My dear Cabraal, I should have written to you a few days ago, but with Lohan doing what he likes to do and making headlines the world over, I had to write to him last week. My apologies for the delay in writing to you, but I am sure the sheer joy of being appointed [...]

5th Column

The fox in the hen house


My dear Cabraal,

I should have written to you a few days ago, but with Lohan doing what he likes to do and making headlines the world over, I had to write to him last week. My apologies for the delay in writing to you, but I am sure the sheer joy of being appointed to the post you love so much will compensate for that.

Most people who enter politics have to go through a struggle to get into Parliament, but you were handed that on a platter when Gota maama appointed you through the National List. Having had that chance, you still sacrificed that to return to the Big Bank. What noble intentions you have, Cabraal!

You shouldn’t worry too much about people who criticise your move, arguing that the Big Bank has never had a politician as its head. That was certainly true until now. However, it was an open secret that, for the past 15 years the big bosses handpicked their cronies to head the Big Bank.

In fact, that started with your first innings at the Big Bank. That was when you were chosen by Mahinda maama for that job 15 years ago. By that time, you were already well and truly a politician, having been a provincial councillor for several years – and that too from the Green Party!

While you are an accountant by training, it is also not as if you were some economic genius who could have worked miracles with our economy. Like most people that Mahinda maama chose for the top jobs in the nation, he wanted someone who would do his bidding – and you fit the bill perfectly.

It is the former Greens – now hanging on to the ‘telephone’ – who are making the biggest noise about your appointment. That is a bit amusing. When they had their chance, they appointed their boss’s Singaporean friend. We know how that ended – and that chaps’ whereabouts are still unknown.

That is still a hot topic, Cabraal. When the scam over the sale of bonds at the Big Bank came to light, Ravi was rightly taken to task over that. Why, you even wrote a book about it later, calling the scandal ‘the mother of all cover-ups’. The ‘pohottuwa’ chaps went to town, promising to punish the culprits.

Well, it is now almost two years after Gota maama came into office promising to mete out justice for the bond scammers, and here we are, none the wiser. No one has been punished, that Mahendran chap is still at large, and Ravi probably still has ambitions of becoming Finance Minister again!

Fooling the masses with empty promises is nothing new in this land, but what is more interesting is the forensic audit that was carried out on bond sales at the Big Bank and the Presidential Commission that followed. That didn’t exactly paint a lily white picture of your tenure at the Big Bank, did it, Cabraal?

For instance, the audit revealed that the Big Bank suffered over 10 billion rupees in losses while you were in charge. The notorious ‘hedging’ deal was undertaken during that time, and then there was that issue of buying Greek bonds both of which cost the country enormous sums of money.

With such a track record, Cabraal, sending you back as the boss of the Big Bank appears to be like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. I am not sure what Basil was thinking when he decided on you, but managing the economy prudently at this difficult time couldn’t have been a priority for him.

We heard, Cabraal, that no sooner you assumed office, the lady who helped in the preparation of that now famous audit report has been removed from her position as secretary of the Monetary Board. After writing about the ‘mother of all cover-ups’, are you now keen to be the ‘father of all cover-ups’?

We also heard you say you can print more money and solve all our problems. The general rule is that this causes inflation, but you say it won’t – if it is managed carefully. This seems like a brand new economic theory, but if it works, who knows, you might even win a Nobel Prize for Economics!

Even if you did print all that money which will now carry your signature, you won’t need any of it, would you, Cabraal? That is because you got approval for a pension for yourself – with back pay for all those years you had the job earlier – before you quit your state minister post and took up this job.

Some have made nasty remarks about other Big Bank employees not being entitled to the same payments and how you will get another pension after you retire for a second time. Don’t bother about them because, after all, you were only being smart and milking the system as much as you could.

Some are worried about you taking over the Big Bank at a time when someone who can manage the economy well is needed – and not a political ‘yes man’ who agrees to anything Basil says. Well, the Big Bank survived a massive bomb blast and Mahendran, so maybe it can survive a second stint from you!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: The ‘pohottuwa’ chaps missed a trick when they nominated that chap who sacrificed his seat for Basil to fill the vacancy created by your resignation. Didn’t they realise that Duminda is now free and available? He is the perfect choice: he stands for everything that the ‘pohottuwa’ represents!

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