Central Bank was robbed Investors should be crazy to invest in SL – Bandula Gunawardena
By Prageeth Sampath
Member of Joint Opposition and Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena says the UNP lies, and that the loss from the Treasury Bond scam is over Rs 11.5 billion. "Rs 11.5 billion is a false figure that is apparent on the surface only. I too gave evidence as a witness at the Bond Commission. I told the Commission very clearly on that occasion that the conditional loss that was experienced due to the Bond fraud should be calculated by a Board consisting of financial analysts who have knowledge of the subject, economic experts and accountants," he said in an interview.
On election platforms, these days, we constantly hear of the Bond Scam. The most serious accusation is levelled against the UNP; however, the UNP says that they have blocked Rs 12 billion worth of assets of the company, Perpetual Treasuries. They also say that it is the previous Government that should be held responsible for the Bond fraud. If so, who then, actually committed the wrong?
A: The UNP lies; even though they say that the loss from the Bond fraud is only Rs. 11.5 billion, it is a false figure that is apparent on the surface only. I too gave evidence as a witness at the Bond Commission. I told the Commission very clearly on that occasion that the conditional loss that was experienced due to the Bond fraud should be calculated by a Board consisting of financial analysts who have knowledge of the subject, economic experts and accountants. However, what the UNP is showing is a lackadaisical attitude to the Bond Scam. I mentioned this in Parliament too. Actually, these people do not even have an iota of knowledge about this Treasury Bond fraud.
Then, during the Alliance administration, did the Treasury Bond frauds take place because there was knowledge?
A: During that period Bond frauds did not happen. Even former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal made a statement with responsibility about it. The Bond fraud had an impact on the total economy. It had an impact on interest rates, foreign exchange rates, and foreign reserves of the country, direct foreign investments, savings and investments. There was only a negative impact on these during the past three years. There was an impact of Rs.2000 billion. It was with figures and statistical data that we declared these in Parliament during the past budget.
Without, even having seen the Bond Commission Report, what the Joint Opposition including you have done is magnify the situation?
A: Even though we have not seen the Bond Commission Report, we held a seminar recently about the Report. This seminar was conducted by me, the former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Dr Nalaka Godahewa, Colombo University lecturer Dr. Aponso and Senior Attorney-at-Law Kalyananda Thiranagama. It was held at the Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandiraya. There, I pointed out that these people are trying to limit the huge loss of this Bond fraud to only Rs.11.5 billion. I have a justifiable doubt about that. However, this is the first time that such a thing has happened in the entire world.
As you say, if a very massive fraud has taken place, is Rs.11.5 billion a minor amount?
A: Yes. The way some people comprehend, it is a small amount. A sum of Rs.203 billion was allocated for education for the year 2016, from the overall budget, from that amount only 65 billion rupees was spent on education in 2016, there was a balance sum of 138 billion. Accordingly the 2016 Education Ministry standard was 32 per cent. When you consider this balance of 138 billion, it is 12 times more than what was involved in the Bond Scam. There is money that remains at the Education Ministry. When you consider that, what is the loss caused by the Bond Scam? Do they have to recover that by changing the laws? Because in the Education Ministry, alone, there is a balance of Rs.138 billion; left over from 2016, in considering that figure, the daylight robbery at the Central Bank of 11.5 billion rupees, cannot be lessened.
Nevertheless the UNP says that the loss is only 11.5 billion rupees?
A: No. It is more than that. Also there was only one person in the UNP who spoke correctly about this, and he is not one who is well versed in this subject and made an emotional statement as he felt it in his bones that his own people had clearly engaged in theft. It was Ranjan Ramanayake who said that.
It is only the members of the Joint Opposition who are saying that Bond frauds did not take place during Mahinda Rajapaksa's time.
However, now there are various reports about frauds during that time too.
A: After independence, the Central Bank was robbed in broad daylight publicly. Former leaders of the UNP, who were pure like sandalwood trees, such as D. S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and J. R. Jayewardene did not engage in this sort of thing.
But these people are accusing the JO in order to cover up their Treasury Bond theft. Even though three years have now passed, what these people have said has been limited only to words and has no core value at all.
The JO is criticizing how the Prime Minister behaved in Parliament by asking 'who is the thief'. However, it was during your time in Government, that within the very same Parliament, that there was violence against Buddhist monks?
A: People taught those who did that, a good lesson. However, it was the Prime Minister who asked for a Parliament session and behaved in this manner. While the JO made various agitations and requested the Prime Minister not to make such a statement, he did so. He said that during the period 2008-2014, a sum of 4207 billion rupees had been issued as Treasury Bonds without the approval of the Monetary Board which had been the cause of various irregularities, corruption and frauds. This statement has now spread across the world. The result is the loss of global trust in Sri Lanka Central Bank securities, the Treasury Bonds. The gravity of this statement will be felt only after about a week or two.
How is that?
A: Foreigners who have invested in Treasury Bonds have begun taking back their monies. Since, then, as exchange concessions have been abolished and a new Act has been brought in, these monies are being taken away immediately. From next week the Rupee will continue to fall. In December a dollar was Rs.153 and now it is Rs. 153.50. It will soon become Rs.165 like the taxi meter. Then the productivity of Treasury Bonds will decrease. Then even if Treasury Bonds are auctioned, no one will buy them due to the risk involved.
A massive interest will have to be paid for these. The burden of interest will definitely have to be borne by the public. As a false accusation was made to cover up one theft, a massive financial crisis will arise within the next 2-3 weeks. This Government has no shame at all. That is the truth.
The Prime Minister's statement was a massive blow to Sri Lanka's global image. Now Sri Lanka has been blacklisted.
Though you say that, the Government says investors are coming into the country.
A: Then those investors must be crazy. If not, the only place in the world for investors should be Sri Lanka, or every other country must have gone crazy apart from Sri Lanka. When there is global competition for investment, investors should be crazy to invest in a place like Sri Lanka where the Central Bank was robbed.
Even though you say that at the Elections that the Flower Bud has more power, the SLFP says it is they who have the power?
A: We can see about that on 10 February. During this election UNPers cannot go from house to house. The JVP cannot do it either due to what they did during 88-89. Therefore people are disgusted with the SLFP, the UNP and the JVP. As a result the alternative that people are asking for is only the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.
There is the issue of the Flower Bud and the SLFP joining and taking over power at this time's election?
A: We don't see such a situation, this time the people will definitely vote against the Government. They have already gathered round the Flower Bud.
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