Opinion

Accountability of Parliamentarians

September 14, 2022

The world is keeping an eye on the worsening political, economic and widespread suffering of Sri Lankans. Citizens of this country hope to find answers to overcome the high cost of living and to have adequate fuel and medical supplies to bring the situation under control. People, once again, experience difficulty with the ‘QR system’ to obtain fuel from petrol stations.

It is no surprise to hear from the public that all 225 Parliamentarians should go home, and the Parliament should have young and energetic members. It sounds sensible because they have ruined the country for the last 74 years. Today, the Cost of Living is skyrocketing, and people find it difficult to manage their day-to-day affairs. The President is calling on all parties to unite and rebuild the economy. Still, some political parties are hell-bent on accusing the President and do not want to give any support to the Government or at least help the country at this disorderly stage. Presently, what we see in Parliament is ‘never-ending’ meetings and meetings and also washing dirty linen in public by exposing opposite members when millions are watching ‘Parliamentary sessions on TV. They do not seem to have any self-respect.

CB Governor’s visit to Parliament

The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, briefed Parliamentarians on how large amounts of tax cuts were allowed in 2019, causing an extensive money printing programme to ‘settle international debts.’ Such manoeuvres triggered the worst economic crisis in the country today. He said the Government had US$ 7.6 billion in reserves. Still, when he took up the appointment as the Governor of the Central Bank in April 2022, usable reserves had plummeted to just over US$ 20 million. Already, the Central Bank and the Government have defaulted before the announcement of the debt standstill. The programme was organised in the Parliamentary complex on August 31, 2022 to ensure the active participation of Parliamentarians to create a practical course of action on the current economic situation and the future of Sri Lanka.

 

IMF financial relief

IMF Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Sri Lanka finally had to seek the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail the country out the extreme economic situation it is faced with. Some Opposition Members in the Parliament (who were with the Government before) are dead against seeking redress from the IMF. They say loans will have heavy penalties and conditions imposed by the IMF, which will ‘throttle’ the public more. Yet, they have no answers when they babble in such a manner except stating that ‘Sri Lanka needs to be export-orientated.’

The visiting IMF team has confirmed during a Staff-Level Agreement to support Sri Lanka to bail out of the present economic crisis under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of approximately US$ 2.9 billion. The objectives of the IMF programme are to hold meetings amongst creditors and ‘discuss’ with them how Sri Lanka hopes to find answers to stabilise the economy and bring the situation under control of the worsening political, economic and widespread suffering of Sri Lankans.

Sri Lankans hope to find answers to ease the high Cost of Living and skyrocketing consumer prices and have adequate fuel and medical supplies to bring the situation under control. Only the educated types know the international commitment to debt traps in Sri Lanka and how to resurface economically by introducing a sound economic strategy.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an attempt to help Sri Lanka suggested launching the Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) effective from early next year, replacing its Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) scheme. It came as a congratulatory message to President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The DCTS applies to 65 countries, including Sri Lanka, offering lower tariffs and more straightforward rules of origin requirements for exporting to the UK. Sri Lanka is considered under those eligible for “Enhanced Framework/Preferences” with other countries.

The UK Government is also lowering or removing tariffs on 156 products in ‘DCTS Enhanced Preferences’. ‘The result of this change is that more than 85% of eligible lines now benefit from zero taxes in DCTS Enhanced Preferences, covering trade worth around 2 billion.’

Delisting of the Banned Groups

The (LTTE) ‘Tigers’ were forced to reckon with the international watchers. The Sri Lanka Government delisted various banned associations under para 4 (2) of the United Nations Regulations, no 1 of 2012 reason for funding the Liberation of Tamil Tiger Organisation, which was a ruthless terrorist group. The Sri Lankan Government needs to know from the delisted organisations whether those organisations have an undertaking that they will abstain in the future and that there would be no arms struggle against the people of Sri Lanka or the Government.

The Government and the country needs an inflow of foreign exchange and some of the ‘delisted entities’ had taken an undertaking that the Sri Lankan (Tamil) Diaspora would remit foreign funding. Such an option should not be allowed to release physical and emotional curses upon humanity and any alteration to Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

Corrupt politicians mismanaged the country’s finances and obtained predatory, volatile loans with expensive rates of interest and have plundered US$ 30 billion as commission, masquerading as various projects. The world’s stolen money appears to be US$1.6 billion, but according to international statistics, Sri Lanka heads the list with US$ 30 billion.

Various International Organisations reveal that Sri Lanka’s debt is US$ 55, and US$ 30 billion was swindled out of that amount. Chanaka Senanayake, who belongs to ‘One Country and One Nationality Group’, says he is not bothered about who cheated the money. Still, there is a programme to get such funds back to the treasury through STAR (State Assets Stolen Recovery). STAR was formed in 2007 under a special Geneva Convention, and the World Bank in 2007 under a ‘special Geneva Convention against corruption.’ So far, STAR has recovered such stolen money from 259 countries.

The writer published a brief account of STAR on August 17, 2022 in the Daily News under the heading “Mystery Behind Swindled US$ 30 billion from Sri Lanka.” Chanaka Senanayake requested the assembled journalists to question the 225 Members of Parliament and the Opposition groups whether they had not even heard the name of STAR until he became involved in recovering the cheated sums of billions.

There are two methods to invite STAR to get involved and recover this plundered sum of money. One means would be for Civil Societies in Sri Lanka, while the other option is through the Sri Lankan Media. Chanaka Senanayake has already done the initial groundwork to recover the cheated dollars back to the Treasury and has spoken personally with the officials of the STAR Organisation. He has promised to get one million signatures for his petition.

The following day after briefing journalists in Sri Lanka, he Chanaka Senanayake was at Torrington Square and continued from the Viharmahadevi Park, pronouncing that he would get a million signatures for his petition by visiting every Court in Sri Lanka. He wants everyone to sign the petition so that the quicker the signatures he gets, the faster will be the operation by STAR. Meanwhile, the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington (DC) based think tank focused on illicit financial flows, corruption, illicit trade, and money laundering, has revealed that approximately US$ 19 billion were stolen between 2005 and 2014 from Sri Lanka. Chanaka Senanayake displayed a GFI report to the journalists who gathered as confirmation.

Chanaka Senanayake has written to all the political parties in Sri Lanka about STAR performances and has briefed Sri Lankan journalists also to seek assistance. Further, he has requested the Law Society in Sri Lanka to prepare the requisite legal framework to obtain the plundered money to the Treasury, to which the Law Society has agreed to comply with his request. He wants to know why all Parliamentarians of even the Opposition had not even heard the name STAR for the last fifteen years until he took the responsibility on his shoulders to recover the plundered billions of dollars. It may smell like a rat!

Chanaka Senanayake has already spoken to the Director of STAR and filled the relevant documentation to this effect because Sri Lankan children are malnourished; the Cost of Living is at an evaporation level, and the people of Sri Lanka are going through a living ‘Hell’ at present. If Sri Lanka can get this plundered money, even stage by stage as STAR’s investigations continue, he confirms that ‘tomorrow would be a bright day for the citizens of Sri Lanka’. Further, Chanaka Senanayake adds that he does this probing not against any person or family but because of the dire situation when Sri Lanka is declared a bankrupt nation. At least a few billion recovered would be a God’s send to Sri Lanka. He says let any guilty person go to any part of the world, but STAR will be on them!

picture courtesy:  Daily News

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