Mangala Samaraweera M.P.
Nearly four years ago, when the LTTE was conclusively defeated, many SriLankans, even those who did not agree with the government on the way the war was conducted in the final stages, were optimistic and hopeful thatour country could, at last achieve the economic prosperity which has eluded our people since independence. A window of opportunity presenteditself to our war ravaged nation to leave the mistakes of the past behind us and move forward to harness the bright and prosperous future our peoplehave been demanding for generations.
However, as we debate the fourth budget of the Rajapakse regime since the end of the war, Sri Lanka is a country in crisis; an unprecedentedeconomic crisis looming in the horizon as a result of the rampant corruptionand economic mismanagement; the systematic dismantling of the rule of law while trying to subjugate the independence of our institutions from Hultsdorf to Welikada to suit the agenda of the executive and theinternational isolation because of the governments refusal to honour it’s commitments by the international community has turned Sri Lanka into avirtual time bomb.
The peace dividend anticipated by our people has yet to materialize for 99.9% of our population while a small group of family members, political cronies and a hand picked group of ‘tenderpreneurs’ are reaping the benefits of the peace dividends making virtual paupers into Dollar Millionaires overnight.. Advertising executives with limited incomes arenow boasting that they are ‘billionaires’ while Naval officers with the rightfamily connections along with their siblings are listed as top shareholders in various companies. ( I would like to refer to these documents tabled in this house last week).
The chosen place of play for this .1% is the stock market and the chosen sphere of Buisness for this select group is land speculation – government land speculation. Their chosen mode of travel are, of course flashy racingcars like Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Aston Martins. In a classic Marie Antoinette gesture, the Finance Minister was audacious enough to grant aduty waiver to luxury racing cars while increasing the duty of normalvehicles.
In the face of such ostentation the billion dollar question asked by many people is: where is all this money coming from?
As I said on the floor of this house last week, during the adjournmentdebate on KP Pathmanathan there are reasonable grounds to believe thatpart of the black money which has flooded into the stock market inColombo as well as some of the FDI in Colombo is LTTE blood money.
In fact, it was after the arrest of KP, the only surviving member of the inner circle of Prabhakaran and therefore the only living person privy to theassets of the multi billion dollar empire of the LTTE, that black money
flowing into Sri Lanka became a deluge.Today Sri Lanka has earned thedubious distinction of being one of the principal centers for money laundering east of Suez.
The other source of the black money, according to informed sources arethe commissions from the Chinese loans.
In the web site called Chinese loan conditions: www. china-powercontractor.cn/government-finance.html) it is claimed that “you as agent canearn million US$ commissions as others have achieved during the past.” Italso says that suitable agents ” should have high profile connection withGovernment officials such as National President, Minister of Finance or related Minister to the projects.”
(Quote and table document.)
Rajeeva Sharma, a New Delhi based journalist and a strategic analyst, writing in dbsjeyaraj.com claims that US $ 1.2 – 1.8 Billion have been givenas commissions for Chinese projects since 2005 and also says that the firstfamily stands to receive in commissions anywhere between US$1.2 billion –
1.8 billion during 2005 – 2015. It also says that an intricate web of frontcompanies is in place to recieve and disburse the commissions.
( 1. Quote and table)
While opening our doors to the robber barons of the world the robber kings of our own country are laundering their own Ill gotten wealth within our owncountry. Unlike kleptocrats of the past who hid their wealth in Swiss
Accounts, the new robber kIngs feel that their money invested within their own countries is safer; The stringent anti laundering laws In the west as well as the recent experiences during the Arab spring when billions ofdollars worth of assets belonging to Mubarak and Gadaffi were frozen andseized , have made many corrupt leaders in Africa and elsewhere tolaunder their wealth within their own countries.
Money laundering at its simplest, is the act of making money that comefrom Source A look like it comes from source B. In practice, criminals aretrying to disguise the origins of money through illegal activities so it looks
like it was obtained through legal sources. There are many methods of money laundering but the most commonly used method by the robber barons and kings of Sri Lanka is called ‘Round-tripping’. “Round tripping: Money is deposited in a controlled foreign corporation offshore, preferably in a tax haven where minimal records are kept andthen shipped back as a Foreign Direct investment, exempt from taxation.”
According to the STAR initiative ( Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative) of theworld bank forming Shell Companies are a common method used by
money launderers. She’ll Companies are defined by the OECD in ‘Behind the corporate veil’ (2001) as:
” ……companies which are entities established not to pursue any legitimate business activity but solely to obscure the identity of their beneficial owners and controllers.”
In fact, I must take this opportunity to all members of this house to read theworld bank publication , ” The Puppet Masters: How the corrupt use legalstructures to hide stolen assets and what to do about it.”
As well known multi nationals are reluctant to invest in Sri Lanka because of serious human rights/ war crimes allegations, most of the FDIs whichhave come into Sri Lanka over the past few years have been from such’shell companies’. In fact, as Rajeev Sharma writes, the MitchellConsortium of Australia which was given the contract to set up a heavy industry zone in Sampur could be also a paper company.
All Chinese funded projects are handled by 5 companies and the shellcompanies behind them are all linked to the very top. In fact DilshanWickramesinghe, son of the Chairman Sri Lankan Airlines of Rolex fame is a key player in some of these companies along with PrabathNannayakkara, whose “meteoric rise ran parallel to President Rajapakse’s
ascent to power.”
