Sri Lanka: Hornet’s nest sting begins as corruption charges fly against coalition...

Sri Lanka: Hornet’s nest sting begins as corruption charges fly against coalition govt. MPs

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Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd (PTL), who is son-in-law of former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran.

Barely a few weeks ago, President Maithripala Sirisena lamented about the infamous Sri Lanka Central Bank bond scam indulged in by the former Governor of the bank, Arjuna Mahendran and his son-in-law Arjun Aloysious, and put the entire blame on his alliance partner, the United National Party (UNP).

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is blamed for appointing Mahendran as Central Bank Governor in January 2015 and for not taking immediate action to sack him later that year after it was discovered that he had, by February 2015, leaked vital information on bond sales to his stock broker and liquor businessman son-in-law Arjun Aloysious. Aloysius owned the stock brokering company, Perpetual Treasuries Ltd (PTL) and the Mendis liquor company.

PTL was able to secure the bonds unfairly to the tune of over 11.5 billion Lankan Rupees.

The saga over the bond scam was simmering to a lukewarm level in the past few months. Further legal action against the now remanded Arjun Aloysiousand absconding Arjuna Mahendran, a Singaporian hiding in Singapore, has been stalled by the government’s inability to extradite Mahendran.

In this backdrop, members of Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in general and President Maithripala Sirisena in particular, would not have expected that a hornet’s nest would swarm over both the SLFP and the UNP as it has in the past days over the scam.

When it was found that senior UNPer and former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake had accepted money from Aloysious for a luxury penthouse, President Sirisena forced the UNP to replace him. This helped elevate the image of President Sirisena’s SLFP and to an extent. In the February 10 local government elections, this also helped the Joint Opposition of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who capitalized on these events which took place under the coalition government in 2015 and won a record victory through his new outfit, the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP).

With Provincial Council elections expected to be held within this year, it is likely that the corruption sting from the bond scam is just proving to be lethal for both the SLFP and UNP.

The unraveling of some 116 names of MPs of the coalition who had allegedly taken money from a company connected with Arjun Aloysious has just begun.

A document with the names of the MPs who have had telephone conversations with Perceptual Treasuries Chief Arjun Aloysius is now out. Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told the media that he had asked for these names from President’s Secretary Austin Fernando who had obtained the approval of Attorney General to reveal the names of those who had conversed with Aloysius. The names areto be revealed shortly.

While there is a distinction between those who have conversed with Aloysious and those who have actually received money from him, information has surfaced about two senior members of the government; one a senior SLFP member, Dayasiri Jayasekera, the other a UNP Minister, Sujeewa Senasinghe, who had received cheques from an Aloysious company ahead of the August 2015 parliamentary elections.

Ironically both these politicians were supposed examples of righteousness and highly critical of the bond scam.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, former Chief Minister of North Western Province, and a former Minister for Sports of the present regime, had allegedly received money amounting to LKR 01 million from Walt & Row Associates, a subsidiary of Perpetual Treasuries. Sujeewa Senasinghe, State Minister for International Trade, had allegedly received his three million from W. M. Mendis & Company, an associate of Perpetual.

Interestingly Senasinghe has declared that he would donate the three million rupees his campaign team had obtained to social welfare if Speaker KaruJayasuriya or a Chief Prelate of the Buddhist clergy requested him to do so.

Where this storm of dirty cash is heading and what more muddy secrets it would reveal no one exactly knows.But it is likely that more silences will break in the face of fear of more revelations to come. However, it is said that the report of the Presidential Commission on the bond scam does not mention that 116 MPs had received money. The full report is yet to be given to the Speaker of parliament, the President’s Office has said.

Meanwhile, creating more background drama, last week UNP MP and minister Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka volunteered the information that he had received one lakh of rupees from Arjun Aloysious during the last parliamentary polls but maintained that he didn’t spend the money on his campaign. He was ready to repay the money with interest, he said, revealing this information to the media in Kandy last Friday after meeting top members of the Buddhist clergy.

The former Army Chief who contested the parliamentary elections of 2015 as a candidate of his Democratic Party was defeated but was later accommodated on the UNP National List.The interesting thing to note is that none who had received this ‘bond connected money’ had thought of revealing this information earlier. For the SLFP-UNP National Unity government, which is struggling to hold together, more revelations of their members taking money from the now damned stock broking company would provide the much-needed fuel for the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Thus, the Joint Opposition may find that their campaign for the upcoming Provincial Council election is made easy. Once accused of corruption by Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Rajapaksas will now have the chance of whitewashing all the governance ills of the Rajapaksa era (from 2005 to January 8, 2015).

As expected, the Joint Opposition of Rajapska has now begun to shout hoarse, calling for the penalization of MPs who took money from Aloysius. While the weeks to come will provide more ‘dirty drama,’ it may be increasingly hard for the current government to continue to call itself champions of ‘good governance.’

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