Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake who had been under pressure by both the UNP and the SLFP to quit following corruption allegations, resigned Thursday afternoon avoiding a No Confident Motion against him submitted by the Joint Opposition Group for his alleged involvement in the 2015 Central Bank bond scam that had allegedly cost the country billions.
Prior to resigning the senior UNPer made a Special Statement in parliament and said he was taking his decision in the interest of his party (United National Party) and the government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister RanilWickremesinghe.
Karunanayake declared that he was resigning ‘with pride and not with any sadness’ and that he was quitting to ‘set a positive example to the country.’
Maintaining that he was innocent of corruption he stated that he has lost his personal money due to politics but that he had never earned money from politics. “I have no need to obtain a houseillegally or wrongfully,” he said.
The No-Confidence Motion submitted by 32 members of the Joint Opposition backing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had maintained that Karunanayake had no right to represent Sri Lanka as its Foreign Minister in the context of the scam and sought his resignation. Karunanayake’s resignation came in the backdrop of Parliament Speaker KaruJayasuriya sending the motion to the Attorney General for a legal opinion and President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister RanilWickremesinghe persuading Karunanayake resign, before facing the No Confidence Motion. Both UNPers and the SLFPers had stated that they would vote for the No Trust Motion for the sake of protecting the image of the coalition government.
If there had been a vote, Rajapaksa would have gained and called for thegovernment’s resignation. Karunanayake had told the Presidential Commission probing the bond scam that he was not aware that his wife, Mela, had leased, and then bought, a posh penthouse for LKR 165 million with money advanced by Arjun Aloysius of the stock brokering firm Perpetual Treasuries, the central figure in the scam. Aloysius is the son-in-law of the former Governor of the Central Bank who was appointed in 2015 by this government.
Karunanayake was Finance Minister from 2015 to 2017 when the stock market came under his ministry. Facing a Presidential Commission Karunanayake last week agreed that there was a conflict of interest if he had taken the money from Aloysius but maintained that he was unaware that his wife had accepted the money.