MR can’t be implicated in bond scam by issuing gazette in his name-top lawyer

DEW showers praise on two female public officials for exemplary conduct


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior lawyer Chrishmal Warnasuriya, on Monday (Feb 27), said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had been the minister of finance and policy planning of the previous administration, couldn’t be implicated in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) bond scam currently under investigation.

The issue in question is the CBSL decision to accept Rs. 10 bn worth of bonds as against the advertised amount of Rs.1 bn.

Warnasuriya was referring to the inclusion of the former President’s name in the controversial gazette No 1859/19 pertaining to the Feb 27, 2015 transaction.

Warnasuriya said that those who had perpetrated the massive fraud were obviously acting on wrong advice and foolishly believed that the Rajapaksas could be implicated. Whatever was in that gazette, those who had carried out the Feb 27, 2015 transaction were responsible for the situation, Warnasuriya stressed.

Warnasuriya was among the guest speakers at the launch of Rusiripala Tennekone’s Bedumkara Andaraya (The tale of the bond scam) at Mihikatha Medura, BMICH. Former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and The General Secretary of the Communist Party D.E.W. Gunasekera, former Senior Deputy Governor of the CBSL Dr. W.A. Wijewardena and National Coordinator Sri Lanka Human Rights Foundation Dr. Chandima Wijegunawardane addressed the gathering.

Dr Wijewardena explained how the CBSL had offered Rs. 1 bn worth of 30-year treasury bonds carrying a fixed interest rate of 12.5% to the market but ended up selling bonds to a value of Rs. 10 billion. This was 10 times the original offer.

Warnasuriya said that the guilty party could have even issued the gazette even under the name of Donald Trump. They couldn’t absolve themselves of the blame for the fraud by issuing a gazette under the name of former President Rajapaksa or some other person, Warnasuriya stressed.

Former Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera pointed out that Acting Government Printer Gangani Kalpana Liyanage had put the record straight before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) earlier in the day. The veteran politician paid a glowing tribute to the Acting Government Printer for her courageous stance before the CoI. The lady had thwarted a diabolical bid to mislead the CoI, he said.

The CoI comprises serving Supreme Court judges K.T. Chithrasiri and P.S. Jayawardena and Rtd. Deputy Auditor General K. Velupillai.

The Acting Government Printer told the CoI that the institution had received the controversial gazette from the CBSL on Nov. 17, 2016 over 20 months after the original transaction. At the time, the gazette had been sent to the Government Printer, Finance Minister of the country was Ravi Karunanayke, she said.

Gunasekera pointed out that the then Superintendent of the Public Debt Department Deepa Seneviratne had had the courage to oppose Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s move to issue treasury bonds in contravention of a decision taken by the Monetary Board. The Monetary Board had decided on the basis of a paper submitted by the Public Debt Department to issue Treasury bonds in a combination of both auctions and direct sales.

Gunasekera said that the lady official had fearlessly written a note regarding the controversial directive given by Mahendran. "There are such ladies in our public service."

Although, Gunasekera didn’t make any reference to Dr. M.Z.M. Aazim, additional Superintendent of the Public Debt Department, it was he who had solidly stood by the lady officer. The CBSL moved both out of the section where they had faithfully served the institution.

At a recent event at the Colombo Municipal Council, Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe asserted that the lady official’s note had facilitated the investigations.

Gunasekera stressed that the government could have easily cancelled the transaction immediately afterwards as within hours after the issuance of treasury bonds the relevant people knew what had actually taken place. Having turned a blind eye to an unprecedented fraud, the yahapalana administration paved the way for even bigger CBSL fraud on March 29, 2016. After declaring that treasury bonds would be issued to the tune of Rs. 40 bn, the CBSL had issued treasury bonds to the tune of Rs. 77 bn, he said.

Former Minister Gunasekera later told The Island that the CBSL had sent the gazette in respect of the Feb 27, 2015 to the Government’s Printer months after the second fraudulent issuance of treasury bonds.

The gathering was told how primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries had immensely benefited due to Mahendran contravening Monetary Board directive.

Recalling the special investigation undertaken by a 13-member team of 31-member COPE during the 100-day government, Gunasekera said that Mahendran had been questioned on his taking the Singaporean oath of renunciation, allegiance and loyalty by which he had renounced loyalty to any foreign state or country. "How could a foreigner who has no allegiance to Sri Lanka, hold the governorship of the Central Bank?" former COPE Chairman Gunasekera asked.

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