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Ajith Nivard Cabraal

The former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Ajith Nivard Cabraal last week alleged that there is a well organized effort to cover-up the Treasury bond issue which is of the same magnitude as the Watergate scandal which rocked the United States in the 1970s. Cabraal said that there has been cover-up beginning from the 3-member Committee of Lawyers Report, the Fundamental Rights petition by three individuals, with the mix of terms private placement and direct placement, with the Prime Minister’s two substantial statements in Parliament, and covering up the loss by getting people to write about it.

“Like in the Watergate scandal, I think there is so much cover up in this issue and we may need the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein-type investigative journalists to unravel the whole scandal. Why do you think there is all this cover up? Is it to protect Arjuna Mahendran? No. I don’t think so,” Cabraal said in an exclusive interview published on Page 5 of this week’s edition hinting that there is a higher hand in the political hierarchy who could be involved in this issue.

Whilst describing the three-member Committee Report ‘an absolute bunkum’, the former Governor charged that the Fundamental Rights petition submitted to court by the three petitioners included very lame requests that seemed deliberately designed to deny any other person to seek justice on the issue.

He further said the mixed usage of the terminologies ‘direct placement’ and ‘private placement’ by the three-member Committee of Lawyers Report and various people in the government is also a canard to shift the focus and mislead the public.

“That is why I am saying that it is a cleverly planned report and it was not amateurish. That’s the intrigue. Certainly, the defense of the Governor has not come from the Governor himself. Those days when somebody said something against the Central Bank, we defended.But, here, there is another arm which is defending! In fact, I was one of the people who went to COPE voluntarily and provided my statement. They have attempted very hard to sweep it under the carpet,” the former Governor outlined.

Meanwhile, responding to a statement given by Central Bank Governor Mahendran in an interview with The Nation Gain last week, that there is a 10% maximum limit on what can be raised through Direct Placements, the former Governor vehemently denied the existence of such a rule in the Operating Manual on Public Debt.

“There is no limit like that. The guidelines do not say so. If I had violated during my tenure, it would have easily come into the limelight. The Auditor General might have issued a statement, COPE would have inquired into it and so on,” Cabraal said.

He further noted that the accusation by Deputy Minister Eran Wickremaratne in Parliament that the recent US$ 650m Sovereign bond issue was not successful because Cabraal had telephoned book runners and investors in US to discourage subscription was only laughable.

“If I am that influential, I would be very honored. If I can persuade 453 investors who came in 2012 to 160, I must be someone. So I would like to first thank Minister Eran Wickremaratne for giving me that honor. But I don’t deserve it. Secondly, I have not done this.”

“Do they want me to do what they did in 2007 by campaigning against the bond issue under my governorship? They want me to do this because they have done this themselves. On the other hand, even if I persuaded them I wouldn’t have been successful in bringing down the number of investors to this low level. Thirdly, I want to tell them that they have only themselves to blame with the uncertainty in the economy at the moment,” the former Governor said.