Those here and overseas who scan our English language media would have read or heard by now that Indrajit Coomaraswamy was the compromise candidate arrived at for the post of Governor of the Central Bank. The President had accepted it in the face of the Prime Minister’s insistence on extending the tenure of Arjuna Mahendran a man as incompetent and shameless as Ranil Wickremasinghe.
Gamini Seneviratne Indrajit Coomaraswamy
That of course is a load of hogwash. Coomaraswamy was Ranil’s key advisor during his previous, and infamous, spell as Prime Minister which saw Wickremasinghe set up his own Green Channel for the LTTE to acquire arms to wage war against Sri Lanka. He was also advisor to Milinda Moragoda whose ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’was a blue-print for transferring this country to external capital. Moragoda though had sufficient conscience to baulk at the proposed take-over of Eppawala by corporate predators: ‘There are people there’, he said. For this Coomaraswamy that clearly is not a factor.
Immediately prior to his present appointment Coomaraswamy was advisor to Ranil’s sidekick, Malik Samarawickrema who ‘negotiated’ the draft treaty with our primary enemy, India. Unelected Samarawickrema is Ranil’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade.
Such facts are indicative of what kind of advice we might expect from Indrajit Coomaraswamy.
Over a year ago, shortly after Ranil was anointed as our Leader by the defeated candidate for President, Mahinda Rajapakse, Indrajith gave a talk on ‘The Role of the State in Economic Reform in Sri Lanka’. It was delivered at the ICES the Think Tank for Eelamist propaganda here run for many years by his (much smarter) sister, Radhika. I shall revert to what he said on that occasion.
Lineage History: Those who follow the media would also know that Indrajit is the son of Raju Coomaraswamy of the CCS, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UNDP from where he retired as Assistant Administrator. His last appointment here was as Senior Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Finance under the Secretary to the Treasury (and of Finance), Shirley Amerasinghe. (Raju had occupied the large room opposite Shirley’s which was later assigned to two Assistant Secretaries of whom I was the more junior). On his retirement from the CCS in 1963 Shirley was appointed as High Commissioner to the India headed by Lal Bahadur Shastri. He assisted Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike in the negotiations that led to the Indo-Ceylon Pact relating to the stateless labourers on estates here, (575,000 to be given citizenship in India, 325,000 here). Thereafter as our Permanent Representative to the UN he distinguished himself as Chairman of what is commonly known as the Law of the Sea Conference which among other things determined for all nations the extent of their territorial waters and their economic zone.
Indrajith’s father in law, Chandra Fonseka, CCS, was Director of Land Development when he retired to join the FAO. Raju’s brother in law, W Pathmanathan, also of the CCS, father of Gajan, died relatively young. He was Deputy General Manager of the CWE at the time.
Raju’s brother, Sathi, a Director of Shaw, Wallace & Hedges and a distinguished cricketer, was my friend. He and I stood at the back of the Oval pavilion waiting for Royal to reach 300 for 1 with Jagath Fernando over 150 runs and Gajan nearing a century. It was not to be.
Indrajit’s Manifesto 2015: In his talk at the ICES a year ago, Indrajit presented his manifesto. He was obviously unaware that it is one that has been rubbished the world over and is enforced only in client states of the USA where America’s military might has been given a foothold.
He declared that we were living beyond our means, had to carry 45% of debt as external debt, mostly short term commercial borrowings to finance public investment, that 25% of our export earnings go for debt servicing, that the only way out is to induce Foreign Direct Investment (with attractive tax concessions). Hi prescriptions included shifting from low productivity farming to export oriented agriculture driven by high technology. He thought that the Guaranteed Price Scheme for paddy and other food crops as well as the fertilizer subsidy should be removed. He said that cultivating paddy in the wet zone was ridiculous, such land (including railway reservations) should be released for private investment. People should be moved out (and, for good measure, money should be shifted away from them). He looked askance at the payment of pensions.
State owned enterprises should be privatized because ‘we are too broke’ to carry them (though not too broke to subsidize private investment). We should ‘enable’ BOO (Build, Own, Operate) projects presumably with adequate tax and other concessions. To induce FDI labour should be subjected to strict regulation (no Trade Unions, no collective bargaining).
In conclusion he said that he had said the same things 30 years ago and it‘s a shame that he should have to repeat it now.
This is the ‘economist’ whom Ranil has catapulted into the Central Bank as Governor. The icing on the cake is that he has declared a couple of days ago that he will not accept a tenure there of one year, he requires a full six-year term. The remedy is in his hands: he should resign immediately.
- DBS Jeyaraj: “Indrajit appointed …,” 2 July 2016, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/47202
- Dayan Jayatilleka: “The Indrajit Coomaraswamy Issue: A Matter Of Decency,” 4 July 2016, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-indrajit-coomaraswamy-issue-a-matter-of-decency/