By Laksiri Fernando –
There is no point in waiting for the Presidential Commission to conclude or the No Confidence Motion to take place. There can be a Parliamentary debate on the Penthouse Issue or Public Corruption in general for the members to express their views and show their determination, if anything remaining, against corrupt practices. The President must remove Ravi Karunanayake, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, from the Cabinet forthwith.
The Members of Parliament can ask Ravi Karunanayake to completely resign from Parliament. If not, or even otherwise, it is left for the UNP to remove him from the party membership and inform the Elections Commission accordingly, for the world to see where he would remain thereafter.
There is enough evidence to politically determine that there had been a shady deal between Ravi Karunanayake and the businessman Arjuna Aloysius, who is being primarily investigated by the Presidential Commission on the controversial Treasury Bond issue. As far as I am aware, contrary to what a Minister has told the Colombo Telegraph, there is no prohibition whatsoever for the President to act against a Minister when there is a No Confidence Motion scheduled in Parliament. It can even be in the form of a Cabinet reshuffle.
If the President delays action against Ravi Karunanayake, serious doubts will be cast against him as well. If Ravi Karunanayake’s removal as the Finance Minister was warranted for some reason, there is now more reasons to remove him as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. His remaining days as the Foreign Minister would be a total disgrace for the country as whole within the UN, among the Commonwealth countries and in the whole world, East and West.
According to all reports available, Mr Karunanayake has not denied that he was living in the said Penthouse and its rent was paid by Arjuna Aloysius for nine months. What he has childishly denied is his knowledge about the deal. According to him, it was done by his wife and daughter! Even the daughter, in her posting, has not denied the accusations but ask “Why only one man’s name comes up all the time in such a huge government?” There is all indication, in that questioning that directly or indirectly, there are other people in the government who are involved in the bond scam, if not the Penthouse issue.
This was the suspicion of many who observed and criticised the unprecedented auctions of bonds, beginning February 2015. I had occasion to analyse the bond issue of February 2015 which was announced for 1 billion first and then issued for 10 billion through direct intervention of Arjuna Mahendran, the then Governor of the Central Bank (“Awoth Atha Thamai: Cabral is No Excuse for Mahendran,” Colombo Telegraph, 23 May 2015). The person benefitted was Arjuna Aloysius, his son in law.
The immediate reason for my article was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s disgraceful defence of Arjuna Mahendran in Parliament on 21 May (also thereafter) even distorting the findings of the Committee appointed by him to ‘cover up’ what appeared to be controversial bond sales, at that time. It was quite puzzling why Mr Wickremesinghe opted to defend Mahendran so vehemently.
Of course, Mahendran was Wickremesinghe’s appointee and college friend, from Royal. There also could have been some ideological reasons like both believing strongly in ‘neo-liberalism’ where profit making is freely allowed for entrepreneur classes at the expense of the ordinary masses.
I also suspected another reason although somewhat hesitant to articulate directly without much evidence before. That was about the UNP’s party coffers. It was almost by accident that Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister in January 2015. By that time the UNP was in a bad shape both organizationally and financially. It is quite possible that Wickremesighe allowed Arjuna Aloysius to make money on the understanding that he funds the UNP particularly at the general elections.
This is of course not an established fact but a reasonable doubt or accusation. This is how the capitalist political parties work. The SLFP also cannot be innocent on these grounds, but the issue at present particularly before the Presidential Commission is who benefitted from the bond scams at the expense of the people of this country. This is also the issue before the country and the people.
Even otherwise, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s possible complicity in the bond scams cannot be ruled out. He, Ravi Karunanayake and Malik Samarawickrama are a very close group within the party and in the government. Even on the Penthouse issue, it is quite unlikely that the other two were not aware of what was going on. Therefore, there is all reason to investigate Ranil Wickremesinghe after removing Ravi Karunanayake from the Cabinet and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately. If Mr Wickremesinghe is clean, he himself should come before the Commission and should give evidence.