five or six years. He was largely responsible for the 19th Amendment, which reduced the President’s term to five years, and was fully supportive of it. But the possibility of a legal entitlement to six years, as he was sworn in before the 19th Amendment, has certainly raised a new question. If the Supreme Court were to hold in favour of six years, it could lead to a major turnaround in the current political debate, where his leadership of an undivided SLFP will be of much bigger significance in his future years in the Presidency. It would also mean his holding the SLFP leadership for longer.

This will also raise new questions for the UNP’s continued association with the SLFP, which may compel the UNP to take a go-it-alone policy, despite the major disadvantages it could have, in the context of the Bond issue and non-action against corruption of the previous regime. It is necessary to note that the Ministry of Justice and the Police have been under the UNP in Yahapalanaya, and the President himself has raised concerns about delays in fighting against the Rajapaksa corruption.

Earlier issues

In the context of Bond issue corruption, it is useful to quote the Prime Minister on the Bond issuances from 2008 to 2014, which the PCoI has asked for a probe. He told parliament that the majority of the bond issuances during that period were done as direct private placements, with no transparency. Bonds to the tune of Rs. 4,702,232,210,000 had been issued as direct private placements, with no approval of the Monetary Board.

He said the Finance Minister at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa, should make a statement in parliament regarding this matter, as the representatives of the people and the public have the right to know about these transactions.

While the Prime Minister has certainly made a big push for a probe on these bond issuances, the UNP is certainly facing a major problem of popularity by continuing to use Ravi Karunanayake in the front line of its poll campaign. This is certainly not the stuff the public would like to see, in the anti-corruption context.

Weerawansa

With the rising echoes of corruption, the JO’s NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa has been served indictments on the corruption case filed against him by the Bribery Commission, for the alleged unlawful acquisition of money and assets, estimated at Rs.75 million while serving as a Minister, during the former regime. This case is to be taken up on February 19. The trail of corruption shows signs of activity from the slow pace of the past three years.

While the bedlam in Parliament will remain a matter of public concern, it is also interesting to note that many of those who were calling for action on the Bond issue are those who, like Weerawansa, are involved in many issues of corruption under the previous government, and seem to have been protected under Yahapalanaya. When will the real hunt begin? 

 


 

There is 1 Comment

Let start with the ones who have clean hands to throw the first stone, they all live in houses with glass, throwing a stone, we can then see who are clean, Politicians in Parliament have forgotten how and who sent them in the first place, they are the representatives of the people, but the rob the monies of the people, get fat and their families as well, when will we ever see a clean Parliament with Gentlemen, instead we see thugs, drug-dealers, serial killers, thieves, you name it they are all found in Parliament when it should be the other-way around, We have mixed up, Religion, Sports, Politics, Race, Cast, all in one pickle, so the taste is sour, Let's work them separately, as we did 50 years ago and live in harmony, who is going to be the leader.

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