Concretes & Abstracts Pitipana Committee and Public Debt

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By 2018-01-21

By Narada

"We are of the view that the members of the 'Pitipana Committee [comprising of three senior and reputed Attorneys-at-Law] did not possess technical knowledge or practical knowledge in the considerably complex arena of Government Securities and Public Debt."

[Report of the Bond Commission P944]

The Pitipana Committee had better credentials. They were members of the UNP's executive committee. Party apparatchiks do not need to know about public debt. A reasonable idea of the debt owed to the party and the party leader should be good enough.

Crime and Cover-up

We can make honest mistakes. We cannot claim to make honest cover-ups. That seems the precise intent of our Prime Minister who addressed the country on his follow up action plan on the Bond Report.

Did Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe make an honest mistake by appointing Arjuna Mahendran as Central Bank Governor?

Did he make a second and yet another honest mistake by trusting Arjuna Mahendran to insulate himself from the commercial interests of Mahendran's primary dealer son-in-law? The answer to both questions is an emphatic 'No'.

The Bond Commission has not made a determination on the merits and demerits of Arjuna Mahendran's appointment as Governor of the Central Bank. The appointment was made before the period covered by its mandate.

However, that has not precluded the commission from making a judicially wise, practically non-committal observation. The report on page 942 states; "The question of whether or not the fact that, Mr. Mahendran was not a Citizen of Sri Lanka precluded him from being appointed the Governor of the CBSL was not a 'Question of Law'. Instead, it was a 'value judgment' which had to be made by those who considered the wisdom of appointing Mr. Mahendran, who was not a Citizen of Sri Lanka, as the Governor of the CBSL."
The Bond Commission has not made any observations on the Central Bank being brought under the Minster of National Policies and Economic Affairs. The issue it maintains relates to a decision taken by the Executive and is entirely outside the scope of its mandate.

House in the Waterhole

The Bond Commission Report is now before Parliament.

In its pages containing evidence led before it, one comes across references to Parliament as the 'House in the waterhole'.

Will the 'House in the water hole' debate and discuss it or turn it into another free for all?

Democracy is about people deciding the management of their present and defining their future. In a parliamentary democracy people rely on their parliament to engage in that task by discussion and debate. Today, it is a place where maximum noise is made and minimum work is done. We can no longer rely on this parliament to do what it should.

The Prime Minister himself has turned debate disrupter by instigating his ranks to cheer and yelp on command.

Partisan loyalty takes precedence over the simplest moral imperative of deciding between good and bad, right and wrong and worse, between obvious fact and convenient fiction. Politics has the same priorities observed by Pettah merchants in commodity trading.

Buy low and sell high. Hoard and escalate prices. Flood and depress value. Switch sides for profit and a seat in the auction room.

Rules can be broken. The only caveat don't get caught. People are clear that the process is corrupt. The question that preoccupies the citizenry is not about getting money back but to figure out how to avoid losing more.

Can the President do it with this Prime Minister?

At this point in time, we have the President's promise that matters will be resolved, sorted out and losses recovered. Can he do it with this Prime Minster?

The people demand credible, reliable governance and not declarations of good intent.

This writer who was a parliamentary reporter in the late sixties and early seventies recall the good old days, when people had the option of a wide selection of candidates to choose from.

Under the first past the post system, we had the luxury of opening every cupboard in sight and vote for those who had no skeletons. Today we have to search for those who have the least number.

Before 8 January 2015, we were coerced into mute stoicism.We lived with open robbery. Today we need commissions of inquiry to discover robbery and measure the losses.

The 19th Amendment and the new social awakening has halted the endless patience of a sceptical public. Today, we hear a keen cry for a return to some of the values of our grandparents, where individuals would take responsibility for their actions and understand the need to stick within the spirit, rather than the letter, of the rules that govern all.

That is the lesson of the darkest day of our Parliament. We have a Prime Minister who does not know the difference between right and wrong.

Our Choice

Mahinda Rajapaksa insists that his family and cronies are entitled to extort the exchequer by reason of rescuing it from Prabhakaran.

Ranil Wickremesinghe contends that his cronies and his party apparatchiks, in that order, are eligible to fleece the public purse by reason of helping Maithripala Sirisena to dethrone Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Politics of our country has reached a decisive turning point. Countries emerging from autocratic rule do not always succeed in restoring democracy with stability. We had thirty years of diminished democracy due to the civil war followed by five years of debased democracy.

The 19th Amendment provided a moral compass for governance. The UNP crew has disabled the skipper and taken over the ship.

Where is the moral compass?

It takes time for citizens to learn to cherish and respect democracy as a valuable form of Government.

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