The Greens are screaming blue murder about an alleged move by the Blues to dispose of a haul of gold in the custody of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The Blues have seen red! They are venting their spleen on Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has levelled that allegation. He claims the government is planning to sell about 38 metric tons (38,000 kg) of gold which belongs to the State to settle some loans. Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal has pooh-poohed the allegation as a blatant lie.
The UNP leader will have to be more specific and back his claim with irrefutable evidence without observing silence, which will cost him his credibility. He ought to mention the actual value of the gold haul and name those who are trying to sell it and the company which has offered to buy it.
The JVP is in a quandary over the gold reserve. It would have pounced on the government on any other issue. But, on this one it has chosen to be silent. For the UNP leader dropped a clanger by dragging Rathu Sahocdarayas in he claimed the gold at issue had been recovered during the JVP insurrection, the implication being that the then government had seized it from JVP terrorists at that time. The JVP robbed people of their valuables including gold jewellery by the ton and only a part of their booty was recovered. What has become of the balance is anybody`s guess. The JVP will consider silence golden on this score and refrain from taking on the government. Evoking memories of their `gold rush` in the late 1980s is the last thing Rathu Sahodarayas could afford at this hour.
Never mind gold! What about Sri Lanka`s family silver that has gone for a song under successive governments led by both the UNP and the SLFP? Who has taken up the huge losses the country has incurred because of corrupt deals involving the sale of State assets over the past so many years?
Last July, General Secretary of the Democratic Left Front and presidential advisor Vasudeva Nanayakkara wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa that corrupt and fraudulent methods that the corporate sector employed in the acquisition of State assets as in the case of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, the Lanka Indian Oil Company and the Lanka Marine Services Ltd and its evasion of taxes and controls from 1985 to 2005 had cost the country over one thousand billion rupees!
In dollar terms, this whopping amount is approximately three times the IMF standby facility Sri Lanka obtained with the greatest difficulty to stabilise her economy. With that kind of money about five ports of the size of the new one coming up at Hambantota could have been built. Or, with a fraction of that money all the equipment needed for the smooth functioning of State run hospitals could have been acquired. In the alternative, the university system could have been equipped to provide higher education to all those who pass the GCE (A/L) examination but are left out at present.
Two COPE reports issued under MP Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa`s chairmanship have shed light on mega corrupt deals which cost the State billions of rupees during the UNF government. But, the culprits have gone scot free in a country where even a petty clerk who pilfers some stationery from his work place gets sacked. Some of those named in the COPE reports concerned have crossed over to the government and, therefore, both the UNP and the SLFP are behaving, as a popular saying goes, like the proverbial `mute put on a bitter decoction`. Who says the government and the Opposition do not cooperate? They do make common cause with each other when their mutual interests are threatened or big time crooks have to be protected.
Vasu in his letter to President Rajapaksa called for setting up a presidential commission to probe corruption involving public assets and revenue. But mum`s the word on the part of the government.
Now that the UNP leader has embarked on a campaign to protect the State s gold stocks, which he says, are up for sale, he should take on the government for its failure to probe the charges listed in Vasu`s letter and agitate for an investigation into them, if he wishes to hit pay dirt with the voting public.