By Hilmy Ahamed –
Ravi Karunanayake sacrificed his pride and position by tendering his resignation to save the Maithri-Ranil government cabal. He could have faced and defeated the no confidence motion against him if Maithri (who owes his Presidency to Ravi) and Ranil Wickremesinghe had stood by him, but their cowardice will be recorded in history. The bond scam has been a controversy for over two and a half years and the main culprits did not include Ravi K as a key player.
The Opposition used the bond scam successfully as a platform to undermine the Government and the United National Party (UNP). The Machiavellian Udaya Gammapila said that the Government would lose if the Joint Opposition won or lost the no confidence motion. Ravi disappointed him and his desperate colleagues by not allowing this to be put to the test. I don’t think even the common opposition’s 50 would have voted for the no confidence motion.
The Government failed to explain the intricacies of the bond issue to the general public leading to unprecedented suspicion of the current Yahapalanaya Government. No one has spelt out the illegality of the bond issue. If it is illegal, why has Mahinda’s opposition or any other civil activist group not taken any legal action against Arjun Aloysius, Arjuna Mahendran or Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe through the courts of law? Is President Sirisena part of the conspiracy to discredit the UNP? Why has the Government NOT revealed all of Nivard Cabraal/Rajapaksa scams? Are they protecting the same people at Perpetual Treasuries holdings who were in nexus with the previous regime too? Arjun Aloysius is rumoured to be Namal Rajapaksa’s close friend and personal financial advisor who was responsible for investing the Rajapaksa billions in many banks across the world. Will Ravi’s resignation kick off the clean up of the AG’s Department and the incarceration of the Rajapaksa clan or will it be yet another ‘fiddling when Rome burns’?
I am reminded of a conversation that I had with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in November 2014 in the presence of President Sirisena and Ravi Karunanayake. I asked the PM, “What are you going to do with the corrupt Rajapaksas?” and his prophetic response was “I am not going on a witch hunt, I’ll have a government to run and an economy to resurrect, there would be others who would look in to these”. He kept to his word, although many accuse him of shielding the Rajapaksas. Only time will tell if this would be his and this Government’s downfall.
Ravi Karunanayake is known to be a wealthy businessman who has amassed a considerable portfolio. There has been widespread speculation as to how he amassed his wealth, but these remain rumours only. He is known to be renovating his luxury house down Parliament Drive in Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte. He has also been accused of building a fortress by buying up a number of properties around his house, arousing much jealousy and hatred among his middle class neighbours. These are all legal purchases and if there is a need to account for his wealth, anyone should be free to report him to the authorities. He needed alternate housing until his renovation was completed. Ravi chose to rent an apartment on his own, foregoing his right to government housing, which he is entitled to as a senior minister. This is a trait he committed to as a true ‘Yahapalanist’. Unfortunately, this proved to be his Waterloo.
The responsibility of running a home lies with his non-working wife, Mela. According to Ravi, she chose to use the good offices of a friend who happened to be Anika Wijesuriya’s ex boyfriend Arjun Aloysius (also the mastermind behind the current bond scam) to negotiate the deal to rent the apartment, as it was rumoured that the Wijesuriyas were not keen to rent it to a politician, for obvious reasons. As the Karunanayake family felt comfortable and liked the penthouse apartment, Arjun was used again to negotiate the purchase of the apartment by Global Transportation and Logistics Pvt. Ltd, in which Ms. Karunanayake and her daughter Onella Karunanayake are directors. Onella, Anita and Arjun are from the Colombo International School (CIS) and have been friends. It is supposed that they purchased the apartment in September 2016 after living in the apartment for six months at a monthly rent of 1.2 million. Their company had paid Rs. 165 million to purchase the penthouse apartment at the Monarch complex in Colpetty. Global Transportation and Logistics Pvt. Ltd is supposed to have obtained a loan from Seylan Bank for this acquisition. They certainly will be able to account for the funds even if it was brought to Anita in gunny bags.
