Propagation of Errors – Focus
On the cover page of the ST Business Times of Sunday, May 10 was an image of new Rs. 5000 currency note with the signatures of Ravi Karunanayake and Arjuna Mahendran, the latter signing in English, for the first time on a Sri Lankan currency note since 1988.
All currency notes up to and including 1954-10-16 with QEII portrait have English signatures of both Finance Minister and the Governor of the Central Bank (CB). The October 1954-10-16 notes were signed by M. D. H. Jayawardena and A. G. Ranasinha.
On 1956-07-30, Stanley de Soysa and A. G. Ranasinha, both signed in Sinhala and the QEII portrait was replaced with Armorial Ensign of Ceylon. A. G. Ranasinha changed his signature from English to Sinhala, in keeping with the switch of the dominant language on the currency note, subsequent to the Sinhala Only Act of 1956.
On 1988-11-21, the Finance Minister M. H. M. Naina Marikkar signed in English with the CB Governor H. N. S. Karunatillake signing in Sinhala. That English signature lasted for only three months as D. B. Wijetunga became Finance Minister in 1989-02-21. So the last English signature of a CB Governor A. G. Ranasinha,was over 60 years ago before the note was signed in English by Arjuna Mahendran in 2015-02-04.
By error for which my memory is to blame, the Business Times commented that it was H. N. S. Karunatillake who signed in English. An error when detected after I checked was too late to correct in that issue which had gone to press. It was corrected the next week in the BT.
The same error was duplicated in the Sinhala media and was even raised in the Sri Lanka Parliament a few days after the BT publication without checking. It was even mentioned by CB Governor Arjuna Mahendran in a recent 85 min interview on June 11 on the ITN programme Naduwa which is posted online at.
In his defence the Governor mentioned that the CB had issued a Notice to the public on 2015-Feb-25 with the infamous 30 year Bond issue of Rs. 1 Billion at 12.5 per cent interest. See http://www.cbsl.gov.lk/pics_n_docs/02_prs/_docs/notices/notice_20150225e.pdf
That was widely reported and repeated in the Sinhala and English media as well as in Parliament as 9.5 per cent. This error was not even mentioned by the Prime Minister in his long defence of the Governor in Parliament.
The new Rs. 5000 Note, I am told was issued before the Sinhala New Year without any CB press release. But the English signature issue was raised in parliament, only after the story was published in the BT a month later.
I understand that all the other denominations have also been printed with new signatures and will randomly appear in circulation. So watch out for them. The CB Museum is still issuing notes in commemorative packs with old signatures when they should have started selling with new signatures. I hope the CB will rectify this omission and satisfy the desperate Sri Lanka currency collector requirement for uncirculated notes.
These errors clearly illustrate the importance to always check the original source, before speaking with the media, as any error propagates far more than what could be expected.
Finally some practical use for my currency note collection, which I hope to post on my website, still under construction at http://notes.lakdiva.org for quick reference.