Will UNP stick by its long-term loyalists as wheels within wheels evident in Yahapalanaya?

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2017-08-06

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON

In his 1953 play 'The Crucible' American playwright Arthur Miller says 'there are wheels within wheels and fires within fires in this village'. This seems to be the case with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government where none seems to take the responsibility of what is happening around them or even in their very own families. From everything that took place last week, from the alleged statement issued by the government condemning North Korea testing missile to best Finance Minister in the Asia-Pacific region not knowing who paid his rent for a penthouse he was living in, it is quite evident there are wheels within wheels. 

"The Government of Sri Lanka condemns the firing of a ballistic missile of intercontinental range by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 28 July 2017, and the series of recent similar hostile acts by DPRK in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions.
DPRK's continued pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and proliferation related activity pose a significant threat to international peace and security.

In the interest of peace and security of all concerned, we urge the DPRK to refrain from such hostile acts and programmes, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, which impact adversely on the stability of the region and beyond.
The international community must unite in words and deeds to seek solutions to this grave situation which is an ever increasing threat to international peace and security" was the statement that was issued and is still available on the website of the Foreign Ministry website and soon the social media platforms went viral with memes linking President Sirisena and North Korean President Kim Jong-un.

Knew nothing

The matter was taken up for the discussion at the Cabinet meeting held on 1 August 2017, in which President Sirisena has clearly stressed the need for the matter to be inquired into as he nor the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has had any knowledge of it.
Upon further inquiry, it came to light that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karunanayake too was unaware of the matter. He informed the Cabinet that he in fact had directed the Ministry Secretary to issue such statements with the consultation of the President and Prime Minister.

On Wednesday (2) Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said neither the President nor the Prime Minister knew about the statement.

"Even Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake didn't know about this. As such, the President called for an inquiry at the Cabinet meeting," he said.

Interestingly, as Jayasekara was making this statement about the Foreign Minister being unaware, Karunanayake himself was pleading ignorance for something his wife and daughter had allegedly committed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Karunanayake, who appeared before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bond Issuance, said he did not know that the penthouse he and his family were residing in for nine months was paid for by Arjun Aloysius, who is the main suspect in controversial Treasury Bond Scam.

At the cross examination of the Judges at the Commission, the Minister said he only came to know of the payments when the issue was raised in Parliament.

He said that Aloysius had paid cash through his company as the owner of the residence did not want to lease out the penthouse to a politician.

The Minister said he didn't play any role in the transaction and that his wife and the daughter were the ones who found the house."I knew nothing," he said.

ScapeGoat?

Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake's daughter Onella has made an impassioned plea on her Facebook page asking why it was only her father was to be blamed "in such a huge Government?"

"Just ask yourself? Why only one man's name comes up all the time in such a huge government?" she asked, making a reference to her father's testimony.

Minister Karunanayake while testifying at the Bond Commission also asked the same question from the Attorney General when questioned about the undated and un-referenced letter sent under his signature.

"Why am I the only one to be blamed? There was collective responsibility," he said.

Below is Onella's full Facebook post:

"Am not at all a person who uses social media to express views or thoughts in lengthy status messages but I fell that sadly today it has come to a point where I feel I at least have to voice out my thoughts on the same platforms that my family is getting character assassinated on.
I have seen many articles circulated all around social media about my father for a very long time but for the first time I feel I need to intervene and speak out 'cause this particular time it is a malicious constant attack on his character that is orchestrated by others who aim to achieve other things trying to make my father a fall man.

I see everyone very easily re-sharing content on many pages on social media but all have only one name. My father's name. Does everyone really believe for the last couple of years everything in the government is just one man and that we have been getting hit because we deserve it or that maybe there is a pattern to this madness now?

I know that when situations arise we all want to get to the bottom of things and find someone responsible for it but are u sure that all the sites carry facts or have you ever thought that these could be well planned and paid attempts from others in politics who would need to cover up their sins by directing all negative attention to one man?

Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech but with freedom of speech also comes the responsibility to know all the true facts and figures and not only the damaging views that are paid to catch on to all.

I cannot change everyone's opinions about how you see my family but i respectfully just ask you to think before you fall prey to these well paid character assassins targeting just one man constantly.

I have learnt bitterly over the years that politics is a dirty game and some in it will stop at nothing to achieve the individual goals no matter who they hurt along the way.

