President can do more for GKCC depositors - Sri Lanka Guardian

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

President can do more for GKCC depositors

The unconfirmed news some of the larger properties listed have either been sold at low values or are in the process of being sold to favourutes of various VIPs is received which much disappointment by call concerned.

EDITORIAL

(November 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Although President Rajapakse and those close to him showed initial sympathy and signs of resolving the pathetic problem of over 5,000 smaller depositors, ill fate threatens the lives of most of these innocent folk - whose world has collapsed right in front of their eyes without warning in December 2009. Many children from the ages of 5 to 17 have lost their places in good schools their parents found for them that ensured a good education and future to them - with the legitimate flow of interest from their lives savings. Some from the upper middle class are thrown into penury since 2009 – with some having committed suicide. Many have died to extreme mental agony as a consequence of Lalith Kotelawala’s undiminishing ego, mismanagement and the surreptitious flight of capital overseas in his watch to widen his fantasy of a Ceylinco World. While the hopes of the depositors – whose total investment was calculated in excess of Rs.26 billion - was raised initially with the considered statement from relevant quarters the total market value of unencumbered Kotelawala properties exceeded this sum. It was mentioned then sufficient funds are available to pay reasonable unpaid interest to the depositors . The appointment of a Committee of 3 Chartered Accountants outside the State's dictate introduced a semblance of fairness, However, the depositors could not retain much confidence in the Committee when the trio paid themselves fantastically high fees even before the 2nd instalment of Rs.200,000 each to the smaller deposit holders was effected. Curiously, the directive of the Supreme Court made sometime last August is yet to be honoured. The integrity of the Chairman and the Committee would have been enhanced if they made public the sums they paid themselves with gusto , the periods and other details - but this is still to be seen. It is learnt the close relationship of key officials of the CBSL and the Committee probably stands on the way to this disclosure.

Meanwhile, the tussle to unduly appropriate these valuable properties by influential sources close to top government VIPs continues. The idea is to get them for a virtual song. It is well known the Rajagiriya ENT Hospital was about to change hands at a mere Rs.500 million when the media raised a hue and cry. This was to be followed with the news a Singapore party has come out with an offer of Rs.2.2 billion for this Hospital, which may be in line with the market value. Unsurprisingly and as an indication of the severe tussle that is taking place behind the scenes, the Singapore party, whose name was recommended to the Supreme Court suddenly found himself “a shady character with an unreliable track record” This was after he is said to have paid the initial deposit laid down in the sales plan. The brand new Ceylinco Celestial Towers, CeySands Hotel, The Ceylinco buiding at Fort, Kotelawala’s R.A. de Mel Mawatha bungalow and other ultra-rich properties will go a long way to pay up the depositors. But apparently the faceless wheeler-dealers seem to be winning and have other agendas than to help these now poor depositors gain their savings . The cabal has begun by splitting the Depositors association into two. Anusha Emmert continues to fight for the return of the deposits plus interest. But the new break-away faction of her former deputy Dushyanthi Hapugoda has yielded to this new Vehicle where depositors funds will be turned into shares and a new enterprise with a “dynamic Board of Directors” is to engage in various trading to secure Depositors funds. This is likely to takea long period of time alone is sufficient to reject this formulae. Emmert’s faction has no faith in such a mechanism because, in the first place, it was Lalith Kotelalawal and his brand of no less dynamic Board of Directors that brought in doom to all these depositors. Besides, the trading conditions in the country – or for that matter in the world invarious degrees of recession and depression – is hardly the time or the place to engage in speculative trading.

In fairness to the President, it must be stated a few days after he returned from New York, he personally intervened to resolve the matter. But upon seeing factional feuds he seems to have washed his hands off the matter. Meanwhile, the much hyped 2nd instalment of Rs.200,000 ordered by the Supreme Court is now being talked in terms of Rs.100,000 shattering the faith of the depositors in the Judicial system as well. Chairman of the Committee of Accountants Prof. Sunil Watawala now states they are unable to find the Rs.700 million required for this purpose. Worse, from the angle of the depositors, is the news now floating that the total value of Ceylinco/GKCCC assets payable to them is not more than Rs.2.2 billion.

Under normal circumstances, the public will not expect the President of the country to expend his time in the business of a group of investors. But here is a case where the livelihoods of several hundreds of thousands of people – who were once considered wealthy and the next day discovered they were made virtual paupers by Kotelalawals misdemeanours – a super- tycoon who was a favourite of several governments. What was promised to be in the region of Rs.26 billion coming down to Rs.2.2 billion is nothing short of highway robbery The Committee should have sent their proposals to the Supreme Court only after ensuring they had the funds to pay the Rs.700 million to the depositors. This matter being handled somewhat shoddily and somewhat wanting in professionalism has created problems all around which is why we think this Committee has overstayed its role. The President and the Central Bank should consider doing away with this Committeee and cause the required remedy through an alternative and effective modus. This should begin initially gaining the Rs.200,000 - already decided and announced. This is likely to bring some solace and confidence to the people concerned. And, ideally, thereafter help them further by disposing of these high-value properties transparently and in full view of the public (via widely publicized Tenders and so forth) at values that will not disappoint the nearly 8,000 depositors.

The unconfirmed news some of the larger properties listed have either been sold at low values or are in the process of being sold to favourutes of various VIPs is received which much disappointment by call concerned. Two years is far too long for this matter, that has engaged the rapt attention of the nation, to be unresolved with a sizeable group of people and their children denied the joys of Christmas and New Year – which must have been events looked forward to by the younger generation in these families living in comfortable circumstances for a long time and who now, unfortunately, find themselves pushed into gloom and despair. Tell a Friend

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