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Nirupama, husband respond to ICIJ: Govt. response awaited

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivrad Cabraal yesterday (5) said that law enforcement authorities would have to initiate investigations into the Sri Lanka aspect in Pandora Papers revelations.

Cabraal said so when The Island asked him whether CBSL would look into International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) disclosure pertaining to stunning disclosures of clandestine financial transactions by elites across the world.

The ICIJ has named former UPFA Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa, who served as a lawmaker from 1994 to 2000 and again from 2005 to 2015 and her husband Thirukumar Nadesan. The ICIJ mentioned some specific accusations in respect of them while claiming they declined to respond to queries posed by the outfit. However, subsequently, the ICIJ said that in response to questions from the outfit, Nirupama Rajapaksa and Nadesan said that their “private matters are dealt with by the couple properly with their advisers” though they did not comment on their companies and trusts.

Referring to the investigations launched during the yahapalana administration, Nadesan added that the 2016 charges against him were “spurious and politically motivated.”

The ICIJ quoted Piyadasa Edirisuriya, a former Sri Lankan finance ministry official and now a lecturer at Australia’s Monash University as having said that offshore financial service providers could stop illicit money flows by conducting due diligence on clients and monitoring their transactions. “But in international financial centers, many don’t do that,” he was quoted as having said. “That is why people in countries like Sri Lanka can earn money in corrupt ways and easily use these tax havens to send them overseas.”

CBSL Governor Cabraal said: “The inquiries will have to be initiated by the law enforcement authorities. In the course of their investigations, if they require any input from the Central Bank authorities, we would certainly provide such assistance.”

The Island

also raised the issue at hand with Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC. The Justice Minister asserted that the CIABOC (The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption) should initiate an inquiry.

Declaring that such a development didn’t directly come within the purview of the Justice Ministry, Minister Sabry said that in case the cabinet decided on this matter, the Justice Ministry could consult the Attorney General. The Minister was responding to query whether his ministry would consult the AG regarding this.

The CIABOC comprises Justice Eva Wanasundera (Chairperson) Justice Deepali Wijesundera and Chandra Nimal Wakishta, one-time head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS). Asked whether the CIABOC would initiate an inquiry into revelations made by the ICIJ, Justice Wijesundera said that they couldn’t act on their own. According to her, the CIABIC could take action only after it received a complaint as the CIABOC Act had stipulated.

As of 2017, the Lankan elite couple’s offshore holdings, which haven’t previously been made public, had a value of about $18 million, according to an ICIJ analysis of a Nadesan trust’s financial statements.

Former Governor of Central, Uva and Southern Provinces and anti-corruption activist Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon questioned the political will of the incumbent government to conduct a proper investigation into the recent revelations.

Referring to the previous exposure of Sri Lankans having ill-gotten money in offshore accounts, Keerthi recalled him lodging a complaint at the CIABOC along with Ven Ulapane Sumangala, the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Front. “They did nothing. Absolutely nothing happened pertaining to our complaint. Actually, all of us should be ashamed of what is going on,” Tennakoon said.

Responding to another query, Tennakoon said that during a recent conversation with ICIJ he realized there could be further revelations regarding offshore accounts. The former Executive Director of polls monitoring body CAFFE said that the Parliament couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the overall deterioration of public finance. The Parliament as the supreme institution answerable for public finance should inquire into the Sri Lanka aspect as one of those so far named happened to be an MP who served three terms, Tennakoon said.

What would be the response of those in the Opposition as Nirupama Rajapaksa represented the SLFP in the PA/UPFA led governments? he asked.

Authoritative sources said that the Foreign Ministry, too, was inquiring into the matter and a ministerial response to the issue at hand was likely.

In the immediate aftermath of the Pandora Papers’ disclosure, the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) urged the government to undertake a no holds barred domestic investigation.

Informed sources said that first of all the government should establish whether those named by the ICIJ investigation informed the relevant local authorities of them conducting international financial transactions. It would be important to understand that having offshore accounts was not an offense in terms of Sri Lankan laws, sources said.



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Abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony to achieve spiritual and worldly success – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Hajj message emphasizes that to achieve spiritual and worldly success, individuals must abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony. It is with this noble aim in mind that Muslims celebrate the Hajj festival each year.

