Question of Mahendran on the run figures at CIABOC forum


Arjuna Mahendran

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka’s failure to secure Singapore’s assistance to bring back former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, wanted in connection with treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016, was raised by The Island at a forum for the civil society and media at Colombo Movenpick on Monday (July 2).

 Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) organised the event in line with national consultations meant to develop national action plan to combat bribery and corruption.

 The Island sought an explanation as to why Sri Lanka couldn’t obtain Singapore backing especially against the backdrop of that country’s tough anti-corruption stand. 

Mahendran fled the country though his son-in-law Arjun Aloysius, owner of tainted primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and its CEO Kasun Palisena were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in early February this year and are in remand custody. 

Sri Lanka has sought Interpol intervention to track down Mahendran still believed to be in Singapore.

 It was also pointed out that the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) and other professional organisations had repeatedly decried the way Singapore manipulated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government in the run-up to the finalization of Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) on January 23, 2018.

 Comprehensive free trade agreement covers goods, services, e-commerce, telecommunications, foreign direct investment, intellectual property and public procurement.  

The Island also raised the still unsubstantiated accusations regarding external interference in port development, particularly the Hambantota port.

 Responding to a query, Director General, CIABOC Sarath Jayamanne, PC, described Deepa Seneviratne, head of the Public Debt Department of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka as an exemplary public servant. Jayamanne referred to how Seneviratne had placed a note at the issuance of treasury bonds on Feb 27, 2015. The note revealed the strange circumstances under which the controversial treasury bond issue took place.

 The Island suggested that as part of the USAID backed CIABOC project Seneviratne could be recognised as there was consensus that honest and courageous public servants deserved kudos. Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe, former Chairman of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) D. E.W. Gunasekera and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. W. A. Wijewardena had praised Seneviratne’s response to Mahendran move with the AG Wijesinghe asserting that the subsequent investigation could have met a serious setback if the official refrained from placing the note.

Thestatus of CIABOC investigation into first treasury bond scam yet to be revealed. On President Maithripala Sirisena’s directive the SLFP lodged a complaint with the CIABOC in early 2015.

The audience pointed out how the government protected those responsible for the 2015 treasury bond scam by dissolving parliament in June 2015 to derail inquiry undertaken by the COPE. The gathering was reminded that President Sirisena waited till January 2017 to appoint a Commission of Inquiry after second much bigger scam was perpetrated in March 2016.

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