In fact, Sri Lanka is now becoming the destination of choice for some Indian robber barons who are finding it more and more difficult to operate inIndia because of its anti corruption laws and the freedom of information act.
The Krissh Square deal is good case in point where Indian investors (inIndia they are called racketeers) with a dubious record has been allocatedprime Colombo land. One of the front men for this project is a man called
D.R. Kaytal from Bhivadhi in Rajasthan. He used his close links with theChief Minister of Hariyana Bhopindha Singh Hoodha to do a condominium development project in Gurgoman in New Delhi. However, he left many ofthose who paid advances for the apartments in the lurch when he decidedto resell the land at a huge profit.
In fact the reputation of Lord Billimoria is even worse. (Quote) It is also reported that Salman Khan flew to Sri Lanka in his private jet to discuss details with the father son duo before the Krissh deal was finalized
and sources in Bombay claim that Bollywood and Medamulana are now working hand in glove in this money laundering scam.
This new Rajapakse economy, based on black money has deprived the people to prosper in life within a level playing field. In fact, as the UNPs radical statement, to be presented to the UNP convention on 1st December says, rejects “the Colombo Stock Market Capitalism based on the primacy of markets. We have again reiterated our belief in a highly competitivesocial market economy………..Therefore, the radical statement upholds theprimacy of politics where the principles relating to the market economy is determined by the political process which is committed to providing opportunity for all.”
Today, under the new crony capitalist economy of this regime, the universal values of fairness has been sacrificed to the greed of a few. JosephStiglitz’s famous caption, “of the 1%, for the 1%, by the 1%” describes thesituation in Sri Lanka today where 0.1% of racketeers, tenderpreneurs andcorrupt politicians have hijacked our economy to become dollar billionaires overnight while 99.9% of the population ( including the legitimate privatesector) are facing hardships as never before and most of our citizens areseeing their Standard of living erode.
As the Rajapakse government stands condemned and isolated (other thanfor a few like minded megalomaniacs from Africa and elsewhere) courtingeconomic ruin for our country, the UNP believes that it is time to repositionour policies and values and start investing in our people.
Sri Lanka, today, is not only a country in crisis, but also rapidly becomingthe new Myammar of Asia. The UN report released a few days ago re- focuses on the alleged human rights violations and possible war crimes during the concluding days of the war while the recent massacre ofprisoners at Welikada again highlighted the break-down of the rule of law in the country. The constitutional witch hunt initiated by the executive againstthe Chief Justice has further eroded Sri Lanka’s credentials as a civilized, functioning democracy.
UN as well as many other members of the International community have expressed their deep concern about the impeachment motion against the CJ. In a statement issued in GENEVA (14 November 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers,Gabriela Knaul, today expressed serious concerns about reportedintimidation and attacks against judges and judicial officers, and warned that they might form part of a pattern of attacks, threats, reprisals andinterference in the independence of the justice system in Sri Lanka.”
“I urge the Sri Lanka Government to take immediate and adequatemeasures to ensure the physical and mental integrity of members of thejudiciary and to allow them to perform their professional duties without any
restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences, in line with the country’s international human rights obligations,” Ms. Knaul said.
In fact, as she correctly points out , the misuse of disciplinary proceedings as a reprisal mechanism against independent judges is unacceptable. It is not a secret that the ruling powers perceive the Chief Justice and thejudiciary as major stumbling block to their autocratic dynastic agend andthis is why this shoddy charge sheet full of factual errors has been rushedto Parliament with its docile and obliging majority. From this charge sheet, itis also obvious that the law of the jungle is also prevailing in the bankingsector: some of the charges are based on information taken from banks inviolation of banking secrecy laws. The officials of the NDB, who are accomplices to this constitutional witch hunt must be firmly dealt with by the law.
In proceeding with this motion, the onus is now on the Speaker, who is alsothe current chair of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union to ensure thatthe proceedings are in line with the Latimer House CommonwealthPrinciples on the three branches of government.
However, the government has already violated some of the criteria agreedupon by all Commonwealth countries including Sri Lanka.
In the Lattimer House guidelines, it says ” In case where a judge is at risk of removal, the judge must have the right to be fully informed of thecharges to be presented at the hearing, to make a full Defence by anindependent and impartial tribunal.”
The tribunal appointed for the purpose of examining the motion is far from impartial and heavily loaded in governments favour: far from beingindependent and impartial, many of those appointed by the government areakin to the fanatical inquisitors of the dark ages.
As, Shaveen Bandaranaike, the son of the CJ wrote recently, the time has come for each and every one of us to take a stand: a stand not merely tosupport Shiranee Bandaranaike, the person but a stand for theindependence of the judiciary and a democratic society.
In conclusion, I would like to quote from this article – excellent for some one so young – and I table the full article to be included in the Hansard.
“An individual can live his/her life seeing the injustice around them, show ablind eye and die a forgotten entity or you can stand up against tyranny andmake a stand. The Chief Justice of Sri Lanka is taking a stand. Which side,
you the citizens take defines who we are as Sri Lankans.”
Speech made by Mangala Samaraweera M.P. inParliament on 17th November 2012.