The Supreme Court on Monday expressed surprise that Treasury Secretary Dr.P.B. Jayasundera continues in office despite the scathing judgment of the court in the LMSL privatisation. The court said Jayasundera was disqualified from holding public office under the constitution as he was involved in a irregular transaction involving a public property. However until Friday, the Secretary continued to remain in office and there was no attempt by the government to remove him or transfer him out. Jayasundera is busy these days – along with his team -- putting into shape the government’s November budget .
Isn’t it the duty of the government to take action against the Treasury Secretary based on the latest court verdict? In the meantime the court has asked the government agencies who were respondents in the case to explain what action has been taken pursuant to the judgment, and that matter comes up later this month. Meanwhile in the corporate sector – where the landmark judgment is the talk of the town depending on whose side you are on -- the Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has been called to adjudicate whether John Keells Holdings (JKH) has violated the code of ethics of the chamber as a member due to the LMSL affair.
When the main committee of the chamber met recently to discuss this, JKH Chairman Susantha Ratnayake, who is also deputy vice chairman of the chamber, was absent due to the conflict of interest – which was a right decision. However two other directors of JKH, Ronnie Peiris and Deva Rodrigo, also a former CCC chairman, chose to be present. No objection was also raised over their presence when the issue was discussing JKH. Isn’t this conflict of interest?
Let’s hope the honourable gentlemen at the chamber would rule quickly on the code of conduct issue – also for the sake of JKH.
Moving to other issues, there was an interesting detailed announcement this week on the development of Kalpitiya as a mega tourist resort for upmarket travellers and visitors. A small international airport is also being planned as part of this ambitious project.
The idea is fantastic and modelled on the lines of tourism in the Maldives where tourists can holiday in isolation without being disturbed on a row of islands. If it works it would be just what the doctor ordered for Sri Lanka’s struggling tourism industry.
However what is the state of security in the area? Is the government developing this area without ensuring that there is absolute security in the area and that it is safe and free to move around without dozens of security personnel keeping guard? Several months ago, when The Sunday Times wanted to visit one of the islands which had been devastated by floods and the population shifted to higher ground, permission had to be sought from the Navy.
The procedure was cumbersome and the newspaper was told only the Navy could allow any outsiders on those islands for security reasons.
When the civil disobedience campaign against the Norochcholai power plant at Kalpitiya was in full swing in early/mid 2000, one of the issues raised was that given the LTTE threat in the area, the plant would be a potential target and as such poses a threat to residents in the vicinity.
While much of Sri Lanka’s western area to Mannar has been cleared, according to the government, is it wise to get into a mega project like this? The project is set to begin by 2009 and there are hopes that the area would be fully secured by then. On the other hand it’s wiser to be cautious and wait till the current offensive is completed where the military takes over the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi and to some extent ensures that the government controls much of the country once again.
Tourism is a sensitive industry, a proven fact over and over again. One small incident in a high profile resort can reverse many years of hard work.