By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
When I read President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament that there were offenders other than the Rajapaksas, I wondered whether he had looked in the mirror before coming to parliament. It was not a confession but a swipe at the Opposition. Obviously, the latter part of that remark was intended to accuse the Leader of the Opposition of not having agreed to form a government in 2022. It is true that reluctance on the part of the Opposition, as the President mentioned, was tantamount to a breach of public trust and could be considered a contributory factor for the economic crisis. In short, the Opposition is guilty of not helping overcome the crisis. The Opposition joined forces with the government to combat corruption in Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), and the question is why it did not do so in respect of the economic crisis.
What is in the minds of the public is that the other major culprit contributing to the economic crisis is the Yahapalana regime which, for all practical purposes, was headed by Ranil, Sirisena being a mere puppet President.
I do not know whether Ranil actually used the word ‘responsible’, as stated in the news reports, in referring to the Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court did not use the word ‘responsible’. As stated in an article, “SC judgment on MR, GR, BR, PB and Cabraal” by C A Chandraprema (The Island, 21 November), the SC decided that the respondents concerned had “collectively had by their actions, omissions, decisions and conduct hereinbefore identified to have demonstrably contributed to the economic crisis”
Some may argue that there is hardly a difference between the two terms and, in fact, most media reports used the term ‘responsible’, which is a distortion and gives a totally different interpretation of the judgement. Going on the news reports, having not read the judgement, I too had the wrong impression and was discussing with my friends whether the SC had overstepped its limits.
Another misinterpretation by some media, politicians and commentators was that SC had ordered payment of compensation. Chandraprema has dispelled this misconception by quoting the following from the judgement:
“We are of the view that it would not be appropriate to order the respondents to pay compensation to the petitioners and as such we are not inclined to order compensation. We order however that each petitioner in both applications would be entitled to costs in the sum of rupees 150,000.00 each.”
No one would disagree that those mentioned in the SC ruling contributed to the economic crisis but, as the President himself admitted, there are others, too. Though he was not humble enough to admit that the other main culprit was Yahapalanaya government, which presided over not one but two Central Bank bond scams. Interestingly, the perpetrators are still at large! Further, by replacing the 1953 Exchange Control Act, the Yahapalana leaders allowed exporters to park their earnings overseas. Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has been repeatedly raising this issue in Parliament. Surprisingly, the economic whizz-kid of the SJB has disputed this but it is surprising that he chose a TV debate to do so rather than parliament!
It is noteworthy that the dissenting SC judge has laid the blame on Yahapalanaya too, in addition, and stated the following in the dissenting judgement: “In fact, it would be pertinent to note that the economic challenges of today are due to two key decisions of the Yahapalana government”, which is in reference to the excessive borrowing from the International Bond Market and the slashing of the petroleum prices while the CPC was incurring heavy losses.
Therefore, I am sure if Ranil looks in the mirror, he can see who can be added to that list and also the person who is frustrating the attempts to get rid SLC of corruption.
Even mighty India lost finally but what brought us shame is the manner in which our cricket team failed. However, all this pales into insignificance when you consider the behaviour of SLC administration. Rex Clementine, in an excellent piece titled “Shifting Under-19 World Cup has left SLC in the lurch” (The Island, 23 November) reveals how SLC has scored an own goal.
It is a pity that shameless persons are allowed to hold high positions. The Auditor General has revealed a host of financial irregularities at SLC. In spite of this and having sent letters to ICC requesting the suspension of SLC, corrupt cricket administrators have survived with the support of corrupt politicians!
Public sentiment is well summarised in The Island editorial (20 Nov.). “When heroes shiver, which states: “Curiously, even President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who does a Muhammad Ali when he deals with the Opposition, the Elections Commission, trade unions and anti-government protesters, ‘floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly’ vis-a-vis the cricket nabobs, who are running a parallel government to all intents and purposes.”
Things get even worse. During an interview with an Indian TV journalist, when questioned about the letters written by SLC to ICC, apparently seeking suspension of SLC, which were tabled in the parliament by the Leader of the Opposition, the President said he had not read the letters yet! He even tendered an apology to the Secretary of BCCI. This unprecedented action was rightly criticised in The Island editorial of 24th, which concluded with: “On seeing some ruling party politicians’ partiality to notorious crooks, one may say that where corruption is bliss, ‘It’s folly to be honest.” Need I say more?