Waiting for Ravi

Island Editorial

We thought Minister Ravi Karunanayake would come running, vaulting over gates and flinging doors open to have himself heard following last week’s damning allegations a female witness made against him before the presidential commission of inquiry probing bond scams. She, under oath, said that while Karunanayake was the Finance Minister the lease payment for his penthouse in Colombo had been made by Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries, which has recently been suspended as a primary dealer over the alleged bond rackets. Curiously, Ravi did not appear before the commission to clear his name in spite of being summoned.

Theme Cartoon is from Daily Mirror’s Editorial

Minister Karunanayake has been given the opportunity to respond to evidence against him and his side of the story should be heard before conclusions are drawn—audi alteram partem. The whole country is agog for his testimony. He failed to appear before the commission twice. First, he claimed he had to attend a Cabinet meeting. Thereafter, he said he was attending a National Security Council (NSC) meeting. Ministers stay overseas for weeks on end without caring a damn about meetings here, don’t they? Anyone with an iota of intelligence will see that Karunanayake has bought time while his lawyers are busy preparing his defence. His legal team apparently has its work cut out.

It is hoped that Minister Karunanayake will appear before the bond probe commission today and respond to the damning evidence against him.

However, a bond investigation with only Karunanayake being questioned is like Hamlet, without the Prince of Denmark, starring Horatio as the protagonist. For, Karunanayake did not control the Central Bank, where the bond rackets took place. As the Finance Minister he had no say in running even a state bank. Minister Kabir Hashim has been in charge of the state-owned banks and the Central Bank has been under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s purview. Strangely, the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) consisting of cantankerous JVP and Joint Opposition MPs, among others, went out of its way to ensure that the Prime Minister’s name was not mentioned in its report on the bond scams!

A thorough probe is, no doubt, called for into the penthouse deal. But, it, in our book, is only a sideshow. The public should not be distracted by it. It must be found out where profits from the bond rackets have gone. Making the two main political parties declare their campaign funds is half the battle in fighting corruption in this country.

The SLFP headquarters which had been in utter penury before the 1994 August general election suddenly began to overflow with funds following the SFLP-led People’s Alliance victory in that year. The UNP headquarters, Sirikotha, had been struggling to pay its electricity and water bills since 2004, but money started rolling in after the Jan. 2015 regime change. The UNP outspent the SLFP in the run-up to the general election seven months later. Did the moneybags backing the UNP benefit from the bond rackets?

Are we witnessing a grand conspiracy by the yahapalana regime to neutralise an ambitious politician who has fallen from grace by throwing him to the wolves so that the masterminds of the bond rackets can go scot free?

What any intelligent person gathers from the startling revelations so far made before the bond probe commission is that the entire Central Bank was manipulated, on Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s watch, with yahapalana stooges being planted in key positions therein to facilitate the bond rackets. The task before President Maithripala Sirisena is to find out the real culprits and bring them to justice without further delay. That is the only way he can, if at all, make atonement for the sin of dissolving Parliament in 2015 before the first COPE report on the bond scams exposed the bond racketeers and preventing the voter from making an informed decision.