verall the widely-predicted but yet dramatic resignation of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake last Thursday appears to have produced more positive than negative factors for the National Unity Government and the United National Party (UNP).
Ravi Karunanayake, who was earlier the Finance Minister resigned one week after a witness gave some apparently damaging testimony against him at the sittings of the Commission inquiring into alleged bond scams at the Central Bank. The witness Anika Wijesuriya - daughter of business magnate Nahil Wijesuriya - gave details of financial transactions relating to the Monarch Residencies apartment leased out to the Karunanayake family. She said these deals involved Perpetual Treasuries’ Arjuna Aloysius, one of the main figures in the ongoing inquiry.
In his headline-hitting resignation speech in parliament on Thursday, Mr. Karunanayake said he was not sad but proud because his move would set a new tradition of political leaders resigning even before allegations made against them were proved beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. He also said he believed the Joint Opposition and other groups were conspiring to exploit these allegations to undermine the National Unity Government and the UNP.
Yesterday our sister paper, the Sunday Times revealed that a crackdown was now imminent against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family members, top officials and close associates. At a Cabinet meeting last month, President Maithripala Sirisena had expressed grave concern over the delays in proceedings in the cases against the former President, his family members and associates. There had been reports that billions of rupees in public funds had been plundered and deposited in secret accounts at foreign banks. The President had said he believes some UNP front liners were among those stalling the prosecution in the Rajapaksa cases for various reasons.
Now the President has taken charge of these issues. At a Sri Lanka Freedom Party Central Committee meeting on Thursday, President Sirisena indicated a crackdown on the cases against the Rajapaksas and their associates would come soon, perhaps even this week. He said the Join Opposition front-liners appeared to be jubilant over Mr. Karunanayake’s resignation but they would soon face the consequences for what had happened and for the billions plundered during the Rajapaksa regime.
Civic action groups have also been calling for these cases to be expedited by assigning them to one High Court which would hear only these corruption and fraud cases. During a TV interview last Thursday some civic action group leaders again made these suggestion but Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe said such a move was not possible under the present Constitution. That means it would need a Constitutional Amendment and further delays.
President Sirisena last Thursday implied he was ready to appoint not just one, but even ten Commissions to probe the massive corruption allegations against the Rajapaksas and their associates.
According to certain media reports, the Central Bank’s former governor Arjuna Mahendran - another key figure in the alleged bond scam - was before 2015 the chief investigation officer of the personal wealth management division of the Emirates NBD Bank in Dubai. It is alleged that among the deposits in this bank were more than 2.5 billion US dollars from three former Sri Lankan VIP politicians. Senior Minister and the Cabinet’s Joint Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Karunanayake issue and the money involving the transaction was only a Loonu bika (a tiny piece) of the billions plundered during the former regime.
Whatever the wheels within wheels, deals within deals and mysteries within mysteries, we hope justice will be done soon and that the billions of dollars plundered from Sri Lanka’s people would be returned to them with these judicial hearings and justice moving faster, as they did in the case of Ravi Karunanayake.