Not all the fireworks that exploded on New Year’s Eve in the Lankan sky to herald the advent of 2018 AD could have matched the political bang the Presidential Commission report on the Central Bank bond scam made this week. But first, credit where credit is due. And it’s due to President Sirisena in great [...]


Bond scam Commission’s report starts year with a dynamite bang

President reveals shocking details of Commission’s findings

Not all the fireworks that exploded on New Year’s Eve in the Lankan sky to herald the advent of 2018 AD could have matched the political bang the Presidential Commission report on the Central Bank bond scam made this week.

SIRISENA: Takes public to his confidence and reveals report

But first, credit where credit is due. And it’s due to President Sirisena in great measure. Unlike some of his predecessors who appointed grandiose commissions to inquire into some scandal or another but kept its findings secret, the Yahapalanaya President chose to take the nation into his confidence and share with the people its dramatic and damaging, dynamite findings. And that, too, not even three days of the report being handed over to him.

True, the President appointed the Commission to inquire into the Bond issuance of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka over the alleged Rs 5 billion Central Bank bond scam only in February last year — two years after the event which occurred end February in 2015. True too that the Commission took well over eleven months to hand over the final report to the President requesting extension after extension.

RANIL: Proper appointment of Governor but he should have thought better

But the fact remains that it was well worth the wait. They presented a thorough report — 1267 pages long with many annexures. And to the Commissioners Supreme Court Justice T. Chitrasiri, the chairman of the commission; Supreme Court Justice Prasanna Sujeewa Jayawardena, and Mr. Velupillai Kandasamy, retired Deputy Auditor General who worked tirelessly for ten long months to sit almost on a daily basis and hear witnesses give evidence before them and sacrificed the seasonal rest and cheer of December to compile their report, the people salute today.

RAVI K: Legal action should be filed for bribery and corruption

And the same goes to the lawyers in the Attorney General’s Department, especially to Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera whose relentless line of questioning perhaps brought forth revelations from witnesses that may not otherwise have surfaced. And the same must go to the spirited defence exhibited by the counsel who appeared on behalf of some of those questioned by the prosecution. To all of them the nation must owe its thanks for all the participants in the arena gave an avid and lively performance to ensure that all in the dock were adequately represented by the best legal brains in town.

Now that the credits have been done with, let’s see the flip side: The people whom the commission’s report damned. According to the president’s statement issued on Wednesday eve,

  • IT DAMNED: Ravi Karunanayake, the then finance minister when the scam took place. The Commissioners referred to the allegation against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake regarding the payment of rent for the penthouse apartment paid for by Aloysius and the Karunanayake family subsequently buying it through their Walt and Rowe Company and stated that Mr. Karunanayake was responsible for that and recommended that the government should take necessary action against Mr. Karunanayake under the section of bribery and corruption law and further legal action under the penal code for giving false evidence at the Commission.
  • IT DAMNED: Arjun Aloysius, the Perpetual Treasuries boss, the man at the epicentre of the bond storm and recommended legal action against him and other relevant officials including Kasun Perera, responsible for the fraud ,
  • IT DAMNED: Arjun Mahendran, father-in-law of Aloysius. The Commission held Mr. Mahendran has made interference into bond auctions through a system of incorrect and unconventional methods and he was responsible for providing internal information to outsiders. One party has used such information to obtain undue monetary profits.

ALOYSIUS: In the dock

But though Ranil Wickremesinghe’s political opponents had been expecting the commission to impute blame on him, the Commission didn’t. Instead it exonerated the Prime Minister and declared, as the President said reading out his statement:
“The Commission report said that the Honourable Prime Minister’s responsibility in the appointment of Mr. Arjuna Mahendran as the governor to the Central Bank was proper. The Commission is of the opinion that the Prime Minister made his statement in Parliament regarding the appointment of Mr. Mahendran believing in the facts presented by Mr. Mahendran and Mr. P. Samarasiri, especially the promises made by Mr. Mahendran.”

The only fault, the Commission found in its report, as the president said in his statement, was that the Prime Minister should not have done that.

But if the Commission, according to the President had stated that the Prime Minister should not have listened to his officials, it is to his credit and serves as a redeeming factor that he had sent the COPE Bond report to the Attorney General on October 2016, according to a statement issued by the PM’s office on Thursday.

