The alleged Bond scam claimed its first high profile victim yesterday with Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake announcing his reluctant resignation at a tense Parliamentary session.
In an emotion-charged speech in Parliament watched by many live ontelevision, Karunanayake said “history will decide my place in Sri Lanka’s political landscape” before he left his front row seat to join Parliament’s backbenchers.
Karunanayake walked in to the Chamber flanked by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera around 1:27 p.m. and occupied his seat before rising to his feet to make a statement on personal privilege.
By then the Twitter sphere had filled with the news that he was to speak at 1:30 p.m. and crowds had gathered around televisions in many parts of the country.
“Media personnel and some Opposition politicians demand that I be crucified over the issue being probed by a Presidential Commission of inquiry on the Treasury Bond incident. I decided to resign to set an example of 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.
He added that “allegations have been made against me during the recent past in mainline and social media. There has been a debate over this issue and some members raised it here in Parliament too. A ‘no confidence’ motion too had been submitted against me. Therefore I need to make an explanation to this House.”
He pointed out that he had 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 also 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 the owner to rent the house to a company belonging to Arjun Aloysius who is a school friend of both my daughter and Nahil Wijesuriya’s daughter. The house was rented out in the name of that company. Later on, my daughter settled the amount to that company.”
He also said that as the owner of the house decided to sell it our family purchased it through a line of credit from the Seylan Bank.”
Karunanayake recalled his early days in the UNP and pointed out that he “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 from politics.”
“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 a Minister had been summoned before a Commission?” he asked. “We know how Ministers of the former regime conduct themselves, swollen-headed with power. The presidents used to act like kings. They always by passed the law. They are still trying to do so.”
“We are not like that. We respect the law and bow our heads before justice. I made manifest this new political culture by giving evidence before the Presidential Commission.
“Today, the Attorney General’s Department has the freedom of grilling a Minister. There was a time during which the Department of the Attorney General was afraid of questioning Ministers. They were afraid to even open a file connected to the Ministers of that government.”
The AG’s Department could review a document of 8,803 pages in 48 hours. It is a good sign. We hope the AG’s Department would show the same efficiency in investigating loans obtained by previous Governments, the bills brought in by the Yahapalana government for the benefit of the country as well as cases against the Ministers of the previous government. We hope the Department would show the same efficiency with regard to the 87 files submitted to the Department by the Financial Crimes Investigations Divisions against the members of the former government.
“I have worked tirelessly for 32 years for my Party. I have been with it during 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.”
“I was not the only one being harassed, but my family members too were subject to much harassment. They once sent a skull to my paralyzed mother. They sent parts of bodies to my wife and children.”
I always protected my Party and Party leadership.
We worked for the regime change in 2015. We joined with all progressive forces to effect regime change. We brought forward a common candidate. It was I who gave the swan symbol for the common candidate at the presidential election. I did all those for the future of this country.
“Portfolios, positions and posts are temporary. What would last is only the work we did and our honesty. This is a hard fact that so many would not realize. They think that power and posts would be there forever. They always dream of remaining in power and to regain it even after losing it.”
But we changed all these with the 8 January revolution.
There is no basis for any allegation raised against me. I have no link to any of these allegations. But some groups and media have made me guilty already. The media in this country acted in an unprecedented manner during the last 10-12 days. It is their opinion that I should be guided to the cross and be crucified there.
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 and committed other crimes are there in this conspiracy against the Government. Their wish is to regain power in order to escape from punishment for the crimes they committed.
We will not let these power hungry elements attack the UNP. We will not let these power hungry elements 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 to set an example.
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.
Karunanayake also decried the social media attacks against his wife and daughter. “I have to mention here the mental pressures undergone by my wife and children. Some sections of the media try to assassinate my wife’s and daughter’s character. They have become subjects of false accusations.”