By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP MP Prof. G. L. Peiris has found fault with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for not paying sufficient attention to waste, corruption and economic mismanagement under the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe administration.
The former External Affairs Minister emphasised the responsibility on the part of the lending agency to address these issues, particularly against the backdrop of its latest agreement with the government of Sri Lanka worth USD 2.9 bn.
The SLPP National List MP said so yesterday (24) at his weekly media briefing at the Nawala Office of the Nidahasa Jathika Sabawa.
Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition would take up these issues with the IMF delegation, scheduled to be here in June this year. Sri Lanka has secured IMF assistance on 16 previous occasions.
The ex-Minister drew attention of the IMF as well as other stakeholders involved in the debt-restructuring process and the recent disclosure made by Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, regarding a bribe amounting to USD 250 mn received by a person to derail Sri Lanka’s efforts to secure compensation for the X-Press Pearl ship disaster in May/June 2021.
Pointing out that an expert committee appointed by the MEPA (Marine Environment Protection Authority) had estimated the damages caused by the marine disaster at USD 6.4 bn, Prof. Peiris said that a wider investigation was required to identify and punish those who had conspired to sabotage Sri Lanka’s bid.
Prof. Peiris compared the USD 2.9 bn loan made available by the IMF over a period of four years with the compensation which could be obtained from the X-Press Pearl owners-X-Press Feeders /insurers.
Environmentalist Dr. Ajantha Perera recently declared that Sri Lanka could obtain as much as USD 50 bn from X-Press Pearl owners/insurers.
Prof. Peiris also questioned the government’s decision to move Singaporean court against X-Press Feeders, a Singaporean-based privately held group.
The law academic stressed that the case should have been filed here as the incident took place in Sri Lankan territorial waters.
When The Island raised this issue with the Justice Minister recently, it was informed that the Cabinet of Ministers had approved Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam’s proposal to file a case in Singapore.
Commenting on the recent disappearance of a cash bundle worth Rs 5 million (Rs 5000 denomination) from a vault of the Central Bank, Prof. Peiris said a high-level probe had to be conducted into the incident.
The shortage was revealed during the currency operations on 11.04.2023. Declaring that the government, particularly the Finance Ministry, owed an explanation on how cash could be removed from a high security vault, Prof. Peiris said that the public tends to lose confidence in public finance.
The MP stressed the responsibility of the Central Bank to thoroughly inquire into the issue at hand and take appropriate measures to identify those responsible for what he called an inside job.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris reiterated their strong opposition to the restructuring of domestic debt in line with the agreement with the IMF. That would have catastrophic impact on the ordinary people as well as the banking sector, Prof. Peiris said, while questioning the decision to privatize state enterprises.
Responding to media queries on his removal from the post of Chairman of the ruling SLPP, Prof. Peiris said that the decision would be challenged in court. The former minister challenged the legality of a meeting chaired by SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa at their Nelum Mawatha Office last Saturday (22) where the party appointed a new Chairperson.
Prof. Peiris refused to be drawn in on former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s criticism of him.