Bonds and bondage

The second anniversary of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is drawing near and speculation is rife in political circles that the SLFP will opt for continuing its co-habitation with the UNP. State Minister of Public Enterprise Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said in a television interview yesterday it was up to the SLFP Central Committee to decide whether the SLFP-UNP political marriage should end or continue. Time was when it was said that Russia did as the Communist Party said; the party did as its Central Committee said and the Central Committee did as Lenin said. The same goes for the SLFP Central Committee, which is under President Maithripala Sirisena’s thumb.
Minister Abeywardena, in answer to a question, said the SLFP’s decision on the future of its political marriage with the UNP would be influenced by the outcome of the ongoing presidential probe into the Central Bank bond scams. Will the SLFP ditch the UNP in case of the latter being held responsible for the bond rackets? If the SLFP remains neutral, letting the bond racketeers stew in their own juice, the UNP’s chances of winning elections will be greatly diminished. But, the question is whether the SLFP, in political bondage to the UNP, wants to do so. It may be recalled that President Maithripala Sirisena went so far as to dissolve Parliament in 2015 to prevent a damning COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on bond scams unfavourable to the UNP from being tabled before the last general election.
Two probes conducted by the COPE under the present and previous Parliaments have confirmed that the bond scams occurred and the state coffers and the EPF suffered colossal losses as a result. The culprits should have been arrested and arraigned on criminal charges more than two years ago. But, the yahapalana leaders who obtained a popular mandate to bring crooks responsible for causing losses to the state coffers unashamedly reneged on their promise in respect of the bond rackets. The Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID), which eagerly waits for the slightest opportunity to descend on Opposition politicians, has ignored the bond scams and got badly exposed for its subservience to the government.
Endless probes into the bond scams remind us of a pithy local saying, ‘squeezing the bag which has already been opened and examined’. However, the current presidential commission investigation has given the discerning public access to vital information about the bond scams, revealed by Central Bank professionals, the Auditor General and other experts. People are now in a position to draw their own conclusions on the issue.
If the government ever tries to cover up the bond scams in a bid to facilitate the continuation of its political marriage with the UNP it will dig its political grave. For, the SLFP’s position is that bond rackets actually happened and those responsible for them should be brought to justice without further delay. In 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena himself revealed that he had sought the ouster of the then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran over the bond scams, but in vain. Subsequently, he said he had been compelled to appoint the current presidential commission because an attempt was being made in some quarters to file civil cases against those responsible for the bond scams instead of pressing criminal charges.
If President Sirisena can ensure that the bond racketeers are brought to justice and the heavy losses they have caused to the state and the EPF are recovered fully, his action will generate a mega thrust to propel his party, which is currently in the political doldrums; he won’t have to depend on either the SLFP dissidents or the UNP to face elections in such an eventuality. But, whether the government will dare antagonise the UNP by doing so or open an escape route for bond racketeers through political front remains to be seen. Now that the bond scams are in the People’s court, if the government attempts a cover-up, it will commit political hara-kiri.

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