MAHENDRAN: Leaked inside info

The statement further said, the AG had been assigned with the responsibility to institute legal action on the bond transaction by the Prime Minister in December 2016.

And as for Ravi Karunanayake, one cannot but help feel sorry for him. His response, as reported in the Daily Mirror on Friday, was to say, “I am completely at a loss to understand why I am named as a suspect.” Again another case of ‘I don’t know’, perhaps?
According to the President’s statement, the Commission, among others,

  • RECOMMENDED that the Attorney General and the Bribery or Corruption Commission must take legal actions to implement the recommendations of the Commission.
  • RECOMMENDED that a Parliamentary Legislation could be passed and the money could be recovered in a speedy manner through a Parliamentary procedure.
  • RECOMMENDED that all the expenditure occurred for the Commission must be recovered from the Perpetual Treasuries Limited.

In answer to these recommendations, the president declared in his statement that “I have already submitted a copy of the Commission Report to the Attorney General and he will identify the persons against who the legal action must be taken and initiate necessary criminal or civil legal action to implement the recommendations of the Commission”. He also affirmed, “I would like to specifically state here that I would not hesitate to take steps to recover the loss of Rs, 11,145 million and take legal action against the offenders and punish them.”
And in his statement Sirisena gave his word that “I assure that any hesitation would not occur in filing cases against the offenders. Furthermore, I wish to state that this is the final report of the Commission.”

Though members of the previous regime often accuse both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of carrying out a vendetta against them whenever they are questioned or arrested over allegations of frauds and bleat to the public the familiar ‘this is nothing but political revenge’, the establishment of the Bond Commission comprising two Supreme Court Judges and a retired Deputy Auditor General to inquire into a bond scam that took place under this own government’s watch, with the Prime Minister himself questioned by the Commissioners and by the Attorney General as to his role, if any, in it; and its subsequent findings made public within seventy two hours of the report being handed over to the President, serves to add credibility to Sirisena’s oft made declaration, and reiterated only last week, that he will crack down on corruption wherever he finds it, be it in his own ranks or elsewhere.

Only one little thing is needed to confirm his will: To bring the crooks to book as soon as possible.

Mahinda washes his hands of SAITM‘My government had nothing to do with its creation’

Well so much for SAITM issue. It seemed all but settled. It appeared even the doctors had realised the folly of flogging a dead horse. Or so it was thought till this week. Thus it was surprising why the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa thought it fit to resurrect it from purgatory’s knackers’ yard. Why he suddenly chose to ride the dead night mare of the nation and revive it remains a mystery.

In a surprise statement issued on Boxing Day last Tuesday, he deemed right to warn the Government not to renege on the undertaking given to end the crisis in the field of medical education, caused by the SAITM medical college. In his statement he said, “Medical education in this country has been at a complete standstill since 2016. In a situation where the students who qualified to enter the medical faculties in 2016 have not yet commenced their courses, the students who passed the A/L examination in 2017 will also be awaiting entry into the medical faculties. Since clinical practice is mandatory in addition to lectures, medical faculties have difficulties in taking in a new batch without the previous one going on to the next stage.”

No question about what he said in his statement. The issue is in the timing. And who provided the patronage for the chaos?
Especially when you consider how he suavely washed his hands off the whole SAITM saga with a deft reference to his own involvement and responsibility in its production. He merely said: “Even though members of the government have been saying from time to time that the SAITM was started by my government, this is a private enterprise started by its owners, not by any government.

“When the SAITM started its medical course, there was no established procedure whereby a private institution could be accredited to offer medical degree courses. There was no legal provision for the government to prohibit private institutions from commencing medical degree courses either. Since 2009, the SAITM medical degree course has existed in this grey area of the law and the regulatory framework. This can be described as a complication that has arisen due to a lacuna in the law”.

Very convincing. Very convenient. A lacuna in the law no less. More like a cavity in the brain causing amnesia. For wasn’t it Mahinda who blessed the Chairman of SAITM Dr. Neville Fernando for his entrepreneurship and then proceeded to request of him to grant ten scholarships to 10 students of his choice at SAITM and who awarded the scholarships personally at a much publicized public ceremony? What’s the logic in a medical college that does not award degrees at the end of the study course? What’s the logic in awarding scholarships to students to lead to a dead end after three or four years of diligent years of study and have nothing to show their labours?

