Many are the claims that abound on our island nation. Our Prime Minister was to recently claim to be saddened by the unwarranted ‘attacks’ which in his opinion was being carried out by the media for – according to his gospel – unwarranted reasons. This is rich coming from a man who has manoeuvred his continued position as leader of the United National Party (UNP) for well-nigh 23 years. He has from time to time readjusted the rules and most times nominated members loyal to him to the Working Committee of the UNP. So much of manoeuvring that some of his detractors say the only way for change would be in effect after the demise of the incumbent leader. For progress and evolution that is pretty bad news indeed.
This theory impinges on the fact that ‘we are all one’. That is to say that constitutionally, we in Sri Lanka practise real equality in that no one is above the law. Certainly the Leader of the UNP now Prime Minister by appointment of the President, is definitely equal as the next person on the street. Prime Minister or Drain cleaning operative, we are the same before the eyes of the law.
In Sri Lanka, culturally there is a marked difference in how employee will talk with his superior. The system is almost always very formal and the incidence of informality – the use of first names for example, between Boss and worker is more the rarity than the norm.
The Prime Minister of the country most probably is a busy persona. The diary must be full most times with official engagements and so on perhaps even impinging on his private time. However, at times we must do what we have to do.
The Commission of Inquiry into the issuance of bonds by the Central Bank, is reported to have ‘requested’ for his presence as opposed to have issued summons for him to appear. Rather than being perceived as an act of inequality this move can also be perceived as one of practicality. Rather than summon one and then find out that he is unable to a request has been made in order that this important aspect is also fitted in to the PM’s substantially busy schedule. Unfortunately we have to remember as President Kennedy said years ago in Berlin, ‘freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect’ and therefore we expect that the Prime Minister will give this request his utmost priority. The people of the country have a right to know what his take on this very worrying matter is. It is clear that this matter – Bondgate – is not the creation of mischievous media presenters. It is rather a creation of persons who are politicians and those who have enjoyed political and official patronage and what we can term “favours”. It is time that they now appear before the people and explain their actions which has deprived the peoples’ purse of several billions in lost opportunities especially in terms of finance.
The Justices of the Commission said they do not care for what the newspapers say and that they are there (at the commission) to do their duty. Fair comment we say – but we also say that the people are informed through the media and therefore what the newspapers report is of critical importance. It might not always be to the liking of everyone but facts are stubborn.
The mainstream media in this country has been coldly neutral in their reportage of events and if such reportage has caused some discomfort to some, so be it – whilst it may seem fashionable to berate the newspapers – the Prime Minister constantly does so – and to take a ‘dig’ at ‘media advocates’ newspapers play a critical and essential role in the quest for good governance and of course democracy. Only a fool will be parted from that notion.
To lead by example is not merely fashionable – it is of critical import. If indeed there has been no evidence of wrongdoing (the PM on Mahendran) then play a full and dynamic role in the process created to find out if indeed there was no wrongdoing. In this context it is essential that any and all potential conflicts of interest scenarios be eradicated. We must avoid a situation where the newspapers and their broadcast colleagues expose a conflict of interest at the last moment – which will throw the entire process of fact finding into disarray. In the national interest everyone involved in this fact finding process must declare any and all potential conflict of interest positions.
There is absolutely no need to play politics and issue statements on being ‘ready to provide clarification’. The best way of being truly helpful is to expect to be treated equally in every aspect. Come forward, be subject to cross examination even by Dappula De Livera. Openly admit to not wanting any special treatment and simply get on with the matter in hand.
Can we expect Arjuna Mahendran, Arjun Aloysious, Kasun Palisena, Steve Samuel and all who came and will come before the Commission to tell the truth when the examples around them smacks of anything other than the truth? There is no gain listing out these so-called savvy statements when we are painfully aware of the fact that Bondgate was a superb piece of well-crafted meticulousness that made billions of rupees. The rogues involved – whoever they are whatever they are – are now finding it uncomfortable in the extreme to admit that the gains made was at the expense of the public monies. That is the uncomfortable truth. This was a pyramid scheme of mega proportions where the off-loading was taken up by state institutions in the majority.
There is a real need to lead by example. In this instance it would be appropriate for the several people now named and for those not yet named, to face an expeditious legal process and to recover whatever assets are still in Sri Lanka and place it with the Treasury Secretary for the collective benefit of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.
Those who have been found to be lying or in nice weekend lingo, ‘economical with the truth’ no matter what the post or background, must be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
It is only then and only then, that the elderly lady charged with stealing three mangoes will feel as equal as those suited and booted fellows in Colombo who planned and executed the greatest financial fraud ever perpetrated on the people of this country post-independence.