With a No Confidence Motion in parliament hanging like the Sword of Damocles over him, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunannayake on Wednesday met President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to discuss the widespread demand for his resignation for alleged involvement in the 2015 Central Bank bond scam.
Details of the discussion between the trio were not available, but Karunanayake had skipped the cabinet meeting held prior to the meeting. He also cancelled his scheduled visit to Nepal to attend the BIMSTEC ministerial meeting on Thursday.
On Tuesday, parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that he had sent the opposition’s No Trust Motion against Karunanayake to the Attorney General to see if it is legally valid, especially since a Presidential Commission is inquiring into the bond scam.
He said he would let the House know of his decision on the No Confidence Motion on Thursday.
In political circles, it is understood that in the guise of consulting the Attorney General, government is giving time to Karunanayake to quit on his own instead of being voted out through a No Confidence Motion.
There is a widespread demand for the ouster of Karunanayake. The Prime Minister himself said on Tuesday that there is no opposition to the No Confidence Motion from any party, thus hinting that he is for it.
President Sirisena had told his party men that if the Prime Minister fails to take action against Karunanayake, he would do, using his executive powers.
Parties which are aligned with the government do not want the opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take the credit for ousting Karunanayake. They would like to shed Karunanayake without going through an opposition sponsored No Confidence Motion.
As one of the government’s allies said: “The opposition led by Rajapaksa is not interested in ridding the country of corruption. They are themselves corrupt . They are using the Karunanayake issue only to divide the parties in the ruling coalition. If a substantial chunk of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Part vote for the motion, these parties will be seen by the public as being divided and weak. That is why we want Karunanayake to resign before the No Confidence Motion is moved.”
But Karunanayke has been refusing to resign and has described repots of the President and Prime Minister asking him to resign as “rubbish”.
His alleged involvement in the Central Bank bond scam came to light when he was being examined by the Presidential Commission on the scam. He was Finance Minister when the scam took place though the Central Bank itself came directly under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe.
Where Karunanayake got caught was when he denied knowledge of his wife’s leasing and then buying a penthouse in Colombo with LKR 165 million given by the central figure in the bond scam, stock broker Arjun Aloysius.
His denial went viral in the media to the government’s great embarrassment.