Winston de Valliere
Ask any man on the street, in a big corporate office, or as I did, ask the guy who prepares tea for the staff to share his thoughts on the current miasmic mess that the government is thrashing around in and you find that there’s an amazing unanimity of opinion. It boils down to a simple statement of fact, to wit, that the continuing deplorable CB Bond Crisis that has done in Ravi Karunanayake is yet to begin exposing the real dirt in that scandal. Victim number one was CB Governor Arjuna Mahendran. Yesterday saw victim number 2, Ravi Karunanayake. More will follow.
All are of the opinion that protestations against this fact made by the ex-Finance and latterly Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake are no more than face-saving protestations. One pertinent question they all ask is this: Why resign? To pre-empt what? A collapse of the Government? That’s not even remotely relevant. To pre-empt an internecine split in the UNP-SLFP merger? What was the Government afraid of? Why were there virtual confirmed reports that the President, PM, UNP and SLFP government mounting pressure on Karunanayake to quit, if as he protests, he is guilty of nothing?
Looked at from an abstract angle, one must admit that one fails to see the rationale in an innocent man quitting for the claimed altruistic objective of not harming the Party or the Government. But then, one must ask, how cannot quitting harm the Party or Government?
The Opposition and civil society elements can only go so far as there is a tangible element of evidence tantamount to proof of guilt. They can do nothing beyond making a big noise. The minister has in resigning claimed that the luxury flat at Rs 1.5 million a month, was rented out to a company owned by Arjun Aloysius who happens to be a school-days friend of his daughter as well as of Nahil Wijesuriya’s daughter, who was the owner of the flat.
That’s about it? But how come he earlier said he knew nothing about the renting or subsequent purchase? And for what earthly reason must his daughter’s friend and his daughter’s friend’s friend go before the PCoI to make a statement about the renting and sale of that flat? One could leave a margin for a juvenile lack of knowledge of official etiquette and common law had a greenhorn teenager not known the implications of having the remotest, even unconnected though inherent link to Arjun Aloysius in such a deal very especially at a time when the man was embroiled in the muck raked in the process of the CB Bonds scam probe.
But in this instance we are dealing with a man of the world, a learned and knowledgeable man, a man holding very high State office. To claim he was unaware of and indeed must not have such remotely linked family dealings with a man who is the chief accused in a scam has not gone down too well with even the ordinary man on the street who has at least a modicum of intelligence.
Such stances can only be insulting to the entire PCoI and the AG’s Department as well as to all the top men at the Central Bank who can smell a virtual rat a mile away. To submit an explanation is one thing. To expect intelligent beings to swallow face-saving inanities is an insult to the collective intelligence of many. The crux of this issue is not that the ex-minister is guilty of any crime but that family deals, as he claims, have shown him to be not averse to even a non-direct obligation to Arjun Aloysius.
The Commission will ask questions such as the impropriety of going along with deals with a major suspect in a massive fraud. For let it not be forgotten that SMS transcripts from Aloysius’s phone very strongly suggest both Aloysius and his secretary having exchanges about CB Monetary Board minutes and requests to elicit such information from ‘Hon RK’. This might suggest, if nothing else will, that his daughter’s friend and his daughter’s friend’s friend, namely Arjun Aloysius is also his friend, else, how come he is advised to talk to him to get minutes of the CB Board Meeting. Following that line of logic we can only come to one conclusion: Aloysius can only get that information from his father-in-law Arjuna Mahendran, the then Governor of the Central Bank who did not seek an extension in office after the Bond scam was exposed.
“Arjuna Mahendran is directly responsible in the 2015 – 2016 Bond transactions, and therefore, legal action must be taken against him and the other officials who were involved in the transaction and steps must be taken to recover the loss from him,” the report by COPE Chairman Sunil Handunneththi said.
Always a man to stick by his friends, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe said nothing against Mahendran at that time or after. He has extended that same loyalty to Ravi Karunanayake, who as RK says, has given of his all to the leader and the Party for the past 30 years.
That counts for much in politics! And in non-political friendships too it seems: Admirable but for the peculiar circumstances in which such loyalties abound.
At the end of the day we have a top Cabinet minister in charge of the nation’s economy no less, a Central Bank Governor, his son-in-law, his friend the owner of a flat rented out to a company owned by him, that flat occupied by this minister who has been apparently asked to get CB Board minutes from the CB Governor by his effective generous landlord who lets him occupy a Rs1.5 million a month flat, free and gratis!
You be the Judge. The Jury might never be out on this one if I know anything about dirty politics!