Here we go again – The PM & PR

It is almost getting to be as exciting as watching oil-based paint dry. Time and time again we watch the dear Prime Minister of our land try to highlight how great this government is. It is boring because there really is nothing of any substance that we can honestly say is great about the actions of this government. Apart from grandiose plans that are in the main pipe dreams and ill-thought out and lacks for a principal ingredient: money.

However there were some ‘quick wins’. Let us highlight those here and now lest dear PM gets annoyed and speaks within the sanctity of parliament about editorials.

Fr starters we must agree that the freedom of speech has been established nay re-established. Editorials that we have carried in the past and will carry in the future are done without a fear psychosis. Well done Government.

Next up they reduced the price of fuel and have held it aloft at the same level. We could be uncharitable and say that the prices could have been lower but then we understand their need to repay past debts. Well done Government.

Let us also acknowledge that the government lifted the ban on many websites including those sympathetic to the LTTE cause. After all in an open economy one in which freedom of speech is encouraged and where the judiciary is independent, no one need fear anyone or thing. Well done government

Now comes the hard to chew-on part. Corruption, political patronage, nepotism. And no, we are not talking of the Rajapaksa government but the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine. So much of corruption that it is simply unacceptable and at different levels.

Within days of taking office Ravi Karunanayake as Minister of Finance was being blamed in anarbitration tribunal. Not by name but as holder of the office. In spite of the fact that the government had a water tight agreement with an Italian contractor for the ‘Hyatt project’ the Minister of Finance wanted the agreement cancelled. Try as they did to wriggle out of the agreement, the Italians went for arbitration and the government were forced to pay over USD 7 million in compensation. All because the political weather had changed. They clutched at straws trying to blame the Italians for noncompliance of contractualconditions but it was just that: straws. So good governance and respect for legal matters got off to a grand start with the Minister’s decision or directive or whatever costing the people a tad over Rs one billion. That’s Rs 1,000,000,000. Not chicken feed.

Next we have no choice but to look at the Bondgate matter. A departure from due process and a solo adventure which the PM termed as ‘liberalisation of economic policies which we started in 1977’.  Strange but he did not say with the same directness that Mahendran had displayed little regard for process and procedure as indeed did the Bank of Ceylon when they gave in and authorised a huge facility to Perpetual. It was the start of a disaster that was compounded many times over almost year later in March 2016. The country is still paying for the losses and will do so for the next 28 years at least.

Therefore it is rather rich to say that the PM will have an inquiry into the bonds between 2008 and 2014. Perhaps the PM is so busy but he has missed the point: the Auditor General has, already in response to a request by the best Finance Minister in the region, already published a report on those bonds. In fact it is available on-line. (SMS we and we will send you the link)

As for the laudable fact that the PM did make an entry at the Commission of Inquiry into the issuance of Bonds by the Central Bank we would rather have preferred that the serving Prime Minister not have made an appearance. But appear he did. It may be laudable to some. In our book though, it was incumbent upon him as the Minister in charge of the subject of the Central Bank to make an appearance and be properly and fully cross examined. No one is above the law and all that.

We must point out that as Ranil Wickremesinghe it was the second time around for him to make an appearance before a Presidential Commission. The last time he did so was the Batalanda Commission. He was Leader of the Opposition then. We only hope that the inconclusive nature of that Commission is not replicated all over again.

The one common denominator throughout this government’s tenure thus far including the 100 day transitional period, is a continuation of the ‘departure from established process” syndrome.

From the Bond tragedy to the Central Expressway Section 3 fiasco, departure from process has been the thorn in the side of this government. Procurement of coal, the spend on the outer circular highway, Sri Lankan Airlines, the unholy fight by Ravi K to keep his people in the positions he placed them in, Malik’s presence at the breakfast meeting, the continued use of Arjuna Mahendran after President Sirisena refused him a contract of his own – the list is endless and it makes for weary reading.

The tragedy is that once again a real opportunity presented to the politicians of our country by us the people, appears to have slipped through their collective fingers. The cost of living has gone into a different stratosphere. Poverty alleviation is not being tackled, apart from the grandiose plan for creating 1,000,000 jobs delivery towards that has been limited – like the tyre and Hoaxwagen factories for instance. The initial delay with the Port City project was unforgivable – it has cost us a further sum of acres to appease the Chinese developer.

When will the people have a government committed to delivering real and ready gains to the people and not just some smokescreen? In essence when will we have a modicum of professionalism?

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