The appearance of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake before the Bond Commission was the talk of the week. No one can fail to notice that there is a major difference in the way Ravi Karunanayake has been treated when compared to how Hirunika Premachandra was treated when it came to her abduction case and Galagodaatte Gnanasara thera was treated recently with regard to the multiple cases against him. Despite the fact that the men who abducted a youth from a shop had no motive to do that except for the instructions given to them by their boss, Hirunika did not have to spend even an hour in police custody. She was granted bail almost immediately. It all depends on the police and the AG’s Dept. if there are no objections to bail, the Magistrate is more often than not obliged to grant that person bail. We saw the same thing happening with regard to Gnanasara thera – he set an all time record by being granted bail three times in three different cases within minutes of one another.
Incidentally, the nexus that has built up between the yahapalana government and the Bodu Bala Sena was revealed last week once again. When Ven.Watareka Vijitha staged a one man protest in front of the presidential secretariat saying that the newly appointed SLFP organizer for Mahiyangana is also the organizer for the BBS for that area and that he has no protection, the BBS had turned up at the spot within minutes and in fact just before they turned up, the police had tried to frighten Ven Vijitha away by saying that the BBS will be there soon.
And sure enough Ven Gnanasara and Ven Magalkande Sudatta theras did turn up at the spot. How is it that the BBS can turn up within minutes of someone beginning a protest at the presidential secretariat unless there was someone in the Presidentail Secretariat to inform them? While it is true that both Hirunika and Galagodatte thera did their part in different ways to usher in this present government, Ravi K also made a major contribution to that cause.
Ravi K was one of the key persons in the UNP who paved the way for Maithripala Sirisena to contest as the common candidate by dissuading party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe from contesting the presidency in 2015 as he had planned to do. It was also through the political party owned by Ravi K – the swan party – (nobody remembers its name) that the common opposition candidates in 2010 and 2015 contested the presidential elections. Ravi K had also dipped into his own pocket to bail out the UNP when it was in opposition. Yet it is clear that he has been chosen to be the fall guy for the rest of the government to be able to save their own skins. First he was shunted out of the finance ministry and made foreign minister so that the yahapalana government could claim that they were removing unsuitable or corrupt persons from office.
Now after Ravi K gave evidence before the Bond Commission, yahapalana NGO activist Gamini Viyangoda has written an opinion piece, saying that Ravi K has treated the people of this country as poonac eating fools by saying that he was unaware that the rent for the flat he was living in was paid by Arjun Aloysius. Viyangoda has more or less said that Ravi K should bow out of the scene. To be sure, most of what Ravi K said in his defence does not sound convincing even to the most sympathetic listener, but then it’s not as if this was a sensitive and thin-skinned government that is outraged by Ravi K’s lack of convincing answers. This is a government that has postponed the local government elections for more than two years and is openly making preparations to postpone the provincial council elections that are coming due in the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern provinces with scant regard for public opinion.
So how is it that they seem to be concerned about public opinion only when it comes to the bond scam and Ravi K’s statement? Ravi K has now been brought to a position where his entire political career hangs in the balance by the very government he did so much to bring into power. Ravi K was much better off under the Rajapaksa regime. The question here is whether what happened to him can happen unless it was sanctioned at the highest levels of the government – the same levels that decided that he should be removed from the position of finance minister? It was not only Ravi K who was implicated in the bond scam through the examination of Arjun Aloysius’s phone records, but someone called the ‘Hon. PM’. It’s not difficult to imagine the identity of this Hon. PM. It should be borne in mind that however sensational the revelations that have been coming out of the bond commission, it’s not a court of law and once the commission concludes its sittings and submits its report to the President, the latter will have a useful tool to keep the entire UNP in check.
The next presidential election has to take place between 9 November and 9 December 2019. Time is running out fast. If the UNP becomes too independent, President Sirisena will cease to be a political factor by 2019. The UNP did show signs of becoming independent as for instance in the draft interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly which was released last May which (for the first time in the formal Constitution making process) said that the executive presidential system would be abolished. If this independence was to continue President Sirisena would be teetering on the brink of irrelevance. His position would have become more precarious by the day as the last quarter of 2019 approaches. The Bond Commission is in that respect, an ideal tool to enslave the UNP and to keep it under his thumb up to and beyond 2019 as well.
When this Bond Commission was formed, Sirisena knew what he was doing. Arjuna Mahendran was in on many of the things that took place in the yahapalana conspiracy at the end of 2014. The whole country saw a procession of politicians going to Singapore and then coming back to declare their support for the common candidate. Mahendran is one of those who knew of all these goings on. At least some of these meetings would have taken place in his presence. Yet he was the first to lose his job under the yahapalana government with the SLFP segment of the government literally leading the campaign against him. Even the joint opposition had no role to play given the ferocity of the SLFP government group’s attack on Mahendran. Now this has been extended to Ravi K with even the ‘Hon. PM’ getting drawn in.
According to the rumours floating around, many other UNP ministers and deputy ministers are also implicated directly or indirectly in the bond scam which makes it the ideal tool to keep the UNP on a leash. Once the Bond Commission submits its report, Sirisena will have the entire UNP by its ding dongs. Sirisena needs to keep the UNP tied to the present governing arrangement. Unless the UNP nominates Sirisena as their presidential candidate in 2019 as well, he will be nowhere. The problem however is that even if the UNP nominates him, the UNP rank and file will not vote for an outsider again, and there will be a significant drop in the voter turnout. That however appears to be the least of Sirisena’s worries. His immediate problem is ensuring that the UNP does not go its separate way at any election between now and the time he decides to leave politics.
For its part, the public scandal created by the bond scam has made it difficult for the UNP to field a candidate of its own at the next Presidential election, which makes Sirisena secure in his present position as the leader of the yahapalana coalition. The fact that the bond commission appears to have been given a free hand is due to several factors, the first being of course the inherent independence of the commissioners who are known to be independent individuals who will not put up with political interference. The second is that the AG’s Dept. appears to have been given a free hand in this case unlike in other cases. The third is the President’s own personal interest in allowing things to take its own course without interference so that he will have a yoke to restrain the UNP with.