COLOMBO, (EconomyNext) – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s special statement to parliament Tuesday stopped short of defending beleaguered Governor Arjuna Mahendran but was packed with policy announcements that could move markets.
During his 45-minute speech, Wickremesinghe did not try to exonerate his appointee who leads monetary policy of the country, but spoke of the need for the Central Bank to restore its credibility.
He cast aspersions on the HNB, NDB Bank, Pan Asia Bank and key individuals of those banks who were virtually accused of wrong doing either on their own behalf or for the former Mahinda Rajapakse regime.
"Take the name of Nimal Perera at Pan Asia or Ranee Jayamaha of Hatton National Bank," Wickremesinghe said.
"Who are they and how did they benefit from certain political personalities of the previous administration?
Jayamaha on her retirement from the Central Bank was appointed to the HNB to do the bidding of the Rajapakse regime, Wickremesinghe said drawing a parallel with Gotabhaya Rajapakse placing retired military commanders at private security firms.
“How can Mr. (Nimal) Perera head a Bank (Pan Asia) given the large number of surveillance referrals made to the Colombo Stock Exchange (against him)?"
He criticised the NDB bank’s role in the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, the former chief justice. The NDB had refused to allow her access to her own bank records to prove that she had "zero" balances in the impugned accounts.
The Prime Minister said the NDB Bank had also sacked an officer who pointed out the illegal actions of the bank in the Shirani Bandaranayake episode.
He vowed that the new government will revive investigations into 13 high profile stock market scams and named Dilith Jayaweera, Scott Newman, Kosala Heengama, Ajith Devasurendra and Dinal Wijemanne as culprits.
Wickremesinghe’s determination to have them investigated was clear.
"I would like this to be recorded in the Hansard.
"I have requested the Securities and Exchange Commission to go into these cases. If necessary, I will bring legislation to permit such inquiry.
"I am also seeking for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into these transactions."
-JKH off the hook-
What Wickremesinghe left unsaid is equally, if not more important. In his prepared text there was a reference to JKH management, but that was left out of the actual delivery of the speech and hence not covered by parliamentary privilege for EconomyNext to report.
However, suffice it to say that Wickremesinghe’s government appears to have clearly mended fences with JKH and the company could be in the good books of the new administration.
He slammed several media institutions for leading what calls a vendetta against him and singled out an associate editor of the Daily Mirror and the Maharaja group.
"Hardly a day passes without a campaign of misinformation and character assassination. All because I am not prepared to dance to the tune of the owner (Maharaja) and meet all his demands."
"There is a company with strong links to the media that was trying to partner with one of these Indian Oil exploration companies (prospecting in Sri Lanka)
"However the only credible partner for the Indians in Sri Lanka is the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. I will not allow collaboration with any other Sri Lankan company."
In another parting shot, Wickremesinghe said there should be an independent broadcasting authority like in Britain, a move aimed at regulating the likes of Maharaja television.
However Britain disbanded the IBA in 1991 and in any case it did not control news and was in charge of regulating franchisees who operated on its network. The network was also later privatized. Maharaja owns its own network.
On the latest bond issue, there was little said except that parliament will be informed and the government is even prepared to set up a parliamentary select committee.