On this occasion, Muslims from around the globe gather at a single place of worship, united in purpose, to pray for communal values that embody the hope of humanity. The Hajj celebration fosters feelings of equality and brotherhood among all people, delivering a profound message for world peace.

I extend my heartfelt wishes to the entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world for a meaningful Hajj celebration, where everyone comes together to fulfill the aspirations of humanity.

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Justice Minister goes ahead with SLFP election campaign

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… attends Karandeniya meeting with MS

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who calls himself the SLFP’s presidential candidate, launched the SLFP’s election campaign yesterday (16) in spite of restraining orders the Colombo District Court has issued against him and former SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena.

Minister Rajapakshe attended the SLFP meeting at Karandeniya, the main meeting of the Galle District. Former President Sirisena was also present at the meeting organised by former monitoring MP of the Foreign Ministry Sajin de Vas Gunawardena.

Restrictions imposed on Sirisena and Rajapakshe are effective until June 19 and June 25, respectively.

The Election Commission on May 09 announced by virtue of the powers vested in the Commission to fix the date for the Presidential Election, it will hold the Presidential Election between 17 September and 16 October 2024.

The group headed by Sirisena decided to go ahead with the campaign, especially in the wake of the other section forming an alliance with a group of SLPP rebels to back Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Poll. However, Sirisena and Minister Rajapakshe, both elected to Parliament on the SLPP ticket, couldn’t represent the party, in any capacity, sources say.

Meanwhile, Chief Government Whip Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (16) disclosed that the ruling SLPP wouldn’t field a candidate of its own and would throw its weight behind a candidate in the fray instead.

When he was asked, after a meeting in Minuwangoda, whether the SLPP would field a presidential candidate, Minister Ranatunga said it would support a candidate in the fray. Minister Ranatunga reiterated that the incumbent President was the best to lead the country therefore he believed he should be supported. The Minister said that the support would grow for Wickremesinghe after he officially declared his candidature.

Minister Ranatunga said that though he didn’t like Wickremesinghe the current crisis had compelled him to back him.

Another Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchci, widely believed to be a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist, declared on Saturday (15) though the SLPP and President Wickremesinghe differed on policy for the sake of the country such differences had to be sunk. Wanniarachchi said so in Embilipitiya.

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NMSJ calls for proper use of IMF funds

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Karu Jayasuriya

Former Speaker and the National Movement of Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairperson Karu Jayasuriya, yesterday stressed the critical importance of effectively utilising the third tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

Jayasuriya has, in a media statement, said steps must be taken to ensure proper use of the funds. The IMF released the third tranche of $ 336 million from its $ 2.9 billion bailout package.

Full text of the statement: “We believe that the release of the third tranche by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is crucial for Sri Lanka’s restructuring programme and is in the nation’s best interest. It is our national responsibility to allocate and manage these funds towards the country’s development. Given the current economic challenges and the significant sacrifices made by the people, it is imperative that every penny received is used responsibly and effectively.

“Our foremost concern is the urgent need to combat waste and corruption, consistently highlighted by the IMF.

“Additionally, rehabilitating neglected ancient tanks, totaling approximately 15,000, for modern agricultural use is essential. This initiative can be supported by international funds, friendly nations, the private sector, and the military, promising transformative outcomes.

“Another major task is to immediately accelerate the export sector. In the 1990s, a significant programme under the theme “Export or Perish” was launched, including the highly successful international trade fair “Expo 92,” which attracted 5,600 foreign buyers. The concept of Export Villages was successfully implemented, resulting in high incomes for people in selected villages. Given the current situation, we can establish special export villages by leveraging the support of the supermarket chains that are currently operating successfully.

“The Export Development Board (EDB) should be given the necessary resources and powers to strengthen its capabilities. With advanced communication technology, Sri Lanka can be promoted as a country with rapidly increasing exports, even without the need for traditional exhibitions.

“At the same time, it is crucial to support the development of small and medium-scale entrepreneurs (SMEs). This can be achieved by providing subsidized interest rates and basic infrastructure facilities. We should take inspiration from the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who created new opportunities for India’s youth through the development of the IT/BPO sector. This concept can be easily popularized in Sri Lanka, offering similar benefits.

“The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) urges immediate action on these fronts, expecting responsible leadership to address these pressing issues.”

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