Bond scams: Ravi urged to step down pending judicial proceedings


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday urged Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, MP, to step down pending conclusion of judicial proceedings subsequent to the ongoing Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into Central Bank bond scams in Feb 2015 and March 2016.

Senior UNPer Karunanayake held the finance portfolio during that period before being appointed Foreign Minister in May 2017.

The JO loyal to former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa emphasised that Minister Karunanayake should give up ministerial responsibilities before the JO moved a no-faith motion against him.

President Maithripala Sirisena recently extended the CoI for a further period of three months commencing July 27.

Addressing the media at Punchi Borella, JO economic affairs spokesperson and Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardena said the JO and some members of the government were engaged in discussions regarding a no-confidence motion. MP Gunawardena said they would also take up the issue with the JVP as well as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Referring to a spate of shocking revelations made at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into bond scams, former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for the unprecedented fraud perpetrated.

The former law professor insisted that the responsibility in that regard couldn’t be restricted to former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, his son-in-law Arjun Aloysius and Minister Karunanayake.

Prof. Peiris, too, called for Minister Karunanayake’s immediate resignation.

Alleging that primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries had made massive profits at the expense of other enterprises through fraudulent means, Prof. Peiris called for thorough inquiry into various investments made by Perpetual Treasuries and on their behalf since Feb 2015.

Pointing out that bond scam perpetrators had made substantial investments in the media field and also in support of the UNP, Prof. Peiris said the National Election Commission (NEC) should inquire into the involvement of the UNP as a party in the alleged scam.

The NEC comprises Mahinda Deshapriya, Dr. Nalin Abeysekera and Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole.

Prof. Peiris said Chief Financial Officer of Global Transportation & Logistics Limited B.R. Chinnaiah had revealed how he had received Rs 165 mn in 5,000 rupee notes on two occasions to settle loan taken from Seylan Bank to procure Monarch Residency penthouse.

Prof Peiris said: "The NEC should certainly focus on the bond scam case in respect of direct involvement of the UNP and the perpetrators of the mega fraud."

MP Bandula Gunawardena said National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, had been arrested on a charge of causing losses to the government by misusing vehicles whereas Karunanayake still represented the country as the minister in charge of foreign affairs portfolio.

Gampaha District MP Sisira Jayakody said Karunanayake shouldn’t have been re-appointed the Finance Minister following Aug 2015 parliamentary polls as the Central Bank and Perpetual Treasuries were under investigation over the Feb 2015 bond scam. The second much bigger scam had been perpetrated in March 2016, MP Jayakody said, alleging that bond scams were meant to benefit those who had funded the party at presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015.

Commenting on Sri Lanka-China agreement on Hambantota port, MP Gunawardena said that the UNP led government had gone ahead with the deal before the JO could make representations to President Maithripala Sirisena. Gunawardena said that they had received an assurance from President Sirisena a meeting would be granted to discuss JO concerns.

Gunawardena dismissed claims that the government had been compelled to involve the Chinese in the Hambantota port project due to mounting losses suffered over the past several years amounting to Rs 46 bn.

The UPFA MP said Sri Lanka experienced the worst financial crisis during 2001-2004 period when the UNP was in government. In response to national debt crisis at that time, the then UNP-led UNF administration brought in Fiscal Responsibilities Bill of 2003 to ensure financial discipline. The Bill was meant to prevent government debt exceeding 80 per cent of the GDP.

At the time President Rajapaksa relinquished office in January 2015, the loan percentage to the GDP had been 70.1 whereas the during Karunanayake’s tenure as the finance minister it had reached 83 per cent according to the Auditor General.

MP Gunawardena flayed the government for not being able to properly manage the national economy in spite of sharp drop in world crude oil prices compared to year 2014.

MP Gunawardena said Minister Karunanayake had received benefits from Arjun Aloysius though he over a period of time attacked the former President and members of his family as well as the UPFA of waste, corruption and irregularities.

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