Vajira Wijegunawardane, 49, Fund Manager turned Director General of the SEC the apex body which regulates the capital markets of Sri Lanka.
A very vital public position in the country as a stock market of a country is considered to be the barometer of performance of an economy of a nation and helps the growth through private sector participation in the development. One time the world's best performing market which hit a high of almost 8000 points at all share once index, now the most underperforming market in the world, recording 6000 levels. The market capitalisation that was achieved by year 2014 had drastically eroded by year 2016. To the astonishment of the investing public, since the 'Yahapalana' government, the market growth has been limited to a shocking low level 2.9% compared to the neighbouring countries like India 30%, Bangladesh 30%, Indonesia 34%, Singapore 40% etc.
Rival of Thilak and Yahapalana Government
Tilak Karunaratne, businessman turned politician turned Chairman of the SEC through 2 terms was appointed for the 2nd time in 2015. However Tilak Karunaratne expressed to the media that he was unceremoniously removed by his onetime close friend Mahinda Rajapaksa, under duress from the 'pump & dump' mafia. However, when Karunaratne became the Chairman for the 2nd time under the 'Yahapalana' government, he hastily appointed Vajira Wijegunawardena as the Director General, of course in the absence of any qualified and capable people being present within the organisation. Strangely however, Tilak Karunaratne had publicly mentioned that Vajira Wijegunawardane was not his first choice and he regretted very much his decision as he turned out to be a disaster in almost all aspects.
It is noteworthy how simply an incapable person with complex insecurities and entrenched dishonesty would behave in these circumstances. His removal of competent staff from all the positions and replacing them with all junior staff illustrates one such case in point.
Vajira Wijegunawardane is a dubious character with minimum social interaction and no moral values who has from the beginning set the stage to achieve his personal aspirations in many different ways at the cost of the nation. Using the freedom extended by Tilak Karunaratne, the Chairman of SEC, he had a veritable 'carnival' within the organisation including a short cut to make 'big bucks'. A man with heavy expenses due to his complicated personal life, Vajira was not happy even with the suddenly increased salary that he was awarded. He even risked embarking on a 'a mini bond scam' project within the SEC.
Vajira’s Association with Sena
With responsibility we reveal here details of one such confirmed transaction, which involves one of Sri Lanka's biggest business tycoons, Sena Yaddehige (owner of Richard Pieris group) to negotiate a Rs.100 million deal, where Vajira had promised to settle a master scam of insider trading out of courts. Widely known within the legal circuits and the capital market stakeholders, Sena Yaddehige is alleged to have bought the shares of his own company Kegalle Plantations PLC, on the eve of a dividend declaration, with the motive of profiteering millions of rupees. This being a serious criminal offence, a frightened Yaddehige has agreed to the offer by Vajira (who with his family have PR in Australia) and has transferred US$352,000 as an advance payment to one of Vajira's nominee's, a fellow Thomian who lives in Sydney, his Australian bank account (exact bank details will be revealed shortly). It has also been revealed that Vajira frequently visited Yaddehige at his penthouse at the Iceland building and adviced him to retain Mr. Romesh de Silva PC and to make submissions to the commission, headed by Tilak Karunaratne to compound this matter without going to courts. However, being a seasoned businessman, Tilak Karunaratne having sniffed a possible deal and the unusual keenness of Vajira with regards to this matter, vehemently opposed the proposal of an out of court settlement and kept forcing Vajira to take Yaddehige to courts.
It is at this point that Vajira started actively yet behind the scenes manipulations to remove Tilak Karunaratne from his post for which purpose he approached and plotted With his similar vintage parallel batchmate of Royal college, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister who was overlooking the SEC, to remove Tilak Karunaratne and bring the eccentric commission member Ranel Wijesinghe, a Thomian to the hot seat so that Vajira can continue to deliver his ill-gotten promises. Although there isn't direct evidence to tie in the Deputy Minister to financially benefitting from this saga, it seems unusual that the Deputy Minister would go out of his may in this manner and entangle himself in high profile SEC cases and appointment of commission members, especially when this task does not come within his ministry's purview anymore. But in at least one such confirmed occasion, Yaddehige has visited Harsha de Silva at his private Torrington residence.
The Victim is the Country!
Having close to 300 listed companies involving large corporates of Sri Lanka, today the Colombo Stock Exchange is in dire straits, shaming the 'Yahapalana' government and chasing away both the local and foreign investors from participating in the capital market, thus, creating a gloomy economic outlook for the nation. One small man's agenda with little or no understanding of the capital market has simply frightened the stakeholders of the capital market such as brokers (making 24 out of 28 brokers virtually bankrupt due to low trading volumes and values/year 2014 average daily turnover which was Rs.2 billion has now come down to Rs.300 million and the number of trades from 12,000 to 1,000), traders (making them virtual paupers losing their portfolio values by a staggering 25% over 3 years), investors (making them frightened to participate in the capital market, listing all of less than 10 entities including both debt and capital over the last 3 years).
No one would ever believe that this was even possible and a single insignificant person would destroy a nation this way!