Sri Lanka activists press court to sack central bank chief

(AFP) An influential group of Sri Lankan academics and professionals took legal action on Monday to seek the sacking of the  controversial central bank chief over long-running insider trading allegations.

The Anti-Corruption Front, credited with aiding President Maithripala Sirisena’s election victory last year, said Arjuna Mahendran’s appointment as governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka was unconstitutional.

Activist Keerthi Tennakoon, who heads the front, said Mahendran, a Singapore national of Sri Lankan origin, failed to take a mandatory oath of allegiance because of his foreign nationality.

"A constitutional provision which applies to all other public servants has not been applied in the case of Governor Arjuna Mahendran," Tennakoon told reporters after filing the petition in the Court of Appeal against him.

The petition is the latest move by the front against Mahendran after it earlier this month threatened to "take to the streets" unless the president sacked him.

Mahendran, whose tenure is up for renewal at the end of June, was accused last year of leaking inside information to his son-in-law’s firm, allgedly allowing it to make millions of dollars in profits from a central bank bond auction.

An ad-hoc ruling party committee cleared him of direct involvement but pointed to unusual activity and called for a more thorough investigation which has yet to be held.

Mahendran has consistently maintained his innocence.

Members of the front are credited with leading a campaign to topple former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse, who was accused of nepotism and corruption.

Sri Lanka’s economy is under stress, and earlier this month began receiving the first tranche of a $1.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
 

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