Open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
You committed in the oath of office to comply with your duties and responsibilities as President in an honest manner and as per the Constitution and the Law of the Country.
The Constitution you agreed to safeguard and follow states that “in the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable; and that the executive power of the People shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People”. Thereby it becomes your inalienable duty to safeguard and protect the interests of all the people of Sri Lanka.
You created a social contract with the people in terms of your manifesto, to deliver a ‘Reconstructed Country with a Future’ by following inter alia, a ‘People Centric Economy’ and assuring a ‘Productive Citizen and a Happy Family”.
In your first address to the nation, you stated that Buddhist Philosophy influenced your thinking; and that you would protect and nourish it. Trust You accept that “Dharma” in the doctrine of Buddhism, is the universal truth common to all individuals at all times and is based on the core concept of ‘cause and effect’ and thus You will commit to ‘uphold in governance the principles of wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion’ as important virtues and be guided in governance by the following:
‘Let the Dharma and the discipline that I have taught you be your teacher’.
Maha Mangala Sutta –
‘to associate with and be guided by the wise, well versed professionals’
Chulla Hatti Padopama Sutta
(the first discourse of Arahat Mahinda) – ‘Seek the cause of the problem and resolve it and not be guided by the symptom or perceptions of it’
The message of Arahath Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa- “The land belongs to the people and all living beings; thou art only the guardian of it”
You are also committed to the values embedded in you at Ananda; and follow the school motto “without delay” and will ensure governing actions being appropriate and timely.
As an officer cadet first and later as a high ranking Commanding Officer of the Sri Lanka Army, Gajaba Regiment, you live by the core values of
Commitment to the Motherland
Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honour, Integrity, and Personal Courage
Unity is Strength
As a Professional you are committed to the Core values of:
Integrity. ‘Know and do what is right’
Respect. ‘Treating others the way you want to be treated’.
Responsibility. ‘Embrace opportunities to contribute’.
Sportsmanship. ‘Bring your best to all competition’.
Servant Leadership. ‘Serve the common good’
We the citizens of Sri Lanka remain hopeful that you will live by the above commitments and will not permit the implementation of the proposal of the Governor of the Central Bank and the Secretary to the Treasury to implement the ill-advised, misguided and reckless decision to make payment to the International Sovereign Bond holders of US Dollars 500 million on the 18th of January 2022, ignoring the priority, essential and urgent needs of citizens, farmers, fishermen, SMEs, industries and business, for whose benefit these available scarce resources are required for the importation of food, medicine, fertilizer, petroleum, gas, raw materials, machinery, competitiveness assuring technology and essential services for value adding business entities.
We remain confident that you will duly recognise the possible adverse consequential outcomes of implementing the present proposal including
Risks of socio political destabilisation
Possible angry public response actions once they realise that the state has released only minimal amount of foreign exchange resources for them for clearance of essential imports stuck in the port; and market shortages of flour, rice, milk powder, sugar and medicines continue importation of fuel and gas, especially if consequential power cuts are imposed and gas shortages continue, and have reserved the majority of the available resources for unknown foreign speculator investors the foolhardiness of settling long term debt obligations with short term cash flows, especially leveraging short term more expensive SWAPS and then being forced to soon borrow more in the short term to replace the current SWAP obligations
The ISB maturity amount now to be settled is only around 10% of the total debt settlements due this year; any commitments now made settling in full maturity dues without resorting to a debt restructure will make future negotiations more challenging; it is unlikely that early replacement cash flows will materialise from tourism- related sector operations; and in any event such net flows will certainly not match the USD 4 billion estimated
It is most unlikely that without a market determined real exchange rates being the basis that short-term incentive premiums based ‘carrot and stick’ approach based exchange rate management will bring forth the optimum export incomes, worker remittances and FDI
Recognise that the proposed action can result in a further downgrade of sovereign ratings if the rating agencies deem that a default by mid 2022 is unavoidable;
Using sale proceeds of valuable national assets and long-term concessions in a rush without competitive transparent bidding and best practice valuation methodologies being adopted, will scar the economy in the longer term
Recognise the peril at which the stability and acceptance by international banking correspondents of the local banking and financial services are likely placed by forceful conversion of forex inflows and rolling over of ISB’s and SLDB’s
Recognise the possible reactions of citizens, workers and foreign currency holders, if their hard earned savings are frozen or devalued by inflation
Recognize the implications of differing the date of a forced default led debt restructure under duress; and the interim rise in cost of living due to high inflation consequent to money printing where more money chases smaller amount of available goods and services
‘CEB engineers should be ashamed of power cuts’
The Secretary, Energy User’s Association, Sanjeewa Dhammika seems to be confused or uninformed as regards his statement that engineers of the CEB should be ashamed of power cuts. He says, ‘They must implement the Long-Term Generation Plan. They too have scuttled the schemes that could have helped to overcome the current situation…’ These accusations should be squarely placed on the government and the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka [PUCSL], which torpedoed the Long Term, Least Cost Generation Plan when at first PUCSL objected to the plan for having a coal plant included and it took a long period to settle the issue. Next, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa boastfully announced the cancellation of the additional coal plant at Norochcholai and set a target of 70% renewable sources of energy by 2030 without consulting the CEB as to its capabilities in reaching the target. When I say capabilities, I mean the administrative structure, the available resources and what is needed, etc. On top of that, the then Minister for Power and Energy, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, interfered in awarding the tender by over four years for the construction of the Kerawalapitiya LNG power plant. If that project was approved in time, perhaps the CEB could have averted power cuts. Keep all that aside, the most important factor is the non-availability of US dollars to purchase fuel which caused the shut down of the Biyagama oil refinery and also the refusal of CPC to supply fuel to CEB due to non-payment, running into billions.
