Mangala and Mahinda trade charges : ‘Former regime’s corrupt activities to be exposed by December’ | Sunday Observer

Mangala and Mahinda trade charges : ‘Former regime’s corrupt activities to be exposed by December’

6 October, 2019

The forensic audit report which will expose all the corrupt activities of the Rajapaksa regime that plundered the resources of the country and pushed the economy into the doldrums for nearly a decade, will be ready by December, after which the entire country will know the extent of the barbarous conduct of the Rajapaksa family and their goons, Finance Minister Mangala Samraweera told the media, hitting back at the statement made by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, where he referred to the current dispensation as the worst administration to have mishandled State finances since Independence.

He said the former president speaks like a ‘paragon of virtue’ when he and his family and those around him took the country for a joy ride, while leading a luxurious life using State funds and the hard-earned money of the people. It is this same person who after abusing power and robbing State resources in broad daylight, who is now trying to throw stones at others, while living in glass houses.

“The Rajapaksas built many white elephants such as the Mattala airport and the Hambantota port and many highways at staggering interest rates, and took commissions for every project they undertook and stashed the ill gotten money in safe havens abroad. They sacked the former National Savings Bank chairman, so as to borrow money at 8.25 percent interest, to boost their ego in absolutely non-viable and unproductive ventures,” Samaraweera said.

Continuing to let off steam in a tirade that lasted nearly an hour, the Finance Minister tore the former president into shreds for making baseless and false accusations about the present government while the former president had acted as if the country was his kitchen or the backyard of his property.

Minister Samaraweera said, “It is the person who terminated the arrangement with Emirates Airlines during the height of his regime and while being intoxicated with power dismissed the head of Srilankan Airlines for refusing to comply with his order to fly only his (Rajapaksa’s) entourage on an overseas excursion who is (now) critical of the present government.

“Rajapaksa accompanied a large crew from the Central Bank and various state sector institutions, to the Commonwealth Games bidding gathering in Saint Kitts and yet failed to secure the 2018 Commonwealth Games for Hambantota, a dream of Namal Rajapaksa.”

Finance Ministry officials said the country’s debt which had been Rs. 222 billion when Rajapaksa was elected to power in 2005 zoomed to Rs. 7,391 billion in 2015.

“Rajapaksas had broken many records and one such record is the debt which we are continuing to pay despite having settled a large amount within a short time after assuming duties. During his tenure, Sri Lanka’s debt shot up by a stupendous Rs. 4,164 billion and when we took over we did not have money even to pay a bill or pay salaries of employees,” Samaraweera said adding that the current government was able to bring the economy out of intensive care.

However, the Minister said the patient (referring to the economy), still needs to receive treatment implying that a lot needs to be done to get out of the debt trap and economic mess.

According to Finance Ministry officials, the present government had to pay Rs. 140 billion as unpaid bills for projects undertaken by the Rajapaksas, up to 2011.

“We have settled this amount and foreign debt taken by the former regime at exorbitantly high commercial rates in contrast to concessionary rate loans taken by this government. The loan repayment of the former regime up to 2020 alone is over US$ 14 billion,” Minister Samaraweera said.

On the mismanagement and misuse of money in State institutions such as SriLankan Airlines the Finance Minister said the national carrier which had a net positive balance of US$ 3.9 billion in 2007 ended up in a net negative revenue reserve of US$ 1.3 billion, which is equal to four times the budget allocation for education.

The Finance Minister also said the current government had increased the public sector salaries by 107 percent. Utility prices which were high during the former regime were slashed to affordable levels by the present government. For example a litre of petrol which was Rs. 165 during the former regime was brought down to Rs. 137 in 2019, diesel from Rs. 130 to Rs. 104 a liter and kerosene to Rs. 70 from Rs. 90 a litre.

Mahinda Rajapaksa in turn launching a scathing attack on the current government, said it is the worst administration to have mishandled State finances in the 71 years since Independence, due to borrowings for political endeavors.

He said the current government had failed to build anything of lasting value or anything that would generate income from the staggering $ 26 billion that it took in foreign currency commercial loans since 2015. My Government did not take foreign currency loans for consumption. This government had to do so to win elections and to retain power.