Ravi K. should be jailed! – Bandula Gunawardena

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By 2017-08-10

WITH RAVI LADDUWAHETTY

Colombo District Joint Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena said yesterday that Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake should be arrested and jailed for the crimes he committed during his tenure as Finance Minister.

Gunawardena, who was also Minister of Rural Economy and Deputy Minister of Finance during the abridged United National Front Government of 2001-2004, said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the entire Government was embarrassed by the actions of Karunanayake and former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran whom he trusted and appointed. Even in the Buddhist scriptures, the Maha Mangala Sutra says associate the wise and not the foolish and worship those worthy of worship (Asevanacha Balanan, Pandithanancha Sevana, Poojacha Poojaneeyanan, Ethan Mangala Muttamang).

Here, he is in conversation with Ceylon Today.

? What are your thoughts on the current political impasse with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake being pressurized to resign in the wake of the findings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Central Bank Bond Scam?

A: This is a very serious issue. If he does not resign, he should be arrested and jailed! He should be jailed for a large number of reasons. One thing is that he has been a party to some of the biggest frauds, which happened in the annals of independent Sri Lanka while he held the portfolio of Finance. Then, secondly, there have been sweeping allegations against him that the Joint Opposition has this announced with proof both within Parliament and outside. Thirdly, the JO has lodged series corruption charges against him in the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). Those circumstances are bad enough and merit his arrest.

? What are the other charges and allegations against him that the JO has levelled?

A: He has also violated the Money Laundering Prevention Act No. 5 of 2006. In addition, he has violated the Financial Transactions Reporting Act No. 6 of 2006. Under the Gazette Notification 1951/13 of 27 January 2015, it has been revealed that there have been a large number of business transactions that he has been involved in that he has not been able to declare. In another case of conflict of interest, there was a Court case being heard in relation to another money laundering case at the time he was being sworn in as Finance Minister. The presiding Judge went on retirement, but she has ruled that there could be an appeal made.

There is also incriminating evidence that there has been a close relationship between Karunanayake and the chief suspect in the Central Bank Bond Scam, Arjun Aloysius where the immediate loss of the Bond Scam to the Central Bank and the country was well over Rs 10 billion. He should also be faulted for the complete breakdown of the economy, and where he has violated Finance Act No. 11 of 1963 in relation to the Finance Minister's role in the operation and the management of Lotteries as well, bringing it under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has done all this while fraudulently giving duty concessions for motor cars which have been unravelled by the Special Presidential Commission, according to the findings of the Customs.

Then, for 2015, 2016 and the half of 2017, all key economic indicators such as revenue, debt servicing, savings, balance of payments, prices, investments and others, have all gone awry and backwards. The running of the government has been according to the whims and fancies of the then Finance Minister. The Annual Report of the Ministry of Finance on page 364 says that according to the Fiscal Management Responsibility Act, the government debt should not exceed 80% of GDP. This also has been flouted in all three years.

The report said that the total debt was Rs 9,864,512 million which is 83% of the GDP. This is the report of the Auditor General as stated in the Ministry Annual Report.

So, after committing all these crimes, if he is not arrested and jailed he will be exerting pressures on all those who give evidence against him.

The funniest part of the story is there have been far less crimes committed by JO party leaders like Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila and they were jailed. It is now Karunanayake's turn. The entire nation is awaiting justice.

? So, are you saying that just because he resigns, does that mean that he would be absolved from all the crimes he committed?

A: We just have no problem with whatever office he holds within the UNP, whether he is the Assistant Leader or the Deputy Leader or the Leader himself or whatever. It will be the voters who will be giving their verdict at the elections.

But the irony is that he and the others in the UNP accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who salvaged this nation from the most ruthless guerrilla group in the world, of being a rogue! They said that he should be arrested as he was the one who ruined this country beyond redemption. That is not all. He and the other members of the UNP alleged that the entire Cabinet, the business community, all government officials and Customs Officers were corrupt.

They said that they were the virtuous regime which was to bring in good governance after ousting the previous regime. These have been reported and oriented in the Hansards as well. Sri Lanka could have added to its political history a minister who was standing naked in a glass house and throwing stones.

It would have been to his honour, the UNP's honour and the country's honour if he managed the country's Balance Sheet and not his personal Balance Sheet and without seeking personal favours while misusing the powers of officialdom. He should have taken an example from former Finance Ministers J.R. Jayewardene, U.B. Wanninayake and Dr. N.M. Perera. In sharp contrast, Ravi Karunanayake was appointed Finance Minister while his Court case was being examined on his alleged foreign exchange frauds.

It is up to him to resign and clear his name after all the impartial inquiries are cleared.

Then, if he comes unscathed, we will hold a special celebration in Parliament for him. We are not prepared to accept him as a clean individual until he clears his name.

? So, in your opinion, what is the estimated loss to the economy from his transactions from the Bond Scam downwards?

A: It is also tragic that no one has done a real estimate in real terms of the economic losses following the two-year tenure of Ravi Karunanayake as Finance Minister.

No one has estimated the opportunity costs of the Bond Scam. No one knows the impact on the interest rates or the direct impact on the foreign direct investments.

There were a large number of foreign investors who invested in the Government Securities who pulled out their investments due to the lack of confidence in the government. There was the massive devaluation of the Rupee due to the loss of confidence in the country and the Rupee fell from Rs 131 to the Dollar to Rs 155.

The National Debt has also increased by billions due to this. I believe that the total opportunity cost of this would be Rs 1 trillion or Rs 1,000 billion! This is an amount that could have been drawn to the Tax Department as revenue if all the goods were taxed.

? The Prime Minister brought the Central Bank under his purview to ensure better management. He trusted Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran as they knew each other from their youth.

A:Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the entire government were embarrassed by the actions of Karunanayake, Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran whom he trusted and appointed. Even in the Buddhist scriptures, the Maha Mangala Sutra says associate the wise and not the foolish and worship those worthy of worship (Asevanacha Balanan, Pandithanancha Sevana, Poojacha Poojaneeyanan, Ethan Mangala Muttamang).

He brought Mahendran who was a Singaporean citizen and who could not even be a Sri Lankan citizen, to Sri Lanka and appointed him as Central Bank Governor. It was he who also recommended to President Sirisena to appoint Karunanayake as Finance Minister. It was he who appointed a three-member Sirikotha Committee of Lawyers to probe the Bond Scam.

All I have to tell the Prime Minister is that however, good you are, this is what happens to you, when you associate with bad people. I wish you to recall the media having a field day when I said that a family could eat and live for a month on Rs 2,500.

Even the cartoonists attacked me right through.

Here is an instance where the country has seen the largest daylight robbery in contemporary history but nobody is uttering a whimper on this matter!

When this Rs 2,500 story broke and when they nicknamed me as Rs 2,500, I then said that if they prove that I have robbed even a Rupee and fed my children, I will go to Galle Face, cut my belly and die! Then there was pin drop silence! Now, it is up to Ravi Karunanayake to prove that he could be exonerated of all charges.

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