My sincere advice to the Secretary to Energy Users Ass. Jeewaka Dhammika is do not mislead consumers without knowing facts.
What I have stated above is what I have gathered from newspaper reports and could be refuted or confirmed by CEBEU or any other.
G. A. D. Sirimal
SL Volunteer Air Force in counter-insurgency ops in 1971
This article was written by the late Sqn. Ldr. J.T. Rex Fernando (S. L.A.F.Retd.), First Commanding Officer Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force, four years ago.
The contribution made by the Sri Lanka Air Force throughout five and a half decades, to safeguarding the country’s airspace and thereby the territorial integrity, has been given wide coverage in the print and electronic media. Recounting its illustrious history, it can look back with pride and satisfaction at its enviable record of operational successes, its reputation and also its contribution towards the development of the country’s non-military fields.
While recounting the vital role it played in crushing the abortive armed insurrection of 1971, it is only appropriate to recall the supportive role of the Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force.
The armed insurrection of April 1971, to overthrow the lawfully constituted United Front Government, demonstrated clearly the tragic unpreparedness of the Government’s security forces at the time to deal promptly with a major, bloody uprising as the one the insurgents launched. On the one hand, there were not enough arms and ammunition. On the other hand the strength of the security forces was far below that which was required to sustain a major operation. The Air Force in particular had to perform a number of tasks in the first difficult days of the campaign with the Regular Force and found the need to supplement the relatively small Regular Force.
On April 24 Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike said, “On the 5th of April we found that we had inadequate weapons, ammunition and aircraft to meet a sustained threat over a long period of time by the terrorist insurgents.” The Prime Minister made this point again in July when she told the parliament that, “The week immediately following the 5th of April was an extremely vital week and the armed forces and the police had to struggle against many odds during this period.” The Air Force had to expand and expand fast. Likewise, other sections of the security forces had to be put in a state of preparedness to deal with any future threat to the country’s security. The need of the hour, when the country was facing a considerable threat from terrorists, was to strengthen the Armed Forces and the Police. It was this pressing need that led to the formation of the Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force.
To Air Vice Marshal Paddy Mendis, the establishment of the volunteer Air Force was the realisation of a cherished dream. For over 20 years, since inauguration of the Volunteer Force had never been given serious consideration. With the pressing requirement to supplement the regular strength, the formation of the Volunteer Air Force was formally authorised by a proclamation by the President on 14 April, 1971.
Appointed the first Commanding Officer, I was directed by A.V.M. Mendis to proceed with the setting up of the infrastructure, recruitment, training and deployment as a matter of utmost priority. The task itself was challenging and unenviable. However, with the guidance of the Commander and the continuous support of the Air Force Board of Management and with the exemplary dedication and admirable commitment of my adjutant Flt. Lt Mani Seneviratne, the task was pursued and successfully accomplished.
The role of the Volunteer Force was essentially to assist the Regular Force in its primary and internal security duties. With more volunteers employed on internal security duties the skilled regular tradesmen were able to concentrate on their specialist technical and other skilled duties.
On the basis of their functional role the Volunteer Force was organised broadly into Ground Operational Squadrons, Work Services Squadrons and Air Operational Squadrons. Despite the relatively short period of training and the limited ‘on the job training’ Volunteer personnel contributed considerably to the Air Force tasks. Apart from internal security duties and general operational tasks Volunteer personnel were employed in almost every field of Air Force activity, on flying duties, airfield construction, mechanical transport operations and maintenance, engineering duties, logistics and catering duties and administrative, clerical, medical and other miscellaneous service duties. The Air Field Construction Regiment was organised to undertake major construction projects and maintenance commitments. The Volunteers working side by side with the regulars assimilated the service form and gained confidence. The ‘esprit de corps’, the cordiality and friendship that prevailed contributed greatly to the success it achieved.
