* Blasts President-Bourse forum
* Says CSE Board must be dissolved
Akin to firing all cylinders, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has blasted President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s forum with capital market stakeholders and renewed the call for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to probe what he alleged were “shady stock market investments” of the EPF and ETF.
Speaking at a ceremony kicking off the Party’s fund raising campaign at the official residence of the Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzzamil on Monday, Wickremesinghe said that the UNP opened the economy via liberalisation and the private sector to benefit the common man, but the President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime was trying to limit prosperity to a few people.
The UNP Leader said ignoring problems faced by the ordinary man, the Small and Medium Entrepreneurs, professionals, farmers, workers and three-wheel drivers, the President had found it important to meet stock brokers recently for a three-hour discussion. Among them were those who helped swindle EPF, ETF money, alleged Wickremesinghe.
“Why hasn’t the President met and held discussions with stakeholders of EPF and ETF such as the unions?
Why hasn’t the President met to listen and resolve problems faced by big industrialists, SMEs, farmers, fishermen, etc.?” the UNP Leader queried during his speech, adding that these segments were more important than stock brokers in terms of job creation.
He alleged that the President’s forum with capital market stakeholders endeavoured to shove massive frauds involving EPF and ETF investments in the CSE under the carpet.
During his speech, Wickremesinghe also renewed his call for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to probe these shady deals.
“We have spoken about this in Parliament at length. The responsibility of the country’s finances lies with the Parliament and not the President, hence a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) must be appointed so that it can probe fully the various charges against EPF, ETF, NSB and other deals. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Colombo Stock Exchange must agree to this as well. In fact the ineffective CSE amidst these shady deals must be dissolved,” the UNP Leader opined.
“Until the PSC completes the task, EPF and ETF money shouldn’t be invested in the stock market. If the Government wants this money, they can invest in Treasury Bills,” he said, adding that despite many months having lapsed, a proper investigation on the NSB-The Finance deal hadn’t happened nor had action been taken against those responsible.
“I have no problems about the integrity of SEC Chairman Tilak Karunaratne but my complaint against him is that in the ongoing investigations, the SEC should encompass all those responsible rather than one person,” Wickremesinghe opined.
He said that in the US several people had been imprisoned for shady deals, whilst in the UK, the Knighthood of Royal Scotland Bank Chairman was removed after he was implicated in a scandal, apart from the resignation of Barclays Chairman and CEO.
Speaking further on the President’s forum involving brokers and the SEC, the UNP Leader also alleged it was similar to treating the Police and suspects equally and summoning them to a common platform and asking the latter to level charges against the former.
Referring to SEC action so far on the NSB-TFC deal, where only one person has been nabbed so far, Wickremesinghe said brokers were demanding the removal of regulations. “Amidst ongoing investigations, the criticism of the regulator has put the SEC and Commissioners in a serious embarrassment,” the UNP Leader added.
He also recalled the comments made at the President’s forum by C.P. de Silva to the effect that during the past 25 years no one has been imprisoned due to stock market manipulation hence claims of overregulation are unwarranted. Wickremesinghe also said that only four brokers had hailed SEC regulations as welcome whilst the majority had asked for relaxation, thereby supporting swindling of public funds.
Referring to the remark made by Asha Phillips Securities CEO Dimuthu Abeysekara to the effect that brokers were venturing to rural areas under the ‘Mahinda Chinthana,’ Wickremesinghe said capital markets were governed by the SEC Act and not the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ and the CEO must read the SEC Act properly.
He also said as per the vision of the Singapore-based principal of Asha Phillips in countries they operate in, they don’t act as per policies of political parties but pure investment rules and added, “I have decided to make a written query from the Singapore firm whether the Sri Lankan entity operates as per the company’s vision.”
Wickremesinghe also asked why Dilith Jayaweera had attended the meeting though he did not represent a broking firm.
Touching on broader political issues, the UNP Leader said the party had been accused of scuttling the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’. “However, the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ has already collapsed and there is nothing new to destroy it,” Wickremesinghe quipped.
“It was under the UNP, under the leadership of late President J.R. Jayewardene, that the modern Colombo Stock Exchange was established and as Minister of Industries I opened up the CSE and in 2002 as Prime Minister I redeveloped it,” Wickremesinghe said.
He also said that rather than encouraging banks to lend for stock market trading, the Government must urgently boost financing for SMEs and big companies to generate new jobs.