Opinion: Perpetual theatre as Sri Lanka waits for PM’s promised act of parliament

June 22, 2018 (LBO) – Yesterday the magistrates court in Sri Lanka, hearing a case related to the country’s most prominent financial scandal, further remanded Arjun Aloysius and Kasun Palisena till July 5th. When July 5th arrives, the two would have spent over 5 months in remand without bail.

The media cover the proceedings every time the two turn up in court, and every time the can seems to get kicked down the road. Thus it carries on, the never ending bond saga that started 3.5 years ago at the beginning of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s new government. What is the progress made in the cases made so far?

Well, the nation has 2 suspects in remand who are unable to get bail. The former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran has an interpol red notice against him which the Singapore government has yet to enforce. According to the Prime Minister the Singapore government has directed the Sri Lankan government to inquire into the extradition process and proceed accordingly.

Arjuna Mahendran is entitled to due process based on the jurisdiction that he is in, and he is entitled to exercise all legal rights that a person in his condition may have at their disposal. That is the way the law works in most free nations, and according to legal experts, the inability of the Sri Lankan government to be able to extradite him is not unusual.

As a Nation, does any of this really matter? The accused in these cases are individuals, and they will proceed accordingly as advised by their lawyers in their respective legal proceedings. The cases will be heard, and judgements will be served in time, perhaps a long time.

What really matters to the public is the recovery of any losses to the state. Solving this recovery problem will bring partial closure of the issue, so that the Honorable Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and his government can focus on development of the county.

The seeds of some sort of closure have been sown in the Presidential Bond Commission report. The report has indicated that the loss to the state was approximately Rs9bn (US$56mn). According to the Prime Minister, the Central Bank has frozen Rs12bn (US$75mn) worth of funds owned by Perpetual Treasuries.

The Prime Minister has promised to claw back these losses, even through an act of Parliament if necessary. An act of Parliament will almost certainly have the support of the vast majority of the legislature and would pass with ease.

So what exactly is the holdup? Your move Mr. Prime Minister, the country is growing impatient with the political theatre.