By Saman Indrajith
Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake resigned from his post after making a special statement in Parliament yesterday and left his front row seat to become a backbencher.
“The media and some Opposition politicians demand that I be crucified over being probed by a presidential commission of inquiry. I decided to resign to set an example in keeping with the good governance policy we introduced and I do so without regret. I am proud to sacrifice my position. I do so for my party and people whom I always considered above me and my personal gains.”
Karunanayake said: “Allegations have been made against me during the recent past in media and social media. There has been a debate over this issue and some members raised it here in Parliament as well. A no-confidence motion, too, has been submitted against me. Therefore, I need to make an explanation to this House. I have given evidence with regard to this before the Treasury Bond Commission. I have a house in Battaramulla and it was under repair. I needed to find a new place. I do not have an official residence. My family members, too, were looking for a suitable place. They told me that there was a house available at Monarch Residencies and it belonged to Nahil Wijesuriya’s daughter, who is a friend of my daughter. We moved to that house. Nahil Wijesuriya’s daughter did not want to rent the house to a politician. Therefore, my daughter proposed to rent the house to a company belonging to Arjuna Aloysius, who is a school friend of both my daughter and Nahil Wijesuriya’s daughter. The house was rented to that company and later my daughter reimbursed it. As the owner of the house decided to sell it, our family thought of purchasing it. We obtained a loan from the Seylan Bank for that purpose. I tabled the documents pertaining to the loan facility No Seylan Bank REF No WTL/CRD/2016-1535, 29 September 2016.
I joined politics after working with former Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, who, too, was accused wrongly by his opponents. He was described as a person who swallowed ships. I was a successful businessman before I joined politics. During my career I never earned anything through illegal means. I only lost my money because of politics. I never earned anything from politics.
I have no need to acquire a house through illegal means. Many MPs in this House know that I have a house at Battaramulla. Not only those on our side but also those in the opposition have visited that house. They came there to have political discussions, as friends, to eat and drink and enjoy and sometimes to crossover to this side.
All those who came there know of my assets. They also know that I have never earned through illegal means. They also know that I never made use of my political power to earn money. Many of those who signed the no-confidence motion against me, too, are aware of this fact.
Have you ever heard of an occasion when any other minister was summoned before a commission. We know how the politicians of the previous regime behaved, intoxicated with power. The presidents used to act like kings. They always bypassed the law. They are still trying to do so.
We are not like that. We respect the law and respect the law. I gave evidence before the Presidential Commission.
The commission was appointed to investigate treasury bonds. But now the talks is about a private companies and rented houses.
Commissioners had to intervene and warn the Additional Solicitor General who questioned me. I believe that the commissioners will find the truth at the end of their deliberations.
I would not talk of the conduct or lack of professionalism on the part of the ASG here. We soon will know why the ASG behaved in such an aggressive manner at the commission. He may have been motivated by the desire to obtain a promotion or there may have been some other reason.
Today, the Attorney General’s Department has the freedom to question a minister. We had a time when the AG’s Department was afraid of questioning ministers. They were afraid of even opening a file connected to the ministers of that government.
The AG’s Department can review a document of 8,803 pages within 48 hours. It is good sign! We hope the AG’s Department would show the same efficiency when it investigates the loans obtained by the governments and the bills the Yahapalana government brings in for the benefit of the country and in cases against the ministers of the previous government. We hope the department will show the same efficiency with regard to the 87 files submitted to the department by the Financial Crimes Investigations Division against the members of the former government.
I have worked tirelessly 32 years for my party. I have been with the party during the times of hardships. I faced numerous challenges on behalf of the party. I received death threats. There were cases against me. There was one case of foreign exchange and it was heard for 10 years to harass me. Finally, the court set me free of all charges. In that case, Raj Rajaratnam, too, had been accused. Indrajith Coomaraswamy, who worked for Rajaratnam, is the Governor of the Central Bank, today. I tell these matters to show how those in the Opposition harassed us and took political revenge. They took political revenge then and are now engaged in character assassination.