Government docs New Year resolution: Carry on striking

GMOA announces new ‘terror’ campaign if ‘extra duty money’ does not line their pockets and warns Govt at stake over SAITM

For Lankan doctors belonging to the GMOA, it will be business as usual in the dawning New Year. They will be taking the same pill for their ailment, imaginary or otherwise: the placebo they hold as the panacea for all their ills: Carry on striking. And damn Lanka’s sick.
Unlike the kind and comforting bedside manner of the family doctor paying a home visit and assuring the ill and injecting them with hope that all will be well, the nation’s doctors, educated at public expense, had a morbid message to deliver to the people when, in a house call to the nation, they announced this week that things would only get from bad to worse. That they planned mass premeditated manslaughter on the masses this new year too if the government wouldn’t let them have their way.

While thousands of Lankans were following doctors orders and making the customary New Year vows to abstain from smoking, drinking and eating less, the Government doctors announced their own New Year Resolution:

“If it be in our interest, be it for pecuniary or political reasons, whether concerned with the interest of the medical profession or otherwise however remote it may be connected to the interest of our profession, we hereby announce to the general public that our resolution for the New year is that, if the executive committee of the Government Medical Officers Association should deem it fit that we should strike for whatever reason, for whatever purpose, we shall so strike no matter how hazardous it may be to the wellbeing, health and threat to the life of the general mass of Lanka’s citizens.”

That was the message the GMOA announced the day after Christmas. It said it would resort to a strike in early January if the authorities failed to increase their ‘extra duty’ allowance.

GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge said the extra duty allowance was paid based on a formula, which was prepared according to the basic salary of a medical officer which was last increased in 2016. However, the extra duty allowance had not been increased, following the increase in the basic salary. Therefore, he said the GMOA would resort to a stern strike action with the participation of all the medical officers if the authorities failed to respond to their request.

In other words, for a few bucks more, instead of exploring other avenues to achieve their just grievances, their new year promise holds that they will not put the lives of the sick and dying before an extra wad of notes in their top lined pockets.

But if that was one reason to strike it was not the only one. Affected as they have been with their terminal ailment, SAITM – after many had thought that had been cured for good – saw a remission.

On the second day of the New Year, the GMOA announced that if the Government did not abolish SAITM, they would launch a series of strikes again. They warned that the very future of the government was at stake.

Various solutions have been put forward to resolve the issue but the GMOA had rejected them all. Even the Government taking over SAITM’s teaching hospital was not enough to satisfy them. The Government appointed a special committee headed by Dr. Harsha de Silva to inquire in the affair. The report was to be released on January 1, but now the released date has been postponed to the 15th of this month. But whatever recommendations it comes up with in the best interests of all the stakeholders, students included, the GMOA announced this week that they would be satisfied with nothing less than the total abolishment of SAITM.

GMOA Naveen de Zoysa: Abolish SAITM or else

GMOA Assistant Secretary Naveen de Zoysa said this Tuesday they would resort to trade union action if the government attempted to use short cuts to register “bogus degree holders”.

He warned that the next week would be critical to the government and the ministers if they failed to keep their word and pointed out that if the Government continues with its double standards the GMOA would resume its countrywide anti-SAITM fight.

And displaying the callousness the government doctors union had shown all along to the innocent students who have been the victims, he declared “the government should abolish SAITM and then decide what is to be done with the students”. In other words, let’s first kill the Mother Hen and then decide what to do with the chicks.

Last year, the GMOA came of age. They discovered, to their own surprise, perhaps, the immense power they wielded over the pulse and heartbeat of the nation. Where NM’s hartals had failed to bring any tangible results, where Tampoe’s strikes had fizzled out like damp squibs, the government doctors’ trade union realised the potent power they held. Something no trade union has held before or will hold.

