Former Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who resigned from office over allegations related to the Central Bank bond scam, spoke to Daily Mirror. He said the truth will prevail after the report is out. He refused to deal with allegations against him at length in the interview. Instead, he said he would discuss them after the report was released by the Bond Commission. Ravi Karunanayake also wished a happy new year for all Sri Lankans. The excerpts:
- Proposed Presidential Commission on SriLankan and Mihin should be target-oriented
- I am running across the country to ensure victory for the UNP
- It is peculiar where guys who act against corruption are targeted
- CBSL responsible for bad performance of Govt.
- I was victimized by a handful in Govt.
Q You remained somewhat silent after resignation from being a minister. What are your responsibilities as a politician now?
I do not think I have been silent. I have been running across the country for the party. You can see how we are flying the UNP flag and motivating people amidst all unfair publicity against the party. We have completed the nomination period now. You will be able to see the results at the election.
Q You said the UNP is subjected to unfair criticism. Who is doing it in your view?
Well, you would know there was a time when the government was solidly doing without fanfare. You have to compare the current situation with the past. It was only family-oriented rule at that time. Now, we are doing things without fanfare.
Q You talked about your responsibilities in the party; what are you doing in the govt?
As for the govt, there was a new political culture. There is a media circus that was created. When I got out of the Cabinet, I could not be doing the work of the govt. I am doing what the party needs; assisting our backbenchers.
Q There were reports that you were in charge of the execution of some projects. How true were they?
What is wrong in that?
Q Could you please elaborate on the kind of work you do in this respect?
We do monitoring for the party and the MPs. We are getting things done.
The Central Bank has run into a 2.1 bn loss this year. It had profits right throughout the years in the past. Sri Lanka has paid Rs. 495 million in legal fees alone related to the hedging transaction and lost the case. These are the matters that were swept under the carpet
Q You played a major role in unseating the previous govt. What do you think of the performance of this govt?
Well, I was in the govt. I am still critical about corruption. It is the biggest problem. Corruption is going on at different levels. At the top level, we were the guys who went against corruption. Here, it is a situation where the very same guys who voice against corruption are targeted rather than capturing those who are engaged in corrupt activities. On that context, I remain to be a vocal critic. It has actually been a media circus to hang people rather than by the judiciary. I respect the commissioners (members of the Bond Commission) who had a tough task.
Q Do you feel that you were named and shamed by some with vested interests?
Absolutely. It is by some also within the govt; a handful of them. They basically put unfair pressure on the President and the Premier when they are trying to do their best for the country.
Q You worked hard for the formation of this govt. What do you feel about what had happened to you under the very same govt?
I do not live on politics and it does not matter. Before long, the truth will prevail. We will be able to say what it is. They are basically a set of inefficient people carrying telltales. The main thing is the govt should be efficient in decision- making and implementation.
Q Now, the MoU between the UNP and SLFP will soon expire. What is the way forward after that from your point of view?
The best thing is for the two parties to work together. Also, there are people, with vested interests and past practices, not allowing the country to move out of the mess. Basically, the PM and the President must work as closely as possible and get rid of such elements. You do not need 100 people to run the govt. You just need five or six people. The rest must be merrymaking.
Q Do you believe that the two sides should part their political ways now?
I think we strove to get them together. We won the Presidential Elections initially. I think the dead goats must be pruned out. We must be a target-oriented govt.
Q You presented three budget proposals, including the one for the 100-day period. We had a budget by the new Finance Minister and it is a departure from your practice. What do you feel?
I do not think it is up to me to comment on it. I wish all the best for the budget. If you compare what we had done and what we had achieved, you would see we did the rock-solid thing to bring the downtrodden economy to the current situation. We meaningfully increased the revenue from 10.4% to 15% of the GDP. We were able to bring revenue to the state coffers that were leaking into other areas otherwise. We were able to bring haphazard spending of the govt to meaningful, policy-oriented projects. It is not ethical for me to comment on the current budget.
The biggest problem faced by me and the current Finance Minister is the Central Bank, which is absolutely corrupt and inefficient. It has stooges of the former governor. No amendment has been made to correct it. You could see it by its performance. You see the economic growth rate coming down to 3.4%, the inflation rising to 8.4%. These are what the opposition would like to see. These are the elements that ran the economy down then. The govt has changed, but not the officials. They are detrimental to the economy of the country.
These Central Bank people live in cocoons and try to toe the agendas of other people. I say it with absolute responsibility that crooks are still remaining there.
Q Do you think the economic downfall was caused by the corruption at the CBSL, and not by the poor performance of the govt?
Absolutely. There are the fiscal policy and the monetary policy. We have implemented the fiscal policy successfully by increasing revenue from 10.2% to 15%. But the monetary policy left in these so-called economic pundits, is basically running down. Politicians are not always economists, accountants and so on. It is a handful of them who are responsible. The majority are hard-working.
Q The CBSL remains under the purview of the PM. Why has the govt failed to correct the situation?
It is a different matter that the CB is under the PM. The CB has autonomy. The poor PM is also not kept informed of what goes on. I am telling that with factualness. The PM takes the blame for what he was not consulted even. The Central Bank has run into a 2.1 billion loss this year. It had profits right throughout the years in the past. Sri Lanka has paid Rs. 495 million in legal fees alone related to the hedging transaction and lost the case. These are the matters that were swept under the carpet.
Q How are you going to address the matter in the future?
I think we have to wait for the Bond Commission report. When the truth comes out, it would prevail. From there onwards, we would get these things into proper shape. Half of these are fabricated allegations. I think the commissioners are wise enough to see things.
Q Are you confident that you would be cleared of all allegations?
I do not want to comment on something. There is a political decision. Let’s wait! Then, we would see how we move forward. Then, we could have another interview.
Q What are the kinds of responsibilities assigned to you in view of the local govt elections?
I want to ensure that the UNP wins handsomely and its members elected to all the councils everywhere. All of us, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, assist each other for the victory of the party.
This is the first govt that questions itself. There was a corrupt govt that was there for ten years. We have paid out Rs.90 billion because of the hedging deal. Had there been a single question about that? Nobody is questioning Mihin Lanka.
We must ensure that we have ministers who are working, not talking. The President and the PM will move towards 2018 with a sense of purposefulness.
The biggest problem faced by me and the current Finance Minister is the Central Bank, which is absolutely corrupt and inefficient. It has stooges of the former governor. No amendment has been made to correct it
Q What is your opinion on the President holding talks with the Joint Opposition?
The two lines on the railroad cannot meet together at any particular point. Their thinking is different. How can you get two lines of the railway meeting together?
Q What do you think of the President who is trying to appoint another Commission to probe Mihin Lanka and SriLankan Airlines?
The Bond Commission was appointed. It is coming to an end and you would see the results. The other Commission to probe SriLankan should have happened as soon as we came to power. If it happens well after three years, it is good. But, it has to be ensured that it is time-targeted, but not run like a mockery that was done to senior ministers like me. It has to be target-oriented and must get to the point.