The Gravest blow to the UNP – after Premadasa

The nation awaited with some anticipation the findings of the Commission of Inquiry and arguably the bulk of the adult population in Sri Lanka must have breathed a collective sigh of relief. The media coverage was intense and by and large led by Newsfirst the information stable from the Capital Maharaja Group.

President Sirisena surprised many with the talk of the town being that the President of Sri Lanka would become inventive in his search to release the details after the elections planned for February 10th. Instead the President made the startling revelations and confirmed having sent the CoI report to the Attorney General and the Criminal Investigation Department for their action. Sources at the AG’s department revealed that they were studying the report intensely before embarking on action. To keep himself fully abreast of the events President Sirisena disclosed that he had asked his Secretary to follow up regularly. The mood that was earlier pensive suddenly turned brighter.

Soon after however doubts have been expressed as to how the expeditious nature of the recovery of funds process would actually fare. The recommendation was to consider new legislation which would necessarily go via the parliament. Although it would require a simple majority as opposed to a two thirds, some political observers have expressed grave doubts.

Activists Wasantha Samarasinghe, Shamindra Ferdinando and Rusiripala Tennekoon all expressed doubts if such legislation would actually be approved by this parliament. Said he, “Do you expect these rogues to pass legislation which will be used against some of them?” We ourselves express hopes that the parliament would be literally shamed into passing this legislation in at least a late attempt at fulfilling their collective undertakings to achieve good governance and a level playing field.

It is of course early days yet but hopes are riding high and the Attorney General’s department were feeling as pleased as punch could be.

That President Sirisena was enjoying a revival in his political popularity and standing in the eyes of the public was a given: yet not many had been prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and instead had spent hours upon hours (in vain as it turns out) on discussion on what and how the President would shirk his responsibilities to the people.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was not willing to leave anything to chance. He made an announcement that appeared to be somewhat of a joke used by bar room entertainers: it appeared to pour honour upon himself and claimed credit for himself stating that he had sent the COPE report to the Attorney General’s department in 2016 and Sirisena had done so in 2018 via the Presidential Commission. Predictable the Prime Ministers statement was met with much derision. The level of information unearthed by the CoI is incomparable to what was unearthed at the COPE sessions.

In the meantime it became evident that Arjuna Mahendran was not in Sri Lanka and sources close to the former Governor said that Mahendran had indicated he would not be returning to Sri Lanka any time soon. Mahendran had acknowledges that his son in law would have to face his own music. The mood in the Mahendran household was sombre according to our sources.

International news agencies were expected to pick up on the story from a financial perspective. It is likely that the Religare Financial Singapore business may well be impacted in the event these media coverages materialise and come to the attention of the Singaporean Financial Services Agency.

Of one thing we can be absolutely certain. The fallout from the Bondgate scam had had a devastating impact on the United National Party. It will go down in the annals of the party as the largest blow to hit the party ever since President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated.

There are growing rumblings about the flippant inaction by Ranil Wickremesinghe in the handling of the Bondgate matter. He was the person who asked Mahendran to ensure that the conflict of interest positioning with Arjun Aloysious being involved in Perpetual treasuries be removed.

In fact what had happened was that Aloysious resigned from the operating company board (PTL) but maintained the shareholding via Perpetual Capital Holdings where Aloysious was a significant shareholder at that time and a director. There were no other shareholders of PTL and his father was the other shareholder in the holding company. Thus the effect was the same the Aloysious’ controlled the licensed Primary dealership PTL.

Wickremesinghe could have quite easily established the position by asking Mahendran to provide proof positive that the son in law had divested himself from PTL. Instead he was silent. That begs the question WHY was the Prime Minister silent?

Giving evidence at the CoI Wickremesinghe said that he had met Aloysious who had told him he was concentrating on his other businesses – indicating that the PM believed he had divested the shareholding and control and management. In short a clean break.

It appears that the Prime Minister a trained lawyer relied on the assurances of his long term friend Arjuna Mahendran (which the COI said he should not have relied on) and also relied on an almost casual and indirect assurance by the youthful Aloysious that he had been concentrating on other business. In fact he was in de facto control all the time.

Wickremesinghe’s inaction and his seeming flippancy leaves him devoid of any professionalism and it appears to us that he is devoid of any and all moral right to remain as the leader of the United National Party – and as importantly, as Minister in charge of the subject of the Central Bank. And of course on that basis he should resign as Prime Minister too.

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