By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said in parliament that the resignation of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake signified a new political culture and he was proud of having ushered it in.
Addressing parliament soon after the resignation of Karunanayake, the Prime Minister said: The Assistant Leader of my party told me that he needed to resign from the ministerial portfolio. I told him to take that decision after discussing it with the President. He met the President on Wednesday. Later he went to meet the President with me and Minister Rajitha Senaratne and handed over his resignation. Some were demanding his resignation this morning, too, but he had already submitted his resignation.
Ravi Karunanayake’s resignation also indicates that the government will not interfere with the probe by the Presidential Commission on treasury bonds. There is no similar example in the political history. This is an unprecedented instance. The incumbent government has realised its good governance goals. We are introducing a new political culture. If anyone in the UNP is accused of stealing we would remove him or her. We will not harbour thieves.
At this point opposition MPs shouted against the PM.
Speaker Jayasuriya: This is an august assembly. Let the Prime Minister speak.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: I did not accuse anyone of anything. I just explained the party’s position on thieves. Then why only section there (pointing towards the Joint Opposition members) has got upset and reacted? (Pointing towards the JVP and TNA) No one over there was disturbed by what I said. The reaction indicates where the thieves are. You have sil-redi thieves there. You have drug dealers there. There are tsunami thieves, carom board thieves, cement thieves. That is why they got upset. You could not investigate any theft for 10 years. You killed Lasantha Wickramatunge, you abducted and killed Ekneligoda.
Some opposition MPs shouted that the one who was responsible for Lasantha Wickramatunga and Ekneligoda killings was just sitting behind the Prime Minister pointing towards Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Fonseka shouted back but what he said was not audible.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: Minister Karunanayke did not go before the Supreme Court to obtain stay order to avoid the commission. He went before the commission, made his statement, came here and resigned to take a seat back there. We saw what happened to Priyasath Dep under the previous government. While Dep was acting independently he was transferred to the Supreme Court to prevent him becoming the Attorney General. But, Dep was lucky and became Chief justice.
Today, media has freedom. I remember there was a time when media called us traitors. They even called for my resignation. Today, everyone is called a thief. We are called thieves. The person who writes that we are thieves is also a thief. Today, media has freedom to write anything. When I read papers in the morning, I was happy to see media exercising their freedom. I am proud to see the change.