Sri Lanka central bank defends controversial note

Dec 31, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s central bank has defended a controversial 1,000 rupee note bearing the image of president Mahinda Rajapaksa, ahead of presidential polls, which had come under fire from the opposition and other critics. Critics had slammed the note as an ‘election handbill’, and that a group of soldiers at the reverse of the note shown raising a Sri Lanka flag had ‘mongoloid’ features.

Others had also commented that the raising of the flag is similar to a famous picture of a group of US soldiers raising the American flag in Iwo Jima, taken by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer.

There have also been comments on the blue tone of the note and a reddish curve bordering a blue design at the bottom of the obverse of the note that resembles the bottom of President Rajapaksa’s campaign posters.

A 1,000 rupee note issued in the 1980s, when Sri Lanka opposition United National Party was in power, had a green tone. The UNP’s party colour is green.

The Central Bank said notes have been issued with the images of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, and former prime minister S W R D Bandaranaike. Two coins had been issued with the portrait of former presidents J R Jayawardene and R Premadasa.

There has also been criticism that the commemorative note had weak security features perhaps making it easier to counterfeit though the new note has a water mark, a security thread and a see-through feature.

The existing thousand rupee note has complex designs on the borders, using intaglio ink giving a ‘raised’ feel on parts of both sides, which is less discernible on the new note.

The full statement of the Central Bank is re-produced below.

Issue of a Rs 1000 commemorative note to mark the ushering of peace and prosperity to Sri Lanka

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) issued a commemorative note in the denomination of Rupees 1000 to mark the ushering of peace and prosperity to Sri Lanka. The issue of this note was well received by the public. However, certain statements have been made by a few individuals who have obviously not properly understood the circumstances behind the issue of this commemorative note. Hence, this clarification is issued to clear any doubt that may arise due to these misleading statements.

1) The CBSL issues commemorative notes and coins from time to time to mark events or personage of national or international importance, in terms of the Monetary Law Act.

2) The decision to issue such a commemorative note was taken immediately after the completion of the humanitarian operations on 19th May, 2009, and as is usual, a period of around 6 months elapses from the time of intention to issue to time of actual issue. Accordingly, on 17th November, 2009 the CBSL issued the commemorative note of Rs. 1000 to mark the Ushering of Peace and Prosperity to Sri Lanka.

3) The obverse of the note contains the image of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa and also the map of Sri Lanka with the rising sun in the background and a “Punkalasa” with ears of paddy symbolizing territorial integrity and prosperity respectively, that are results of national harmony and peace. The valiant contribution made by the nation’s victorious sons and daughters of all security forces and the police is the theme on the reverse of the note. The design at the center depicts the hoisting of the national flag by members of the security forces. The note was designed by a Sri Lankan artist.

4) The use of the image of the Head of the State in currency notes and coins has been the case in many countries. In Sri Lanka, several currency notes have been issued depicting the images of the British rulers even after Sri Lanka became an independent country. In 1951, His Majesty King George VI of England was depicted on currency notes Re. 1 and Rs. 10. In 1952, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England was depicted on currency notes Re. 1, Rs. 2, Rs. 5, Rs. 10, Rs. 50 and Rs. 100. Further, the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was depicted on a coin issued in 1955.

5) During the period from 1962 to 1970 several series of currency notes were issued depicting the image of former Prime Minister, Hon. S W R D Bandaranaike.

6) In 1978, a coin containing the portrait of then President, His Excellency J R Jayawardena was issued to commemorate his induction as President.

7) In 1992, a coin containing the portrait of then President, His Excellency R Premadasa was issued to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of his induction as President.

It is therefore clear that the CBSL has followed usual procedures as well as been consistent with traditional practices, in the issue of this new currency note.