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Ravi Karunanayake resigns as Foreign Minister

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake resigned from his ministerial portfolio, after delivering a lengthy statement in Parliament with regard to the allegations that have been leveled against him.

He termed the various allegations against him regarding the bond scam as “baseless” and emphasized that he has absolutely no connection with the incident in question.

However, certain media have already painted him as a criminal and “nailed him to the cross.”

Karunanayake stated that he made the decision to resign with pride and not with any sadness. He also said that he resigned in order to set a positive example to the country.

Karunanayake stated that he felt he needed to make a clarification in the wake of the various reports regarding him that have been published by the media and social media.

He said that he has lost his personal money due to politics but he has never earned money from politics. “I have no need to obtain a house illegally or wrongfully.”

He said that politicians of the UNP and other parties know that he has never used political power for his business activities. He said that even those who have signed the no-confidence motion against him know that he never used politics to earn money.

Karunanayake said that in the past even a person close to a minister let alone a minister never appeared before any commissions. “We are not like that. We respect the rule of law.”

He stated that the Attorney General’s department now has the freedom to question a minister any way they fit and that in the past they were not even allowed to open a file regarding a minister.

He urged the AG’s department to maintain the same efficiency when looking into the corruption under the former government, as they do in probing the bond issue.

He also asked the AG’s department to take such immediate action regarding the 87 cases submitted by the FCID after concluding investigations.

After concluding his statement, the Colombo District MP took a seat with the back bench MPs of the UNP.

The Ravi connection

Karunanayake’s name had initially figured into the controversial Central Bank treasury bond scam investigations when a key witness had claimed that the monthly rental of a penthouse leased out to the minister and his family was paid by Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd.

Anika Wijesuriya, a director of East - West Properties, testifying before the commission, had stated that the apartment which is owned by her was leased at a monthly rental of Rs 1.45 million to the Karunanayake family last year.

The lease agreement reportedly amounted to Rs 7.3 million while an additional Rs.1.4 million was paid by cash. She stated that the lease agreement was reached with a company to which the Rs.7.3 million was transferred by the Perpetual Capital Holdings Pvt Ltd, to be paid to her.

Wijesuriya also said that the Karunanayake family had later expressed willingness to buy the apartment and settled on a price of Rs.165 million. She said that Global Transportation and Logistics Pvt Ltd, a company in which the minister’s wife and daughter were directors, purchased the apartment in September 2016.

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate and inquire into the issuance of Treasury Bonds had issued summons on the minister to appear before the commission on July 26 in order to testify.

However, Mr Karunanayake informed the commission through his attorneys that he is unable to do so due to a busy schedule including a foreign visit and that he will only be able to appear before the commission on August 2.

Mr Brian Sinnaiah, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Global Transportation and Logistics, the company which purchased the luxury penthouse allegedly linked to minister Ravi Karunanayake, was summoned before the commission on July 29.

Karunanayake had held the post of Managing Director at the company until his resignation on January 8, 2015 while the minister’s wife and eldest daughter are currently serving in Executive Director posts in the company.

Sinnaiah stated that an individual by the name of Lakshmikanthan, who resides in England, serves as the Chairman of the company.

He also revealed that he was instructed by directors of Global Logistics to purchase the luxury penthouse in question in July 2016 as an investment of the company.

On August, the minister presented himself before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry and testified for nearly five hours, during which he was questioned regarding the luxury penthouse in Colombo.

The minister was then questioned regarding his relationship with Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd, to which he responded by saying that although he knew Mr Aloysius due to the connection between their two families it was not a close friendship or association.

The minister was also questioned based a report containing the call logs of Arjun Aloysius’ mobile phone, which is in the custody of the commission. Amongst those data, attention was drawn towards the text messages sent and received by the phone.

The Attorney General’s department pointed out that Mr Aloysius had forwarded several text messages he had received regarding certain market transactions to a contact listed on the phone as ‘RK’ on multiple occasions.

The minister stated that he does not know anything about these text messages and that he has no idea as to who the name ‘RK’ is referring to.

The AG’s department also submitted a report regarding the foreign visits made by Arjun Aloysius and Ravi Karunanayake and pointed out that the two of them have visited Singapore during the same time periods on 13 separate occasions. Mr Aloysius and the minister had traveled on the same plane on one occasion.

The commission subsequently asked the minister whether he did not know that a company headed by Mr Aloysius had paid a sum of Rs 1.45 million as monthly rent for the luxury apartment which the minister had moved into in 2016.

The minister stated that he was not aware of this at the time and that he inquired from his family members regarding this following a questioned raised in parliament by MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage in 2016.

The minister stated that he later found out that the place was rented out though another party as its owner Anika Wijesuriya did not want to rent it to a politician. However, during a testimony previously provided to the commission, Anka Wijesuriya had stated that she had no issues with directly renting it to Ravi Karunanayake.

Following the shocking revelations made at the commission of inquiry, members of the opposition as well as certain politicians in the government continued to question the long-standing ties between Karunanayaka and Aloysius.

A motion of no-confidence against the former Finance Minister signed by 32 MPs representing the Joint Opposition was handed over to the Speaker’s Office on August 03.

The opposition and even certain ministers had called for Karunanayake’s resignation to prevent any obstructions to the ongoing investigations pertaining to the bond scam while MP representing the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) had said that they would support the motion if the minister does not step down.

Minister Karunanayake was reportedly absent at the Cabinet Meeting held yesterday (9). This was after SLFP Ministers had informed the President that they will walk out from the meeting if Karunanayake does participate.

However, sources say that a meeting was held between President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake last night, during which the prevailing situation was reportedly extensively discussed and the relevant decision was taken.