Colombo, January 31 (newsin.asia): The ruling United National Party’s action against the allegedly corrupt former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake on Wednesday appears to be tentative and dictated more by the immediate need to face the public in the local bodies elections on February 10 than by a general desire to fix the corrupt in the party’s ranks.
The UNP’s inquiry committee recommended that Karunanayake should stop functioning as UNP’s Assistant Secretary till his name is cleared by the Attorney General in a case related to the infamous LKR 11,450 million 2015 Central Bank bond scam. But it added that a final decision on this will be taken only in mid-February, when the party’s highest body, the Working Committee, considers the issue. This will be after the local bodies’ elections. It is, therefore, a time buying tactic and is purely symbolic.
According to political observers the party panel’s recommendation is a way of showing the public, ahead of the local bodies elections on February10, that the UNP is taking action against corrupt persons within in its ranks. But this has been done in a way that does not really hurt Karunanayake who is close to the party Supremo and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Issue of Corruption
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and the main opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa have all made corruption and the fight against corruption the main issue in the local bodies elections, which has become a national referendum on the performance of the National Unity Government led by Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Wickremesi’ghe’s United National Party (UNP).
The LKR 11,450 million Central Bank Bands scam took place under the watch of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. As Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe handled the Central Bank.
However, when cornered, Wickremesinghe put the blame for the scam on Karunanayake and shifted him from the Finance Ministry to the Foreign Ministry. Eventually, he stripped Karunanayake of his minister’s post. But he was allowed to remain party Assistant Secretary, indicating the close ties between the two.
Karunanayake’s fate will depend on two factors: Firstly, the decision of the Attorney General on whether to proceed against him or not. Secondly, whether the UNP does well in the local bodies elections of February 10 or not.
If the UNP does well, it means that the bond scam has not been of much concern to the voting public, and that Karunanayake can be taken back.
The UNP’s statement on Karunanayake issued on Wednesday by General Secretary Kabir Hashim said: “The Committee appointed by Hon. Leader of the United National Party has recommended that until a finality is reached by the Attorney General and/or the Bribery Commission that no legal action is to be filed against Mr Ravi Karunanayake or if such action is instituted, until the conclusion of such action, steps should be taken to ensure that Mr Ravi Karunanayake should not exercise any duties as an Assistant Leader of the United National Party.”
“The Committee’s Report will be presented to the Working Committee to be held in mid February,” he added.
Hashim noted that in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the issuance of Treasury Bonds, there are no findings against any member of the United National Party including Mr Ravi Karunanayake in regard to the issuance of Treasury Bonds.
“However, the Commission of Inquiry has decided that the Attorney General and the Bribery Commission should determine whether action should be taken against Mr Ravi Karunanayake, MP, under the Bribery Act or other appropriate legislation in respect of their findings that he had derived a substantial benefit from the lease payments made by Walt and Row Associates (Pvt) Ltd., which is an associate company of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd., which is owned and controlled by the same persons who owned and controlled Perpetual Treasuries Ltd.”
“The Commission has also stated that the Hon. Attorney General or other appropriate authorities could also consider whether the evidence given by Mr Ravi Karunanayake is shown to have been incorrect and in that case whether there are grounds for prosecution under Section 179 and or under Section 188 of the Penal Code or other relevant provisions of the law, read with Section 9 the Commission of Inquiry Act No. 17 of 1948.”
Therefore “the Committee appointed by Hon. Leader of the United National Party has recommended that until a finality is reached by the Attorney General and/or the Bribery Commission that no legal action is to be filed against Mr Ravi Karunanayake or if such action is instituted, until the conclusion of such action, steps should be taken to ensure that Mr Ravi Karunanayake should not exercise any duties as an Assistant Leader of the United National Party.”
“The Committee’s Report will be presented to the Working Committee to be held in mid February.,”
(The featured image at the top is that of Ravi Karunanayake with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe)