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Heed the UNP’s call

This country is feeling the chilly wind of the world financial and economic crisis but by no stretch of imagination could one attribute the collapse of a few financial institutions here to the global financial meltdown. Those institutions crashed as they stood on a foundation of lies and deception and their operations were akin to that of the infamous Pyramid Scheme.

UNP MP, Ravi Karunana-yake, on Friday warned that Sri Lanka’s financial sector was teetering on the brink of collapse and called for the appointment of a Parliamen-tary Select Committee to find ways and means of averting, what he termed, an imminent disaster. His assertions and warning need to be taken with a pinch of salt as doomsday prophets always predict nothing but disaster. The Opposition is obviously trying to trigger panic and make some political capital in the run-up to the WPC polls. However, it will be a mistake for the UNP’s prognosis to be dismissed out of hand.

A realistic assessment of the situation may be that neither the Government nor the Opposition is telling us the truth about the financial sector. Prudence requires that both panic and complacency be avoided. What is called for is a rational appraisal of the situation followed by the formulation of a contingency plan to face a possible crisis. The Government ought to take on board some of the criticisms from the Opposition without being arrogantly impervious to them.

However, one cannot but wonder, given the ‘competence’ of our parliamentarians, whether a PSC will be able to help tackle so complicated a problem, whose solution needs a great deal of financial and, economic expertise and dispassionate professional handling. And PSC processes are hopelessly long drawn out and amateurish and therefore fail to bring about effective solutions to burning problems. After much deliberation, even the COPE reports that revealed mega corrupt deals, have been shelved much to the consternation of the public.

Meanwhile, it is not only the collapse of shady financial institutions or the vulnerability of their legal counterparts that need to be addressed. The Golden Key scam has shed light on a shocking tax evasion by the aggrieved depositors now on the warpath demanding their money back. The Government and the Opposition are fighting shy of calling for action against those tax evaders. One may argue that penalizing those fraud victims is ‘like a bull goring a man who falls from a tree’. But, if tax relief is to be granted to them, then the same concession must be extended to the law- abiding citizens who pay taxes on their financial assets.

True, all the victims of the Golden Key, Sakvithi and Danduwan Mudalali, etc., cannot be tarred with the same brush in that most of them are said to be hapless people who naively invested their EPF/ETF funds, life time savings and proceeds from the sale of their properties expecting higher returns on their hard earned money, as they had lost faith in the banking system offering appallingly low interest rates to depositors. But, big time crooks also took refuge in the unregistered financial companies and they must be brought to book without further delay. They are said to be chary of coming forward to claim their dues for fear of being exposed for tax evasion.

The Government is duty bound to tell the tax man to do his job without fear or favour.

It is hoped that the Opposition, besides issuing warnings, will exert adequate pressure on the powers that be to jolt them into hunting down all the crooks involved in the financial scams that shook the country.

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