‘Shree Lanker paradise… was a tourism blurb that was on the air waves quite often, not so long ago. Paradise it has now become in many ways other than tourism. We haven’t heard of an instance anywhere else when a bank account holder was blissfully unaware that someone had deposited US $ 2 million in [...]

Sunday Times 2

How long will things remain the same in Paradise?


‘Shree Lanker paradise… was a tourism blurb that was on the air waves quite often, not so long ago. Paradise it has now become in many ways other than tourism.

We haven’t heard of an instance anywhere else when a bank account holder was blissfully unaware that someone had deposited US $ 2 million in the person’s name.

Another Paradise Island gentleman who had been living in a luxurious abode found out quite late that some unknown person had been paying his colossal house rent!

At the lower end of the scale, a three-wheeler driver who found a parcel in the back seat of his vehicle—left probably by a passenger — had handed it over to a police station. When it was made public that the parcel had contained political dynamite — original videotape recordings which are alleged to be conversations between a film star, powerful bureaucrats and even members of the judiciary, a taxi drivers’ association had offered a million rupee reward to the good driver who had brought credit to their profession. But the good driver has not claimed the reward—at least not till the time of writing this column. Lanka apparently has three-wheeler drivers who don’t give a damn to a million bucks! Can there be a paradise like this?

These are cases to be considered not by the Guinness Book of Records but for Ripley’s Believe It or Not series.

Millions, if not billions of dollars, have been reported to have been scooped off in financial scams, investigated on the orders of the highest authorities of Paradise by commissions and institutions vested with great powers and reports submitted. But the reports commissioned by the highest of the land continue to gather dust—apart from some feeble attempts to move a magistrates court–till the recent declaration and order made in Britain’s Crown Court at Southwart by the President of the Queen’s Bench Dame Victoria Sharp.

The judge made a final declaration and order that Airbus must pay a sum that exceeds 3.5 billion pounds sterling in the global context as an agreement of the settlement arrived at with Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, Air Bus and other international organisations.

The Court held that Airbus failed to prevent persons associated with the company from bribing others concerned with purchase of aircraft by airlines from other countries and SriLankan Airlines.

British Courts and financial institutions became involved in the SriLankan-Airbus deal when as far back as in 2014, Airbus made an application for export credit financing for four Airbus A 330 to the UKEP, a British-funded export credit agency.

Seventy-two years after Independence, Sri Lankans can be excused for looking at foreign courts with askance. But we wonder whether Sri Lankan authorities would have acted with such alacrity—within days after the British Court judgment on the Airbus deal.

Consider the many attempts made to get to grips with the issue. President Maithripala Sirisena first called for a report by COPE on the Airbus deal; this was followed by investigation and reports of the Weliamuna committee, the National Audit office, the Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Sirisena, CIABOC, FCID and now the CID. But no positive moves were made until the British Court declaration received worldwide publicity.

The twin ‘international conspiracy theorists’ of the Pohottuwa went dumb on the Airbus issue but hit the high notes for years on the Central Bank Bond Scam featuring the former Central Bank governor Arjuna Mahendran and Ranil Wickremesinghe, the then prime minister, who recommended him for the post.

This is in accordance with a recent political trend in this paradise island: Any crime, be it a bank robbery, rape or murder done by ‘our side’ is for the ‘good of the country’ or it was inevitable and excusable but those very acts if done by the other side call for the severest of punishment as in the days of our monarchs of yore.

Another moral theory now effective is that wrongs committed by our side can be negated if such wrongs are committed by our opponents. Study parliamentary debating today and the thread of logic joining both sides is: What did you do in your time? And now you dare preach to us? In brief, in this bipartisan democracy the net result of two wrongs should be considered as a right?

This was colourfully presented last week in parliament by Vasudeva Nanayakkara when he lambasted Mangala Samaraweera’s criticism of the new government’s economic proposals as “Yakku Pirith Kiyanawa( Devil chanting Pirith)”.

This kind of debating, to some, may appear to be futile and is leading the country to disaster as insolvable problems keep mounting like the garbage dump did at Meetotamulla while, to others, it keeps the political tempo under control ensuring the dilapidated Sri Lankan democracy rattles along.

Take the foreign debt owed mainly to China. The UNP, when in opposition, screamed that the country was being sold to the Chinese, the foreign debt was mounting and our income was insufficient for repayment. But the then President Mahinda Rajapksa carried on regardless building highways and rubber carpeting village roads while attempting to immortalise himself with a Mahinda Rajapaksa Harbour, Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport, an international cricket stadium was also named after him and many other projects — schools, playgrounds and even naming the massive splendiferous Nelum Pokuna after him although the Chinese built it for Chandrika Kumaratunga when she was president.

UNPers said that the foreign debt was mounting mainly because of the loans taken on commercial rates of interest for these vainglorious projects. But Rajapaksa nonchalantly claims that the UNP or Yahapalnaya government had borrowed from China much more than he did in his time.

The debt keeps mounting and the two sides keep flicking the ball to each other’s court. And the game goes on.

It is similar to the Central Bank Bond Scam. The debate goes on and legal action is still pending awaiting the arrival of that illusive Arjuna Mahendran. Why can’t Mahendran be brought back the same way as KP, the No2 of the LTTE, its international banker who succeeded Prabakaran to the leadership was brought back—in James Bond style?

KP appears to be forgiven for whatever reason and is said to be enjoying in rustic life somewhere in the North. No one knows what happened to massive resources the LTTE’s international banker held. Last week it was reported that two army men and a group of civilians were arrested in Kilinochchi, while searching for LTTE gold. Was it KP’s deposits or a hold up of gold of small time LTTE cadres that the treasure hunters were after? Has KP declared where all that blood money of the terrorists went? Much of that money was robbed from state institutions like banks, law abiding citizens and forcefully extorted from expatriate Tamils.

Meanwhile, the forensic audit report of the Central Bank bond issues – including the bond issues during the previous Rajapaksa government — has been tabled in parliament where it is alleged the Bond Scam of the UNP led regime is nothing new but that it is history of the Rajapaksa days that has been repeated!

Will there be a debate in parliament on the bond scams before parliament is dissolved?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s supporters expected him to ride through town after his convincing victory shooting down the bad guys down and stringing up the worst kind high up, as they did in the days of the Wild West—at least in Hollywood films. But he is going by the book—the rule book of his thinktank of individuals in the Viyath Maga. He needs a two-thirds majority in parliament to bring about his Visions of Prosperity and Splendour.

Getting a two-thirds majority in parliament is by no means an easy task although he did poll 52.25 per cent at the Presidential Election. Besides Sirima Bandaranaike and even J.R. Jayewardene couldn’t have their way as they wished to with their two-thirds majorities.

Since 1956, resolving the issues raised by the Tamils has been a main issue and has kept this paradise island from getting out of the mire. Other main issues facing the nations are: repayment of the national debt and resolving scandalous corruption issues — through judicial means — such as the Bond Scams and the Airbus deal.

Will the problems of Paradise Island follow the stoic French saying: ‘The more things change the more they remain the same’, or be subject to the laws of eternal change — the doctrine of impermanence of the Buddha (annicha) and Greek philosophers like Heraclitus—the same sun does not rise every day. Of course, all things have to change. Nothing is permanent but for how long will things remain the same in the Paradise Island? Ends

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