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Editorial

 
 

A passport to impunity?



 


A claim made by former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s counsel ,before the presidential commission of inquiry probing bond scams, on Tuesday, has raised many an eyebrow. He said his client could not be compelled to give evidence as the latter was a Singaporean. The commission had previously ruled that it could not compel Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius to testify. Mahendran, however, chose to give evidence unlike his son-in-law, Aloysius. The commission has said Mahendran has to testify and he is not above the law. However, the recent developments in the bond investigation have left the public confused.


One shouldn’t be faulted for arguing that there is no guarantee that the AG’s Department officials will be able to ascertain crucial information they need to trace the masterminds of the bond scams.


The yahapalana leaders came to power, vowing to take action against the corrupt members of the Rajapaksa government and eliminate corruption on their watch. Thankfully, some action is being taken against their political foes, but their cronies involved in corrupt deals, remain above the law. The Opposition revealed in Parliament on Tuesday a sinister attempt to prevent some corrupt deals involving the Central Expressway project from being probed by the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises). We suggest that a presidential commission, vested with adequate powers, be appointed to probe allegations of corruption as regards all expressways including those under construction.


The claim that Mahendran cannot be ordered to testify before the bond commission because of his Singaporean citizenship has vindicated the widely held view that foreign passport holders must not be appointed to key positions in the state sector here. When the yahapalana leaders came under fire for appointing Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor on the grounds that he was a foreign citizen they sought to justify their decision and brush aside criticism!


The AG’s Department counsel and the Central Bank officials have displayed, before the bond commission, their courage, professionalism and passion for battling corruption and, thereby, endeared themselves to the public. They have done the country proud and made it difficult for the government politicians involved in the bond scams to torpedo the presidential probe. Else, the yahapalana champions would have gone the whole hog and derailed the investigation by getting all key witnesses to refuse to testify.


Meanwhile, it is only natural that the bond commission ruling as regards Aloysius has raised the AG’s Department counsel’s hackles. Curiously, the commission has stressed on several occasions that it does not consider anyone a suspect and everyone who appears before it is a witness. Journalists covering its proceedings have been given to understand that even terms such as cross-examining should be avoided. So, it defies comprehension how a key witness has been able to refrain from testifying by pretending to be an ‘accused’. It is hoped that the AG’s Department will clear the air by seeking the opinion of a court of law on the issue lest a precedent should be created and witnesses will refuse to give evidence before the fact-finding commissions to be appointed in the future as well.


If the bond racketeers and their political masters succeed in making a mockery of the bond probe through devious means, public resentment will be directed at President Maithripala Sirisena. The President acted out of expediency in 2015, following the first bond racket and dissolved parliament thus scuttling the first COPE report thereon. The second bond scam was carried out the following year. It is, therefore, imperative that the President ensure the probe he ordered helps expose all those involved in the bond scams and charges are preferred against all of them. That is the only way he can atone for his executive action which stood the bond racketeers in good stead.


 
 
 

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