People’s Bank Chairman responds to allegations of irregularities

People’s Bank Chairman responds to allegations of irregularities

29 September 2020 05:30 pm

People's Bank Chairman Sujeewa Rajapaksa has been the subject of reports of irregularities in the media in recent days. Since taking over as chairman of People's Bank, he has been accused of illegally amassing assets and using his official power to endanger the bank and provide credit facilities to companies he represents.

Accordingly, are the published reports transparent or have Mr. Sujeewa Rajapaksa actually committed any irregularities? He should also be given an opportunity to comment on the matter. Respecting this, Lanka News Web had a discussion with the current Chairman of the People's Bank regarding these irregularities and this is an article prepared based on that discussion.

Mr. Sujeewa Rajapaksa emphasized that although he had been shaken by the allegations leveled against him after his appointment as the Chairman of the People's Bank in an unprecedented manner, he had not been involved in any such irregularities as reported.

He asserts that such allegations are baseless, as a person who has been on a mission with a certain methodology since his inception.

"If anyone wants to develop a country, they have to take working people like us forward. Otherwise, if the country does not want us, they should throw us allegetions us like this, ” says Sujeewa Rajapaksa.

I am born in a village named Thihagoda. My Mom and Dad were farmers. There were also small businesses as well. My sister runs the House of Fashion, one of Sri Lanka's leading textile businesses. I'm the second child. I had a younger brother who we lost years ago. There is another brother. He does business with sisters. The youngest is a doctor in London. My father gave a good education to all five of us. It was my father who laid the groundwork for me to become a Chartered Accountant. I went to a small school in the village until year 3. Then I went to Richmond, Galle. The elder sister went to Sangamitta. My brother went to Richmond too. The next brother went to Rahula in Matara. The youngest went to Ananda College. You can imagine what our background is. When I finished school it was my father who told me that there was an institution for Chartered Accountancy and that I should do it. After saying such a thing at that time I did not argue again. Then I came to that institution. Exactly on December 1, 1983.

Gradually from training I came to Isara and stayed at this internationally recognized BDO Account Firm from the beginning. Our company ranks fourth or fifth in the world when it comes to account firms. It was a big company."

Mr. Rajapaksa, who has been on a visionary journey since its inception, had set his sights on becoming a managing partner of the same company he had set up in the business world about 14 years ago.

I have a vision in my life

"On the way I bought shares in this company. This building is mine. It worths about 700 million. About 80% of the company is mine. There is a case of a former shareholder. I'll take it when it's over. This is the normal background. "

Sujeewa Rajapaksa, who fulfills his educational needs through free education, will succeed in the world of entrepreneurship and business after becoming a Chartered Accountant.

He turned his goals around and said that he had achieved them very successfully.

I was not even beaten like this when I was on the cricket board

“In 1994 I became a Chartered Accountant and married a nice girl. She was a daughter of a public servant in Sri Lanka. I wanted to turn my vision into the ways I wanted. I wanted to be the chairman of this institution. I came slowly for 10 years.This is one of the biggest post in Sri Lanka. I worked in about 25 or 30 other institutions as either Chairman or Member of the Board of Directors. Some of them were not for the money. Some of them for the money. I have also worked internationally. He has held several positions in SAARC regionally.

He was also a member of the Board of Directors of NIMB and other institutions such as the Exchange Commission. He was the Treasurer of the Sri Lanka Cricket Council for six and a half years. It was one of the hardest times of my life. "

However, he said that no media report was published against him during that difficult period. At that time fields were built at Kettarama, Pallekele and Hambantota.  Rajapaksa has stated that he has invested billions and that he has not been charged with any wrongdoing at any time.

He said he had billions of dollars in accounts but was careful not to cause any problems.

He pointed out that in a place where there is political influence, he acted with great transparency without leaving any gaps.

 

Sujeewa Rajapaksa, who has served on the board of directors of NDB Bank and several other companies since leaving the Cricket Council, said he had a good understanding of the do's and don'ts as he had extensive knowledge of accounts.

Accordingly, he has been very successful in maintaining his savings.