Recruitment and training
Recruitment commenced almost immediately. After the promulgation, the first batch of Volunteer Officers and Airmen commenced their initial Ground Combat training at Diyatalawa on April 23, while the Volunteer pilots at the same time commenced flight training at the No. 1 Flying Training School, China Bay. The task of the Instructors was not an unenviable one. They had to train personnel recruited from various walks of life as combatants capable of operating their intricate flying machines and coping with various operational and non combatant duties within a short period. The full, authorised cadre was recruited and training completed by the end of May.
The initial training courses were so designed to mould the trainees into alert, efficient and well disciplined members of the Air Force; proficient in all basic aspects of ground combat and other general responsibilities; capable of working with confidence, side by side with their regular counterparts in a supporting role. All Volunteer trainees, within the short training period, were trained adequately in varied service aspects, among which were drill, weapons training, field-craft and tactics, map reading, jungle training and watermanship, Air Force Law, and afforded an adequate knowledge of the organisation of the Air Force, along with first aid and fire fighting. Special emphasis was placed on physical fitness and the standard of physical fitness gradually raised, training them to take on the role of combatants irrespective of their specialised trades. Subsequent to initial combat training, trainees were afforded ‘on the job training’ on their particular trade duties.
Among the officers, specialists recruited were General Duties Pilots who were required to supplement the meagre number of Regular Pilots who were continuously flying day and night on operational and Air Transportation commitments, since the outbreak of the terrorist offensive. The Volunteer Pilots were intended to provide some relief though it was not possible to immediately employ most of them on operational duties. While very few were experienced pilots, most of the selected pilots had previous experience in light trainee aircraft only. After a rapid training course on the basic Chipmunk, then converting to the Dove and Heron aircraft, they were able to be of assistance to the Regular Pilots.
With the formation of the Volunteer Air Force there was an encouraging and unprecedented response from persons of all walks of life to join the Force. Reputed professionals of various disciplines as well as highly skilled and semi killed persons were all driven by a sense of patriotism and yearning to contribute their skills to preserve sovereignty and national integrity. While a great number of professionals volunteered and served with distinction, it is appropriate to mention the names of some in appreciation and expression of gratitude for their service, and also to highlight the multiplicity of disciplines and professions that made up the Volunteer Air Force. Medical professionals, Senior Consultant Late Dr. T.H. Amarasinghe, Consultant Surgeon Dr. S. Maheshwaran, Dental Surgeon Dr. S. Rajapakse, experienced and reputed pilots Susantha Jayasekara and David Peiris, Consultant and Chartered Cost Accountants late Dayalan Tharmaratnam and S. Balakur, Registered Auditor R. Ramachandra and Chartered Management Consultant, Kuda Liyanage, Banker Nimal Gunatunge, Chartered Civil Engineers Mervyn Wijesinghe and Ben Navaratne, Chartered Architect Mano Kumarasingham, Attorney at Law and Human Resources Consultant Tilak Liyanage and Lucky Moonamale, Civil Servant Mervyn Koch, Management Specialist Mahes Goonathilake, Business entrepreneurs late Ed Nathanielz, late Bevis De Silva, Upali Gunesekera and late Harold Pilapiya, reputed entertainer Desmond De Silva and National Cricketers Brian Obeysekera, Tony Opatha and Nihal De Zoysa are a few noteworthy examples.
All these gentlemen with a great number of others served the force with distinction. Most of them did so despite personal inconvenience, disruption of their regular employment, business and domestic life since most of them were stationed in remote and uncongenial locations such as Ridiyagama, Weerawila, Weeraketiya and Hambantota.
Entry of women
The entry of women into the Volunteer Force can be considered a unique feature of the formulation of the Volunteer Force. Armed Services, an exclusive preserve of the men, opened its doors to the women. The four pioneering women on graduating on 4 October, 1972 were engaged in secretarial duties and duties associated with tourist flying.
It must be accepted that when personnel initially enlisted in the Volunteer Force, they did not anticipate to be mobilised for prolonged periods of time. Especially those with permanent employment and holding responsible positions and those in the government sector encountered hardships as a result of continued mobilisation and deployment in remote areas. Some of them were gradually absorbed into the Regular Force, and some left after fulfilling an obligation on cessation of hostilities.
