Ravi K suspension as Assistant Leader: A desperate damage control measure ahead of Feb. 10 ‘referendum’-GL
Posted on January 31st, 2018

By Shamindra Ferdinando  Courtesy  The Island

Chairman of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday said that the UNP was engaged in last minute face-saving measures ahead of the Feb. 10 countrywide local government polls to avert defeat.

The former External Affairs Minister, who is also a top spokesman for the Joint Opposition (JO) said so in an exclusive interview with The Island yesterday. Prof. Peiris emphasized that the much delayed decision to suspend Karunanayake from exercising his duties and responsibilities as the Assistant Leader of the ruling party was nothing but a desperate bid to deceive the electorate. A smiling Prof. Peiris asserted that the Sirikotha decision wouldn’t have the desired impact on the electorate aware of the colossal losses caused by 2015 and 2016 treasury bond scams.

The JO contests the forthcoming LG polls on SLPP ticket.

Pointing out that the decision had been taken more than three years after the first bond scam perpetrated by the UNP on Feb 27, 2015 and several months after the Colombo District MP lost his ministerial portfolio over shocking revelations of receiving substantial benefits from Walt and Row Associates also run by disgraced Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), Prof. Peiris said that Sirikotha couldn’t have made the decision at a worse time for the party.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris emphasized that in the wake of Karunanayake’s suspension the debate of Bond Commission report scheduled for Feb 6 was irrelevant. Prof. Peiris said that the UNP hierarchy was well aware the fallout of its decision and the crisis caused by the move, especially in the Colombo electoral district.

Prof. Peiris admitted that he himself had declared that the UNP wouldn’t take disciplinary action against Karunanayake fearing retaliation. Asked whether the JO/SLPP appreciated Karunanayake’s temporary suspension pending investigations/ judicial measures by the CIABOC and AG, Prof. Peiris said that the UNP did everything in its power to derail inquiries. “Don’t forget, President Maithripala Sirisena, too, engaged in damage control exercise before he was forced to condemn the UNP recently. President Sirisena stepped up attacks in a bid to attract SLFPers.”

The SLPP chief alleged that there had been last minute efforts to save Karunanayake from humiliating disciplinary action taken on the basis of recommendation made by a three-member committee headed by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC. Prof. Peiris described Sirikotha action as too little, too late.

The SLPP Chairman said that even after Marapana’s recommendation was made known to the UNP parliamentary group, Karunanayake represented the party at a meeting chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Tuesday (Jan. 30) in parliament. Prof. Peiris expressed surprise Karunanayake was allowed to represent the party at Jan. 30 meet called especially to decide on a date for the debate on Bond Commission report and the other presidential commission (PRECIFAC) reports. Among those who had been present at the meeting chaired by Speaker Jayasuriya were Deputy Speaker Tilanga Sumathipala (UPFA), Lakshman Kiriella (UNP), Mahinda Samarasinghe (UPFA), Dinesh Gunawardena(UPFA/JO) and Vijitha Herath (JVP)

Prof. Peiris pointed out that Karunanayake had represented the UNP at the previous party leaders’ meeting on Jan. 24 when the UNP, SLFP and the TNA decided to have the debate on Feb 20 and 21.

Prof. Peiris said that the UNP had been forced to issue a statement in respect of Karunanayake’s suspension under the hand of UNP General Secretary Kabir Hashim, who is also under a cloud over his participation at a meeting at the Central Bank on the day before the first treasury bond scam. The former Law Professor said that the meeting that had been held ostensibly for the purpose of examining cash flow requirements of the government were attended by UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema and Karunanayake, in his capacity as the Finance Minister. It would be pertinent to mention that Samarawickrema hadn’t been at least a National List member of parliament at the time he participated in that meeting.

Alleging that the UNP until the very end had tried to save treasury bond thieves, Prof. Peiris said the Sirikotha project should be presented to the public in the right perspective. Prof. Peiris said that in the wake of Jan 8, 2015 presidential election, President Sirisena appointed Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor, Central Bank. Having had assumed office on January 26, 2015, Mahendran, on the specific instructions of Wickremesinghe abolished ‘auction cum direct placement method’ ahead of Feb 27, 2015 first treasury bond scam.

“President Sirisena dissolved parliament on June 26, 2015 to thwart presentation of COPE report on the Feb 27 scam. Following Aug 17, 2015 parliamentary poll, Karunanayake was reappointed Finance Minister. Then they perpetrated the second scam on March 29, 2016. Arjuna Mahendran continued regardless of massive public outcry. Mahendran was replaced on June 2, 2017. Presidential Commission was announced on Jan. 27, 2017, one month short of two years from the first scam. President Sirisena received the report on Dec 30, 2017, though law enforcement authorities were yet to produce at least one person in a court of law”, he said.

Mahendran is still at large, Prof. Peiris said, emphasizing that the UNP couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility by suspending Karunanayake. Referring to Hashim’s statement, now that Sirikotha had recommended that Karunanayake be prevented from exercising duties and responsibilities as the Assistant Leader pending further investigations, the UNP owed an explanation to the party as to what his duties were.

Prof. Peiris said that the UNP should explain the circumstances under which Hashim and Samarawickrema had attended Central Bank meet on Feb. 26, 2015 on the eve of first bond scam. In fact, the UNP would have had to explain its COPE members relationship of PTL owner Arjun Aloysius, son-in-law of Mahendran.

The former Rhodes Scholar asked whether Karunanayake would continue to attend party leaders’ meeting in the wake of the Sirikotha decision.

Asked whether curbs on Karunanayake would help the investigation, Prof. Peiris said that the UNP action shouldn’t be construed as such under any circumstances. Sirikotha statement was meant to pull wool over the eyes of discerning public, Prof. Peiris said. Obviously, the UNP, obviously after deliberations at the highest level had taken damage control measures at the expense of Karunanayake. The former minister said that further action couldn’t be taken against any other UNP parliamentarian without endangering Premier Wickremesinghe’s own position, Prof. Peiris said, adding that JO/SLPP would go flat out against yahapalana government in the remaining LG polls campaign period.

Prof. Peiris said that Hashim’s statement hadn’t dealt with those responsible for treasury bond scams. Instead, Karunanayake had been penalized over what had transpired in Justice Chitrasiri’s Commission leaving the scam mastermind still safe, the former minister said, adding that obviously the culpability of Sri Lanka’s biggest post-independence fraud didn’t stop at Karunanayake.

Perhaps, the UNP had consulted President Sirisena in this regard and to pave the way for a joint defence in the face of SLPP making significant progress. “Their poll campaigns are in disarray with yahapalana partners pulling in different directions much to the chagrin of their foreign sponsors,” Prof. Peiris said.

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