Pandora was a woman made of ‘gifts’ as per Greek mythology, whose curiosity resulted in the opening of a box full of ‘plagues’. Prometheus had warned his brother Epimetheus not to acknowledge any gifts from Zeus. But Epimetheus ignored the plea, accepted Pandora, who quickly sprinkled the contents of the box resulting in the earth being flooded with evil.
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (IJIC), perhaps inspired by the ‘Panama Papers’ and ‘Paradise’ revelations employed over 300 top investigative journalists from over hundred nations, and sought to emulate the strenuous work of its forerunners. Let’s not waste time paraphrasing details, much of which have been written and run in mainstream print media. Rather, let’s speculate on who enticed the granddaughter of the late Don Mathew Rajapaksa of Giruwa Pathu, the Lion of South [Ruhune Singhaya], to collaborate in such financial misconduct, purportedly with illegally acquired wealth siphoned out and hoarded in safe havens?
Single family domination of ruling is nothing new to many Islamic nations, where democracy is practiced meekly. In Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya [the Minister of Defence], Prime Minister, Mahinda, Economic Policies & Plan Implementation, Buddhasasana, Religious & Cultural Affairs; Basil Rajapaksa the new Finance Minister with eldest, Chamal, as Minister of Irrigation, and Namal as Minister of Sports.
Sri Lanka businessman, husband of the Giruwa Pathtu lady named in Pandora Papers, who denies any unlawful activity, wrote to the President saying, “I assure Your Excellency that my wife and I are totally innocent and are guilty of no wrongdoings.” The ‘President ordered the Commission of Bribery or Corruption to launch an immediate investigation to probe the Sri Lankans that have come to light and been named in the Papers, fixing a deadline of one month. Are they geared for such complex investigations; their wings being clipped by 20A?
The world has been shaken by these results of the investigations by the ICIJ; which contain information on assets in tax havens of those ranging from high ranking leaders, artistes to sportsmen, rock stars, celebrities, and entrepreneurs, who used shell companies to conceal even luxury goods. Items included; looted Picasso’s paintings, Cambodian antiques and Banksy’s murals, according to a British newspaper. Millions of documents disclose the existence of over 100 billionaires, 300 public officials, and 35 world leaders, investing in offshore businesses and capital funds, through these ‘shell companies’. In 2016, Panama Papers had also exposed millions of data from an offshore law firm. Among big businesses and hidden assets, they discovered 330 politicians and public officials from 90 countries. Fourteen world leaders are still active, while 21 of them are no longer in power.
Tax havens aren’t solely located in tiny Caribbean islands. More than 50% of all listed companies in the United States are registered in the little state of Delaware, which has less than one million inhabitants. It’s not only British Virgin Islands, Belize, Panama, Cyprus, UAE, Switzerland, Seychelles and Hong Kong as mentioned in the Pandora report, that are such ‘havens’. —These Tax havens are used to evade the payment of taxes by criminals who use them to hide their illegal earnings. The planet is home to approximately 50 tax havens, scattered across the globe. Some mistakenly think of tax havens only in places like Bermuda, the Bahamas, Liechtenstein and even Luxembourg.
According to Professor Guttorm Schjelderup from the NHH School of Economics, “It’s less well-known that Ireland also offers a tax havens” [there are local politicians who owns real estate there], he continues,”The US state of Delaware presents perhaps the safest in the world.” They offer either low or zero tax for individuals and businesses owned by foreigners, covered by rules and privileges that do not apply to their own citizens. What is baffling is, why the so-called watch dogs, the ‘international community’ do not make a genuine effort to stop this alarming practice?
In fact they are governed by legislation that is intended to prevent outsiders from gaining the right to use secrets of banking or relevant information, and working in favour of criminals who want to bury their illegal pay packets. Countries are estimated to lose between US $ 200 and 300 billion a year due to tax havens; most of this comes from third-world countries which are in desperate situations. Very little has been done in the recent past to tackle the issue despite the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the IMF’s claims of “working hard on the problem”.
Coming back to Hambantota: Don David Rajapaksa, Vidana Arachchi of Buddiyagama, near Weeraketiya in the rural deep South sent his sons DM [Mathew] and DA [Alwin] to Richmond, Galle. At Richmond DM turned out to be a good cricketer, and when he was due to be made captain, a team-mate’s affluent family, bribed the authorities depriving the boy of the captaincy. He left Richmond and joined Wesley. In April 1917, when D. R. Wijewardene of Lake House was the organising secretary of the Ceylon National Association, young school leaver DM made a memorable speech on “Our Political Needs”, receiving accolades from all quarters.
DM entered politics in 1931. He and his brother Don Alvin DA, [father of President and PM] were closely associated with leftist leaders. DM was elected to the Second State Council Hambantota District in 1936. In 1945 at the age of 49 he died of a heart-attack. DS Senanayake, Leader of the State Council in moving a vote of condolence said, “From the day, DM left Wesley College, during the First World War, he made the backwoods people of Ruhuna his own cause. He devoted his whole life to them with courage, independence and straightforward dedication.” -Hansard – May 24, 1945.
DM’s younger brother Don Alvin was elected unopposed to fill the vacancy. DM had three sons, two of them, George and Lakshman, attended Royal College and represented Hambantota in Parliament. George who played cricket for Royal later entered the University of Ceylon and in 1946, the Ceylon Law College, passing out as a lawyer. He entered parliament at the age of 34 when he contested and won Mulkirigala, in Hambantota and was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Finance. Later he served as the Minister for Fisheries in the second Sirimavo Bandaranaike cabinet and was promoted as Minister of Health as well. He died in his late forties, leaving daughter Nirupama, who became a Member of Parliament for Hambantota and a Deputy Minister and who is named along with UK’s Tony Blair, Jordan’s King Hussein, Russian head Vladimir Putin, Uhuru Kenyatta, in Pandora Papers.
The country awaits the ‘poor’ Bribery Commissioner to conduct an impartial and fair investigation, a herculean task, in an Island flooded with corrupt politicians long before the sprinkling of evil by Pandora. Until then the ‘little Rajapaksas’ must refrain from making false, frivolous and misleading statements on the ‘periods’ covered, and other irrelevant matters.
Disclaimer: Pandora Exposes Senora’s Hidden Plethora? Rajapaksas of Giruwa Pattu By KKS Perera - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view