In 1973 just two years after the formation of the Volunteer Force, the Commander of the Air Force AVMP. H. Mendis, with a sense of great satisfaction, referring to the Volunteer Force asserted, “As a result of hard work and dedication to duty of the highest order, the Volunteer Force has distinguished itself in combat, security, administrative, operational and constructional duties. Your units are based in many locations within the country and you have carried out your duties exceptionally well.”
Every Volunteer was conscious that he or she had a vital role to play in the defence of the country. The sense of dedication and devotion to duty inculcated by the Regular counterparts was indeed the most encouraging feature of the Volunteer Organisation.
These gentlemen who spontaneously responded to a call to serve the country in her hour of peril, maintained their enthusiasm and displayed remarkable dedication to duty. Their service was of help to the Air Force at a time the country was plunged into bloody chaos. It is only appropriate to recall their contribution and express our appreciation of their services.
Priority need to focus on Controlling Serious Economic Crimes
Open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
The Ministry of Defence has advertised five vacancies for the “Recruitment as Reserve Assistant Superintendents of Police to the Ministry of Defence, affiliated to the Sri Lanka Police, skilled professionals to become proud members of the Ministry of Defence, dedicated to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as well as to public safety and to play a superior role for the nation. These recruits will function as Cyber and Forensic Analyst, Geo-Political and Strategic Analyst, Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism Analyst, Economic Analyst and Statistical Analyst (the last two covering security perspectives regarding national security)”. Any justified decision to strengthen the knowledge and skills based professional capability of existing human resource of the state is a welcome move, so long as the recruits have in addition to the specified qualifications, requisite commitments to best practice professional standards, ethics, correct attitudes and values.
The caring civil society fervently hopes, in accord with your stated commitments in the manifesto and the several public pronouncements that followed your election as the President, that you, with the support of your Cabinet colleagues and the top officials of the executive, will similarly focus on the essential priority need to focus on controlling serious economic crimes, which can easily debilitate the financial integrity, fiscal and monetary stability and solvency of Sri Lanka; and if allowed unabated will destabilise the economy and prevent the realisation of the goals of splendour and prosperity.
The optimum operational environment to assure financial integrity minimizing serious economic crimes is by having effective laws, regulations, policies, systems, procedures, practices and controls, with efficient and effective independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions, followed by independent justice systems with penal sanctions and recovery of proceeds of crime. The critical drivers of such a system are independence, capability and professionalism of supporting human resources in the entire chain. It is however quite evident from many case studies that the systems controlling financial integrity of Sri Lanka fails to meet required standards of effectiveness, due mainly to the lack of competent and committed professionals in the chain engaged in independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions. Due to this incapacity the independent oversight control, enforcement, investigation, prosecution and punishment of offenders of money laundering, transfer pricing, securities offenses, bribery, corruption, financial fraud, organised crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and avoidance of taxes/ excise and customs duties are ineffective; and more importantly the recovery of proceeds of these crimes eventually fail and are thus unable to restore the state revenues leaked and state assets stolen or defrauded.
Civil society looks to you as the President, to take early action to strengthen the structures, systems, laws and regulations along with the capacity of the resource persons engaged in the independent oversight control and enforcement of mechanisms; and thereby minimise serious economic crimes system wide and facilitate successful recovery of proceeds of crime. In the above context it is suggested that you pursue the undernoted strategic action steps under your direct leadership supervision:
* Seek Cabinet approval to set up an Enforcement Directorate similar to that of India under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police, reporting to an Independent Public Commission made up of three members, comprising of a high integrity competent retired Appellate Court Judge, a retired Senior Officer of the Auditor General’s Department and a retired Senior Officer of the Central Bank.
* Enforcement Directorate to be entrusted with the mission of minimizing the identified serious economic crimes systems wide; enhancing oversight mechanism and controls system wide and where suspected that any such crimes having taken place professionally investigating and prosecuting, optimizing recovery of proceeds of crime
* Seek technical support in setting up the Enforcement Directorate from the Financial Integrity Unit of the World Bank and its affiliates Financial Action Task Force, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative with extended human resource training and development support from bi lateral supporting countries and other specialized agencies
* Recruit competent and highly professional staff for the Directorate, similar to the staff recruited to the Defence Ministry; and support them with requisite resources, knowledge, skills, systems, data bases, best practices and technical and investigation assistance linkages
* Enact essential legal and regulatory reforms, commencing with the early enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Act draft sent to the previous regime for cabinet endorsement
* Enhance the capability of the prosecutors of the Directorate to successfully prosecute serious economic crimes and judges to effectively support the judicial processes connected therewith
* Make it a compulsory requirement of all state remunerated persons to adopt the ethical standard to report to the Directorate any known or suspected non compliances with laws and regulations
Trust you and your advisory team will give due consideration to this submission
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