Faced with the prospect of some government members also backing the Joint Opposition’s motion of no confidence against him, Ravi Karunanayake is apparently left with no alternative but to step down as Foreign Minister of his own volition pending investigations into the questionable penthouse deal. However, those who are out for Karunanayake’s blood, trying to blame the bond scams solely on him are barking up the wrong tree. An attempt is obviously being made in some quarters to throw him to the wolves.
Cartoon added by TW from Daily FT
No probe into the bond scams is complete without an investigation into an Attorney General’s Department file which has been either shelved or made to disappear. On June 30, 2015, the CID handed over a file (No: C/187/161/2015) on the first bond scam to the AG’s Department. The Attorney General at that time was Yuwanjana Wijethilake. The senior official who accepted the file found a prima facie case of insider trading and market manipulation and duly opened a criminal file and handed it over to a senior counsel for further action. The government dissolved Parliament and held the August 2015 general election, thwarting an attempt by the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) headed by D. E. W. Gunasekera to place its report before Parliament.
Strangely, criminal action against the bond racketeers was terminated and the file turned into a confidential document (CF/08/2015) and passed on to another senior counsel. In June 2016, the counsel, acting within the parameters set by his superiors, recommended that civil action be taken against Perpetual Treasuries to recover funds. The file has not been sighted ever since. Wijethilake is now in retirement.
The incumbent Attorney General must be summoned before the bond probe and asked to explain why criminal action anent the bond scam was terminated in a dubious manner.
Similarly, President Maithripala Sirisena should explain why he dissolved Parliament without allowing the report prepared by the COPE headed by DEW on the first bond scam to be presented to the House. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been in charge of the Central Bank since 2015, should explain why he sought to make light of the bond scams in Parliament and strove to reappoint Arjuna Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor in spite of irrefutable evidence that there had been a bond racket.
It must also be found out who pressured the Central Bank to withdraw its report which effectively countered the UNP’s footnotes in the report put out by the COPE headed by Sunil Handunnetti. The ongoing bond probe commission has refused to accept the well-argued document on the grounds that it was withdrawn by the Central Bank.
Karunanayake may be removed from the Cabinet, prosecuted and even thrown behind bars if found guilty. But, there are several others who need to be questioned if the bond probe is to be considered complete. No one should be considered too powerful to be brought before the bond commission and questioned. After all, the present yahapalana government came to power, promising accountability, equality before the law, an immediate end to the culture of legal immunity and impunity among other things.
If President Sirisena had refrained from playing politics with the bond probe in 2015 and ensured that the AG’s Department took action, the bond racketeers would have been behind bars and the losses the state and the EPF suffered at their hands recovered by now and the second bond scam (2016) could have been avoided.
The only way President Sirisena can prevent his name from being sullied is to ensure that all those responsible for the bond scams including the masterminds in high positions are brought to justice and the staggering losses they have caused to the state coffers and workers’ superannuation fund recovered. Better late than never!