"We are accountants. So I know how to maintain our savings. That is how this building is taken. This is rented to my audit firm. A big rent is coming. That is how we invest in. I have also worked in government institutions. The Central Bank has a Monetary Policy Advisory Committee. I worked there for three or four years before the Yahapalana government. When the Yahapalana Government came I left there. They told me to leave. That's fair. I got out of there as soon as I could. I had to go to FCID for an equal period as the former time of the Exchange Commission. I told them what I did."

After the current government came to power, the demand was once again drawn to Sujeewa Rajapaksa, who was first appointed as the Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon and was amended as the People's Bank. Following his appointment as Chairman of the People's Bank, he was automatically appointed Chairman of the PLC.

"I'm not a traditional chairman. The bank told me I had two or three vehicles. I was given a large vehicle. There was a Range Rover as well. A vehicle is also reserved from the PLC. The Chairman is given only 150 liters of oil per month. For the first two months I check the oil by hand. It was a loss for me."

I started using Benz cars 20 years ago

I said I don't want cars. I started using Benz cars about 20 years ago. It's aIl about branded things. That's my thought. I believe that a person needs things like that to be perfect. 

 

It is against this backdrop that opinions against Sujeewa Rajapaksa begin to be socialized.

"My wife and I usually change the vehicle every four years. The last Benz I bought was about three years ago for about 22 million. At that time I did not even think of coming to the People's Bank."

He said it was shameful to accuse a person who had come forward with his courage and commitment of misusing the bank's resources.

"I'm a man who came here by working hard. So misinterpretation is a great torment to my mind. But I am not hiding anything, ”said Sujeewa Rajapaksa.

This is how I bought an apartment 

Meanwhile, Sujeewa Rajapaksa was also accused of buying luxury houses.

He says he has bought all three of his luxury homes before becoming chairman of People's Bank. He said that he had made all these purchases according to his income and that he was also paying a huge amount of Rs. 04-5 million as income tax.

Mr. Rajapaksa says there is no need to hide his assets in any way.

 

 "I have an apartment in Havelock City. I bought this on March 28,    2018. Sujeewa Rajapaksa has no intention of becoming the chairman of a bank. There is another in Uswetakeiyawa. It was bought in  March 2017. There is an apartment bought in September 2019 in Grand in front of Ward Place. I came to the bank in December or January. As for my income, I pay a large amount of income tax as an individual. Close to 4 to 5 million. More to come this year. Then think about how much income I need for the year. 

 I'm the Vice President of SoftLogic Life. I'm on three boards of directors of Hayleys. Out of them, I get Director Piece. I earn several million from those. I own 56% of my firm. It brings me millions a month. My dividends are in the millions when I calculate total accounts at the end of the year. There are four or five more businesses. I own 56% of each of them. I earn 60 to 70 million a year. That's how I invest in it. I am 59 years old. In my life, I think I should get rid of these by the age of 60. That is why I have invested. All these assets and income are added to taxes"

He said it was not clear what the motive was for the attack, but that it was part of the culture of the country.

He pointed out that this is a very unfortunate situation and a detriment to working people.

I never put the bank in trouble

Meanwhile, there was an allegation that the Softlogic company run by Sujeewa Rajapaksa had been given an interest-free loan by the People's Bank. Will the bank and its top officials turn such an accident on its side? As this is a serious allegation, Mr. Rajapaksa replied to our inquiry as follows.

"Softlogic, Hayleys, John Keells and MAS have been in the business for years. It doesn't change that I became the chairman of the bank. It's not me, it's the President of SoftLogic who has processed it. This is according to a request made to the bank. I saw it when I got to the board. I know there will be a conflict between the bonds. So I left the board to make a decision. Then they can make that decision freely. There is no loss to the bank in any way. Everything is mentioned in the board papers. On the other hand, the fact that a company cannot be given a loan because it has a board of directors is an injustice to the company."

Meanwhile, the Chairman said that in recent days, depositors of Finance and Swarnamahal have been given money through the People's Bank in response to requests made through personal affiliations.

Rajapaksa said that the Central Bank had discussed the decision with him and that People's Bank had received over Rs. 20 billion in deposits without any effort.

He said that his visited the bank each and everyday even during the locked down period  and it was for the benefit of the bank and not for the benefit of the people. He added that in such a situation he would be attacked on the basis of the existing competition.

However, he added that despite all these obstacles, he was achieving his goals as usual very successfully.