The power to play God
To hold the nation’s sick and dying as hostages of fortune to coerce the government to pay up or else face the price of death on the government’s doorstep, in the wards of all government hospitals. Where other trade unions could only cause some inconvenience to the public, doctors could deny them their lives by depriving them their right to medical attention when they most needed it. The catalogue of deaths caused as a result of doctors striking, may never be known. For when patients are turned away from government hospitals bereft of the medication sought, they may have died at home and the cause of death attributed to their illness but never to medical negligence due to them being abandoned to their fate.

The year 2017 saw a summer of strikes. It began in February. Irked at the January 31 Court of Appeal decision which went against their position on SAITM, the doctors took to the streets to show their muscle and contempt.

With its February 3rd protest march, this GMOA brigade of doctors threw down the gauntlet on the city street, implicitly declaring that, whilst it would raise their stethoscope in salute to a judgment made in their favour, they would revolt at a verdict that went against their vested interest. It was the drizzle that heralds the storm, the first sinister signal that worse would follow if the judgment of the court were let to hold sway. And true to their recent satanic form, the GMOA fiends kept their demonic word.

It was not to be a nationwide strike. That would serve for afters. Like torture works best when administered dose by dose, the sadistic GMOA took their misery clinic from province to province on a staggered basis for the most potent effect.

As the SUNDAY PUNCH wrote of it in March: “Uva got it first. On February 20th, patients in all government hospitals and those coming to attend the monthly clinic and seeking treatment for their ills, found all government hospitals in this second largest province bereft of doctors.

The GMOA’s mobile misery clinic then turned the compass south the following day, the 21st , and brought home to the sickened populace of the southern province, the stark truth that they, due to issues beyond their ken, were to be denied the care, medication and treatment they so earnestly sought and eage rly expected to receive.

Two days later on February 23rd, the people of the Eastern Province and the North Central Province were to receive the same repugnant dose of the same repugnant medicine, brought about by the GMOA’s premeditated act to strike where it hurts most and to play dice with people’s lives.

Four days later, on February 27th, it was the turn of the sick in the North Western Province to be denied the wealth of health, even as it was the sad fate of those afflicted with illness in the Central Province to be denied medical care and treatment.

The following day, March 1st, Sabaragamuwa province was hit and its infirm was held hostage denied medical attention. The following day, it were the people of Jaffna and others in the Northern Province who, having been held as pawns by Tiger terrorists in a bid to win their demands for a utopian Eelam, now were forced to experience a replay at the hands of government doctors who showed the same callousness as the Tigers had done; and ruthlessly held their lives to ransom by denying them the bare medical treatment.

And then the following day, exactly a month after their campaign of protest against the Court of Appeal decision had begun, the GMOA circus of death, arrived in the Western Province to make capital out of cruelty and once again, as they had callously done without an iota of human compassion in the other provinces, staged a repeat and forced the feeble, the weak, the sick, many old many feeble and all of them poor, to walk the tight rope, balancing between life and death, without the safety net of medical care”.

Many other strike actions have followed since; some without notice, but all forgetting the fact is the poor, the sick of this country who have suffered the consequences. Not the MPs who fly to Singapore even for a sneeze, not the affluent, not those covered by medical insurance and, yes, not even the masses who for the moment are hale and hearty and whose loved ones are also hale and hearty for the moment, can understand to that exquisite degree the anguish of the poverty ridden, disease struck section of the public when they find no doctor in the house to attend to them — and told to try their luck the following day.

But when one is struck down by illness, tomorrow may never come. Only the man with the wound knows the pain. And only the heartless can deny him the gift of his medical expertise to ease the suffering. It is the quintessence of man’s inhumanity to man, the most extreme form of sadism — and practised by a group who hail themselves and love to be hailed and bestowed respect and honour by the public as gods of healing.

A group of men who have taken the time honoured Hippocratic Oath when they received their license to practice medicine and sworn upon all the healing gods to “use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing”. And vowed to themselves: “Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me”.

If the doctors union carries on striking again this year, too in the same cavalier callous manner it did last year, perhaps the time has come for the Government, as it did last year with the railway workers, to declare the medical profession an essential service and warn the GMOA that the personal assets of government doctors who flout the essential services order and go on strike will be forfeited, even as Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government threatened to confiscate the personal property of doctors if they continued with the strike they had launched during her regime.

If anything would get them scurrying back from their striking holes, that should do the trick.

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