My family members, too, were subjected to harassment. They once sent a skull to my paralysed mother. They also sent human body parts to my wife and children. But, I worked for the benefit of our party members. I prevented the split in the party. I worked to defeat conspiracies against party leadership. I always protected my party and party leadership.
I will always protect the party, its members and its leadership. I have put the party before self.
We worked for the regime change in 2015. We joined forces with all progressive forces to effect that change. We brought forward a common candidate. It was I who gave the Swan symbol to the common candidate. I did all those for the sake of this country.
I used the ministerial portfolio to serve people. To give justice to our party supporters who had been suffering for more than 20 years. All members of this House know that my phone is open 24 hours. I did not make use of my position for personal gain.
The portfolios, positions and posts are temporary. What will last is only the work we do and our honesty. This is hard fact so many would not realise it. They think that power and posts would be there forever. They always dream of remaining in power and regaining it after losing it. They will do anything for that purpose. They will not give a damn for this country if they can take power.
But, we changed all these with the January 08 revolution.
There is no basis for any allegations raised against me. But, some groups and media have found me guilty already. The media in this country acted in an unprecedented manner during the last 10-12 days. It is their position that I should be crucified. I will not be afraid of these. Jesus Christ was accused wrongly. The Buddha was accused wrongly.
According to the Ashta Loka Dharma (Eight Worldly Conditions) anyone would have to face challenges and situations similar to this. I have the strength of character to face these challenges. I have observed that there is a conspiracy to destabilise the yahapalana regime making use of the allegations against me. I feel that there is a plot to disrupt the work launched by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for restoring democracy. Those who were rejected by the people, engaged in various frauds and corruption, committed crimes are there in this conspiracy against the government. Their wish is to regain power in order to get away from the crimes they committed.
We will not let those power hungry elements to attack the UNP. We will not let these power hungry elements to dismantle the yahapalana government. We cannot let them make use of allegations against me to attack my party, my government and our work for democracy. Therefore, I decided to resign from my post setting an example.
The history will decide my place.
Many of the previous leaders of my party were wrongly accused in the same manner. Sir John Kotelawala, Dudley Senanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, R Premadadsa and JR Jayewardene were all accused wrongly in this manner. But, later all those allegations against them turned out to be false.
The Holy Quran has said that the truth cannot be suppressed for long and those who try to do so will be defeated.
That is why I say that history is the best judge.
Thirukkural, the Tamil poem, instructs us to follow the path of the righteous and to do the right thing always.
My wish is to do the right thing always and to serve the people honestly. Come what may I will continue to serve my people, my party and my country. I will always stand for truth. I will continue with my struggle to eliminate crime and corruption from my country. I will remain dedicated to the causes of January 08 revolution.
I did not take the decision to resign with regret. I am proud to set this example.
I sacrifice my position for the honour of this august assembly. I sacrifice my post for the benefit of our party and all those who love this party. I sacrifice this post for the benefit of all those people in my electorate. I sacrifice this post for the benefit of the new political culture we introduced. I sacrifice this post for the democracy of this country. I sacrifice this post for the continuance of our government. therefore I am proud of my decision.
I have to mention here the mental pressure underwent by my wife and children. Some sections of the media try to assassinate the characters of my wife and my daughters. They have become subject of false accusations. They are undergoing so much pressure. But, their support and love to me too have helped me to make this decision. I love my wife Mela, my daughters Onella, Shenella and Minnella for that strength. I love you always.
There is one stanza in Dhammapada that comes to mind at this point. It says: If one wrongs a person who should not be wronged, one who is pure and is free from moral defilement, the evil falls back upon that fool, like fine dust thrown against the wind.
There is another stanza which says: As a mountain of rock is unshaken by wind, so also, the wise are unperturbed by blame or by praise.
Because of those reasons today I am a proud person to make this decision for my party and my country.