UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena questioned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding the appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank. Following are excerpts of the speeches made by Mr. Wickremesinghe and Mr. Gunawardena It is a matter of great regret that no effective action has been taken, either by the Government or by this House, for more [...]


A tale of two citizenships, and a question of loyalty


UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena questioned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding the appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank. Following are excerpts of the speeches made by Mr. Wickremesinghe and Mr. Gunawardena It is a matter of great regret that no effective action has been taken, either by the Government or by this House, for more than three months, to deal with the consequences of one of the most colossal frauds perpetrated on the people and the economy of our country.

Arjun Mahendran

Quite apart from the conduct of the Governor of the Central Bank and those going to incredible lengths to cover up this fraud, grave doubts have now arisen with regard to the legality of the appointment of Arjun Mahendran and his capability to lawfully perform the functions of the office of Governor.

The Governor of the Central Bank is, by law, entrusted with powers and responsibilities which have a vital bearing on the sound performance of the economy of Sri Lanka. He is also the ex officio Chairman of the Monetary Board. His functions include deciding and changing the par value of the LKR, determining monetary policy, taking action to preserve monetary stability, ensuring international stability of the LKR and determine the rates at which foreign exchange is bought and sold by the Central Bank.

The Governor, as the principal representative of the Central Bank and the Monetary Fund, has the authority to represent the Central Bank and Board in all relations with other persons, including the government and any body of persons, corporate and or incorporate, whether public or private, domestic, foreign, international, and to represent the Central Bank and the Board in any legal proceedings.

Given the crucial nature of his role in the management and direction of Sri Lanka’s monetary policy, it is only natural that the Governor should be compulsorily required by law to take an oath or, to make an affirmation of allegiance to uphold and protect the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

In terms of Articles 165 (1) and 170, read with Articles 157 A (7) of the Constitution, the Governor of the Central Bank is required to take the oath or, make the affirmation under the 4th and 7th Schedules of the Constitution. Article 165, moreover, has the clear effect of precluding the Governor from embarking on the duties of his office, unless and until he has complied with these mandatory Constitutional provisions.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

In view of the extreme urgency of the matter and the paramount need to ensure that the crucial functions of the Governor, including placing his signature on the country’s currency notes, are carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Sri Lanka, I ask the Prime Minister to urgently respond to my queries.

1. At the time of being appointed Governor, was Arjun Mahendran a citizen of Sri Lanka? Is he a citizen of Sri Lanka at present? Has be taken/made an oath of affirmation to any other country, renouncing loyalty to the Republic of Sri Lanka? Has he taken/made the oath/affirmation required by the laws of Sri Lanka before embarking upon the duties of the Office of Governor? And did he have the capacity to take/make the required oath/affirmation in view of any conflicting oath/ affirmation to any other country?

Response by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:
I wish to reply in detail to the questions raised by MP Dinesh Gunawardene on the appointment of Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran

Arjuna Mahendra was born and educated in Sri Lanka. He maintained higher positions within the government sector as well as the private sector in Sri Lanka, and is a well-educated and intellectual individual who loves the country. His first appointment was in the Central Bank (CB) and he served the CB for the past 11 years. He was appointed Chairman- Sri Lanka Investment Board, in 2002, and served there until 2004. He gave up his position in 2004 when the UPFA Government came into power. He had to leave the country due to the Rajapaksa regime

During the previous government, officials of the Attorney General’s Department, judges, including even Supreme Court judges were deployed for service in Fiji. This was done because it was not against the policies of the Sri Lanka Government. Nobody saw any fault at that time. They also took the oath of Fiji. Why did you approve it then? You were in the Cabinet.
The previous government gave asylum to KP who was a foreign citizen. The Sri Lanka Government protected him when he was wanted by other countries for investigations on terrorism.

Dinesh Gunawardena

When citizenship is granted, taking an oath is a legal obligation. Likewise, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa took a similar oath to get US citizenship and Palitha Kohona took a similar oath to get Australian citizenship. It was justifiable if these people raised these questions when a US citizen was brought to Sri Lanka under the previous regime and handed over the Defence of the country. The reason is the serious nature of this oath. The said oath is as follows:

“I hereby declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

The post of Defence Secretary of the country was given to a person who had taken such an oath. He became the Defence Secretary on November 24, 2005. He was granted dual citizenship on November 30, 2005. He was in charge of people who were bearing arms on behalf of the Republic of Sri Lanka, while he, under law, was obliged to bear arms for the United States of America. Even though he had dual citizenship now, he must still bear arms for the US, and if they declare Sri Lanka to be an enemy, he must side the U.S. This kind of statement is not in the Singaporean oath. After independence, the first Central Bank Governor of Sri Lanka was a US citizen. He was John Exter.

You did not speak a word when the Foreign Service was handed over to an Australian citizen. Those who were silent then are now questioning on the citizenship of Arjuna Mahendran. I request you to be happy that you now have the freedom to question in this manner. We are glad that the mouths on which spider webs were made have now sharpened at least in this manner.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has done nothing to positively renounce American citizenship. As of the US law, a US citizen can get the citizenship of another country. At all times when there is dual citizenship, the US citizenship is considered the main citizenship. Citizens have no freedom to decide the main citizenship. Only the US could do so. Due to these reasons, we made a law under the 19th Amendment that the President and public representatives should compulsorily be Sri Lanka citizens, except that foreign citizens have no restriction to hold any other position in Sri Lanka. A list of names, including Udayanga Weeratunga, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Palitha Kohona, Lakshman Jayaweera, etc., could be mentioned here.

All these people are foreign citizenship holders and they held responsible government posts. In addition, I would like to inform the House that some of those who were moved by wealth and power under the Rajapaksa regime, had obtained foreign citizenship secretly. Aren’t there people among you who have obtained the citizenship of countries such as Seychelles, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Andorra, Monaco, Uganda etc? We have got such reports and I challenge you to deny it if this is wrong.

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