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Government In Crisis Over Central Bank Governor

Jul 1, 2016
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With a little over a month to go for the Maithripala Sirisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe coalition government to celebrate it’s first anniversary, the first signs of a split appeared this week over the appointment of a new Governor for Central Bank.

While Prime Minister Wickremesinghe insisted that his associate and senior advisor Charitha Ratwatte be appointed as Governor, President Sirisena had wanted to appoint the bank’s Deputy Governor Nandalal Weeresinghe, which resulted in a major deadlock between the two leaders.

It is learnt that Sirisena had initially visited Central Bank on Wednesday afternoon with the intention of announcing Weeresinghe’s name as the 14th Governor of the Central Bank, but his plans was cut short after Wickremesinghe rushed to Central Bank with ex-Governor Arjuna Mahendran, to stop Sirisena from making the announcement.

On Wednesday morning, Sirisena addressing an event in Badulla announced that he will appoint the new governor ‘within a few hours,’ however more than one and a half days later; he is yet to make the announcement.

“President Sirisena was to make the official announcement at the Central Bank itself, but he was stopped by Prime Minister, who was unhappy with the President’s appointee and had insisted that Ratwatte be appointed as the new Governor,” sources told the Colombo Telegraph.

Further, during a heated debate between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena, the Prime Minister had claimed that the President cannot appoint a Governor as per his whims and fancies without the consent of the Finance Minister. “But despite this claim, the President with his powers can appoint anyone he wishes, but if he goes ahead and appoints someone of his choice, it can lead to a fresh crisis within the Government,” a source noted.

It is also reliably learnt that during a closed door meeting between the two, Wickremesinghe had threatened to walk out of the government if Sirisena did not heed to his orders. However, an exasperated Sirisena had challenged Wickremesinghe and his party to walk out.

Mahendran’s term came to an end on Thursday, and he announced that he will not seek a second term until the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) clears his name in the bond scandal. Wickremesinghe had initially tried to re-appoint Mahendran for a second term, but his attempt suffered a setback after political and civil organizations pressured him against the move, citing Mahendran’s controversial history as Governor. The COPE has summoned Mahendran for an inquiry on July 7 to inquire into the Treasury bond transactions, based on the Auditor General’s report which was handed over to COPE on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the name of the 14th Governor of Central Bank will be announced tomorrow, and highly placed sources claim that Wickremesinghe has won the battle against Sirisena.

“If this happens, it clearly indicated that Wickremesinghe is the one who is calling the shots, even though it is because of him that the Central Bank is in such a mess today,” the source said. Mahendran was appointed by Wickremesinghe. (By Munza Mushtaq © Colombo Telegraph)

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