Onella Karunanayake Has A Point

Onella WIranthi Karunanayake has asked a valid question: “Why only my father’s name comes up all the time in such a huge government?”

The ‘father’ is of course Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of External Affairs. Karunanayake’s name has ‘come up,’ to use Onella’s words because of his close friendship with Arjun Aloysius, the man at the centre of the Central Bank Bond Issue fiasco. Karunanayake is a target because

a) he was at the time the Minister of Finance,

b) Aloysius’ father-in-law, Arjuna Mahendran, was the Governor of the Central Bank, and

c) this ‘friendship’ has found expression in Aloysius pocketing out millions so the minister could enjoy residency in a luxury apartment.

In the note that Onella has posted on Facebook, she proposes (as her father has) that there is a well-orchestrated effort using ‘well paid character assassins’ targeting Karunanayake. The media and the public, she claims, are playing judge, jury and executioner. She is wondering and she encourages everyone to wonder why only her father is coming under attack. This ‘focus on Ravi K’ if you will makes her wonder (and she wants us to wonder too) if Ravi K has been handpicked as the ‘Fall Guy’ (again and again).  

It is, as she has pointed out, a ‘huge government’. Right now, the focus is on her father, she is correct. Coverage of any issue is fair game. Coverage of an issue where billions may have been made courtesy the time-tested mechanism of who’s-who is fair game. Onella may have a point when one considers the fact that even Lake House is covering the case (that’s Daily News and not all Lake House publications, by the way). Bigger issues have gone under the radar of the state media, but that’s ‘accepted practice’. Indeed, her father initially remarked that the entire process indicated that things had changed in the country. Questionable operations of dozens of ministers and officials have in the past been ignored by Lake House editors. Indeed, some issues have been virtual touch-me-nots to all media in years gone by (and we are not singling out the Rajapaksa era here).  

But why only Ravi K, she asks and that’s a valid question. Perhaps Daily News has suddenly acquired some freedom; if so, it should be celebrated and not pooh-poohed on account of that newspaper not taking all errant politicians to the cleaners. In a country where even private media institutions think twice before attacking the government, a state-owned media outfit doing ‘the unthinkable’ has to be applauded. We can only hope that this move would put all politicians on their toes and also embolden all state media institutions to act in the public interest. 

Onella, then, might appear to have a legitimate grouse. On the other hand, if one were to check out the political discussions on social media, it’s not just about her father. It is about the entirety of the ‘huge government’ she talks of. It’s about Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena and their crimes of commission and omission. It’s about the previous regime and Aloysius’ operations before Maithripala Sirisena came to power (i.e. before his father-in-law was made Governor of the Central Bank).  

More importantly, what Onella seems to have missed here is that no one is incriminating Ravi Karunanayake as much as Ravi Karunanayake himself. It is her father who moved into a plush apartment claiming all arrangements were made by his wife and children and that he had no idea who paid whom and how much was paid.  

Pandula Nayana Bandara, a prolific and witty commentator on Facebook put it this way:  

අපි රු 50 ඩේට කාඩ් එකක් ගත්තත්, “කාගෙංද මේක ගත්තෙ??…. කොහෙන්ද උඹට සල්ලි…..” කියල කෙලවරක් නැති ප්රශ්න වැලක් අහන අප්පච්චිලා අතරේ රවී කරුනානායක කියන්නෙ දෙයියෙක්…”ඩැඩී… අපි apartment එකක් ගත්ත.. පදිංචියට යමුද….”

“එල එල….”

…….

අපෙ අප්පොච්චිලට රිදෙන්න සෙයාර් කරන්න…

The story is one of interest-conflict. Ravi Karunanayake, through his response to this story (in his denials, claims of ignorance and feigning of memory-loss) has succeeded in generating a dozen other stories. If anyone is singling out Ravi Karunanayake for attack it is himself, ironically. Editors, moreover, cannot be blamed for chasing this story. Indeed, they can only be found fault with if they missed it or pussy-footed around it or distorted it altogether, as some Lake House publications have, unfortunately. Onella may have heard of the term ‘self-incrimination’. Well, that’s her father, as things stand now. He has joined the media and the public in playing judge-jury-and-executioner, she would have to conclude if she applied the suggestion of ‘open your eyes’ to herself.

All of the above notwithstanding, she may be correct about the fall-guy claim. Arjuna Mahendran was appointed by Ranil Wickremesinghe and was the Prime Minister’s friend even during his earlier stint as Premier (2001-2004) when Mahendran was Chairman, BOI.  Both the President and the Prime Minister colluded in dissolving Parliament in mid 2015 just before the then COPE released its report on the Central Bank Bond Issues raising suspicious that the move was to save Mahendran’s behind. The evidence that’s come out since clearly implicates several ministers. It is hard to think that Ranil Wickremesinghe was not in the know.  If that were the case he is clearly an incompetent leader.  

Maybe all this will come out by and by and indeed one should hope, as Onella has hoped, that the whole story will come out and all those implicated will be named and shamed. On this, I am in absolute agreement with Onella. She has a point here.  

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