All corrupt politicians and officials will be prosecuted by a future UNP government, the party’s Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya said in a statement issued on Friday (22).
“We solemnly pledge to the people of this country, those who been robbed and wronged by this government, that any individual that gambled with public funds will be prosecuted and held personally liable under a future UNP government, he said.
“The UNP will spare nothing to bring culpable politicians and public officials to book. Neither social status nor public rank nor dual citizenship will hinder the process by which they will be held accountable to the people of this country. They shall be brought to justice and their ill-gotten wealth will be confiscated.’’
It went on to say that the government is acting as it does because terrorism has been defeated “not by any member of the government but by the valiant armed force’’ and accused the government of acting like buccaneers with public assets.
A series of recent events have awakened Sri Lankans to gross mismanagement and rampant corruption within nearly every branch of governance and to the political leadership’s indifference to what is effectively national theft.
Two weeks ago, contaminated fuel sold at CEYPETCO outlets caused hundreds of vehicles to stall, creating havoc on roads and slapping motorists with massive, expensive cleanup bills. Despite this unprecedented display of incompetence, the officials or politicians responsible for this fiasco have not yet assumed responsibility for it.
The petroleum minister has refused to accept responsibility despite new information that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had failed to test the fuel in laboratories before distribution and that substandard fuel had been bought from obscure suppliers to line the pockets of interested parties. Twenty thousand tonnes of unusable, contaminated fuel amounts to yet another loss that the CPC and, by extension, the public will have to bear.
“The regime’s chickens are coming home to roost in other ways. The London High Court last week ruled that Standard Chartered Bank was owed US $ 161,733,500 (Rs 17.8 billion) plus interest on the oil hedging transaction with CPC. Following a Supreme Court ruling here, the government suspended payments to three international banks with which CEYPETCO undertook this notorious gamble but ignored the second part of the same ruling which requested CEYPETCO to slash fuel prices forthwith,’’ the statement said.
It noted that Citibank and Deutsche Bank have also sued CPC in the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Singapore for US$190 million and US$63 million respectively. The scale of these settlements is astronomical and will strain the state coffers severely. These will be passed on to the citizen as taxes. The public will have to bear this burden because this administration had chosen an unqualified, inexperienced acolyte to run the country’s premier energy agency based on family connections.
Who authorized this hedging gamble? Who signed this agreement on behalf of the government? Hedging is nothing more than a multimillion dollar bet. It should have been entered into with knowledge of what such a complicated financial instrument entailed, with political authority through the cabinet of ministers and with the Attorney General’s oversight. It should also have been cleared by the country’s best legal and financial minds.
It is now in the public domain how, instead, these international banks wooed one person through favours to him and his family. It has been revealed that the Central Bank, custodian of Sri Lanka’s monetary policy, was also involved in the transaction. The minister in charge claims to have been blissfully unaware of all this transpiring around him.
This blatant lack of transparency and so cavalier an attitude towards the wastage of public money has never been witnessed in this country’s living memory. From top to bottom, in every level of government, there is impunity and a devil-may-care attitude with a carte blanche apparently given to making money, country-be-damned. This is mostly aptly demonstrated by the upper echelons of this regime.
After former cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara’s courageous attempt at Lords, England, to flag the corruption and malpractices in local cricket, the Auditor General’s Department and COPE have found that large-scale financial irregularities and unprecedented mismanagement has left Sri Lanka Cricket with debts of more than Rs7.5 billion.
The only thing that has happened so far is that the sports minister has called for an investigation of Sangakkara, one of our game’s brightest stars! The board of Sri Lanka Cricket was sacked, but its former secretary, despite these allegations of irregularity, is poised to be made CEO of a State owned mobile phone company. This is symptomatic of a culture of rewarding wrong doers while those who highlight problems are scrutinized and harassed.
In all three recent examples mismanagement and financial corruption, the perpetrators have gone unpunished. Neither have they been censured. This is but the tip of the iceberg in a sea of corruption that threatens to jeopardize the Sri Lankan economy. Prime land in the heart of Colombo city is being sold to foreigners without even pretence of transparency. Tender procedures, while controversial in the past, have been completely done away with under this regime. The country is merely “informed” that state-owned property and assets are being dispensed to “investors” at the whim of the political leadership.
The billion-rupee undertaking to bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held in Hambantota is a continuation of the government’s reckless gambling with the public purse. This ambitious bid, coming at an instant of immense economic strain for the ordinary man, is designed for the primary purpose of boosting the image of the ruling family’s “heir apparent”. Like every other ill-fated economic misadventure, it is no more than an unashamed attempt to advance personal agendas and, for obvious reasons, to boost Hambantota’s public profile.
Today, we are ruled by the same government whose prime minister said ruling party MPs lead Sri Lanka’s drug trade. But these politicians flourish, almost as if they are rewarded for their nefarious activities. A budget airline established to inflate political egos has been a drain on the public coffers since day one and continues to make losses five years later.
This government cannot come to terms with its failures, nor bring to book culpable officials, largely because so many of them trifled with state funds with full political patronage.
We feel the Sri Lankan people can no longer endure this plunder of national wealth by a regime made up of buccaneers. Sri Lanka is their conquest; our national wealth is their booty. All of this stems from supreme arrogance born of the defeat of the LTTE by, not any member of the government, but by our valiant armed forces. The government rules over the land as if it were their personal fiefdom. It exploits its riches and plunders its potential. The people wait for the dividends of our hard won peace while the rulers enjoy decadent wealth while making insane financial choices for our national economy and bleeding the poor man dry.
No more. This government has had its day; it has had its chance. The people have tolerated what the regime doled out because of a willingness to sacrifice and thereby contribute towards the national cause of defeating terrorism. Terrorism is gone but we have new monsters in its place. The day is nigh to rid Sri Lanka of this scourge of corruption. We call on all true patriots to stand with the UNP against corruption and financial mismanagement. This nation will no longer watch its wealth being squandered by unscrupulous politicians drunk on power.
It is the UNPs deepest desire to see corruption rooted out of our political system. It is our view that the level of corruption perpetuated by this administration is unprecedented. With no accountability and with a dictatorial approach, the regime has taken the Sri Lankan economy to the edge. We believe that patience has run out and that its days are numbered.
May this serve as a warning to those that continue to steal from the public in the belief that their gold rush will not end—and also to those that look away. This is no idle promise but a firm commitment towards ensuring that Sri Lanka’s future is not gambled away by corrupt politicians and officials. As an opposition, it is our responsibility to raise these excesses and to alert the public. And in office, the UNP will do everything it can to eradicate corruption from our public system.
“The day of reckoning is near. The UNP joins with all Sri Lankans that seek an end to government excess and corruption, who want to usher in an era of accountability and transparency. This is a cause and a movement around which all political parties can rally. Our differences seem miniscule in the face of these grave threats to Sri Lanka’s economy, brought about by the ruling elite’s grievous mismanagement,’’ the statement said.
“We may have our own opinions as divergent political parties but it is our collective and urgent responsibility to ensure that there is a country left to govern. Every political party, including those sane factions of the ruling coalition, will unanimously agree that if this regime is allowed to proceed down this disastrous road Sri Lanka will be sunk economically.
“This government will not listen to reason. It is up to us then to exercise people’s justice, even retroactively. We hope that, even at this late stage, the proactive measures we envisage will stem the damage to our national economy and help to secure the futures of our children.’’