No one knows the love hate relationship between Anika and Arjun that has triggered this whole controversy and brought down the mighty Ravi Karunanayake and is threatening the Yahapalanaya Government.
In Greek Mythology, APHRODITE was the Olympian goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. The wrath of the goddess was directed against those who scorned her worship or failed to pay her due obeisance. Is Anita Wijesuriya the Sri Lankan version of the Olympian goddess? Is Arjun Aloysius paying the price for ditching her and taking former Central Bank Governor, Arjuna Mahendran’s daughter’s hand? Is this a case of vengeance of Anita? At least Ravi Karunanayake seems to think so, based on his evidence at the Bond Commission.
It is ironic that the Joint Opposition is screaming all sorts of blue murder when every member of theirs has so many skeletons in their cupboard. Basil Rajapaksa claims a clean sheet for disowning the 28 acre property in Gampaha and the Matara hilltop resort and says he has been prosecuted for providing GI pipes to the Pradeshiya Sabhas. Misuse of public funds is liable for prosecution, whether it was sent to the Pradeshiya Sabha or to support a political cause. All charges of corruption on his part is still pending (thanks to Wijedasa Rajapaksa and the AG’s department) and he seems to have preserved and is wearing part of the sil reddha distributed by the TRC before Mahinda’s downfall!
Wimal Weerawansa, the most vociferous of them all, faces multiple corruption charges and is accused of providing houses to his family members running in to millions. He too seems to have borrowed a white cloth to cover his shame.
Machiavellian Udaya Gammapilla who is accused of swindling an Australian investor of USD 100,000 and who was supposed to be a party to selling the saffron robed owner’s Mercedes Benz imported under the MPs permit, is also claiming to be a saint.
The former petty insurance agent who amassed billions, Mahindananda Aluthgamage is another saint who is demanding Ravi’s head. So does Ratharang who did not know how a fairy godmother had descended from heaven and deposited 55 million to his bank account. The list of scoundrels will need several pages to fill; yet Ravi Karunanayake has been condemned for buying an expensive property that is suspected as a kickback of the bond scam. This is yet to be proved at the bond scam commission or any court of law. The biggest hypocrisy is from the SLFP lot of the Government who are all accused of various wrong doing during the Rajapaksa era and have brought corruption to the current regime in various forms. President Sirisena’s survival depends on protecting these scoundrels, as he doesn’t have a SLFP vote base. President Sirisena faces a Hobson’s choice, as these opportunists would run back to Mahinda Rajapaksa, which would make him a puppet of the UNP.
Ravi Karunanayake, no doubt was the chief anchorman for Maithripala Sirisena’s 2015 presidential bid. Ravi has also been one of the principal donors to the UNP while they were in opposition for 20 years. Why are they sacrificing him even before the Commission has found him guilty? This has been a trial by the Media, which was non-existent during the Rajapaksa era fearing the white van. Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeth Ekneligoda, Poddala Jayantha and many others paid the ultimate price for challenging the Rajapaksas during their period of tyranny.
The UNP should have allowed the no confidence motion to be debated in Parliament and incarcerate Ravi Karunanayake if found guilty through the Courts of law. No man is guilty until proven so. Using strong-arm tactics by the Joint Opposition and threatening to vote in favour of the no confidence motion by some SLFPers in Government will only open the flood gates for the Opposition to make hay while the sun shines. The Government should have faced it and finished off these unwarranted threats; President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe would have been assured of a stable government until 2020.
Ravi’s sacrifice will certainly strengthen the Yahapalanaya administration to clean up corruption within the current administration and also bring in pressure to prosecute the long delayed corruption charges during the Rajapaksa era. The carnival and fireworks have already started with the young firebrands of the UNP demanding the head of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe for protecting the Mahinda clan by delaying prosecution by the Attorney General’s Department. If Wijeyadasa is removed from the Justice Ministry, many heads in the AGs office too would roll, which will certainly strengthen Yahapalanaya. The coming weeks will decide the destiny of Sri Lanka.