So if you have actually taken time to read through this fully all I want to ask you at the end is please think. Thinking can one man do everything all the time? Can one man always be doing these things just to get negative publicity or is he actually being framed and made to be the fall man again and again?

Please all I ask you is to think before u form a one sided opinion 'cause again like I have learnt the hard ways politics is not how it appears to be. Think if u have all the facts because I know that you will be surprised if u really sit to think what's going on.

Just ask yourself? Why only one man's name comes up all the time in such a huge government?

Again everyone is free to think how they see it from the facts they have but i have now given you a small view from my family's side. So please just open your eyes and think a little because in this instance it's not any commission but the media and the public that has been the judge, jury and executioner.

Like my father said after visiting the commission that day and coming out:

"I can accept the spearing of an enemy's arrow but the pin pricking of friends is much more hurtful," she said.

One might also argue that both Karunanayake and his daughter have a point as it is clear that it cannot be only Karunanayake that was involved. On the other hand, because he was already accused in Raj Rajaratnam case (later cleared by the court) Maithri-Ranil government took steps to not put Central Bank under Karunanayake.

Pressure to resign

By end of the week a no confidence motion against Karunanayake signed by over 30 Joint Opposition members was handed over to the office of the Parliament Secretary General.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has already expressed its support to the no faith motion against Karunanayake. Also, Karunanayake's Cabinet colleagues like Dayasiri Jayasekara, S.B. Dissanayake and Dilan Perera have already expressed their willingness to support such motion. Minister Rajitha Senaratne, though in UNF and known as a Sirisena loyalist, has indirectly indicated that it is up to Karunanayake to save the face of the Yahapalana Government.

Meanwhile, President Sirisena has reportedly told Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to take a decision on Karunanayake, in what seems like an attempt to save himself from both ends.

They said the President had told the minister that if he continued to function as a Cabinet minister, it would create serious issues not only to the government but also to the minister himself and as such the President had pointed out that the best solution available to the minister is to resign from his ministerial portfolio.

President Sirisena is reported to have conveyed this to the minister during a dinner on Thursday night at Temple Trees to celebrate Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's completion of 40 years as a Member of Parliament.

While several UNP stalwarts have indicated that PM Wickremesighe should ask Karunanayake to step-down, the latter remains steadfast.

Karunanayake denying reports which said President Sirisena had asked him to resign from his post said; "the reports and the rumours that I have been asked to resign from my post are utter nonsense."

Given the hope and expectation raised in 2015 regarding the restoration of good governance and the rule of law, the failure of Minister Karunanayake to resign, and the failure of the government to ensure his resignation, will risk unfavourable comparison with its predecessors. More critically, it will erode the credibility of our public institutions and processes in the eyes of citizens, and fatally undermine broader reforms Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of Centre for Policy Alternative noted issuing a statement on Friday.

"We call upon Minister Karunanayake to take the principled step of resigning from the ministerial office forthwith, and to cooperate fully with on-going and any future investigations. We believe this is an essential prerequisite for restoring public confidence in the government's commitment to its mandate, and we reiterate that the failure to do so will seriously impede the realization of every other aspect of the government's reform agenda."

Now the time has come for Wickremesinghe-led UNP to take a decision. Karunanayake, ever since he crossed over to the UNP in 1999 remained loyal to the party and its leadership.

UNP leadership will also has to think well before taking any decision as it is quite evident that whatever the money Karunanayake received seems to have gone into the party fund as well as to election campaign of the UNP.

Those who are backing Karunanayake also find fault with the Attorney General's Department as well.

"The Attorney General (AG)'s Department which investigated the report on the phone calls of Arjun Aloysius contained in 8,600 pages in just two days to 'crucify' Minister Karunanayake in such haste, when they are struggling to verify just a signature of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the last two years in an alleged fraud involving the latter?" they argued in Karunanayake's defence.
When taking a decision, the UNP Leadership, especially Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will not be able to take lightly the fact that Karunanayake stood by his leadership through thick and thin when everyone else demanded his resignation in the name of the Party's victory. It is also not a secret that Karunanayake had plenty of opportunities to cross over on the invitation and for money to Rajapaksa's government.

To prevent another blow on Wickremesinghe's leadership and to save him from another embarrassment Karunanayake took the forefront in 2015 Presidential Election to field a common candidate against powerful Mahinda Rajapaksa.

It was him and Karu Jayasuriya who were involved in negotiations with late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera in this endeavour, and Wickremesinghe owes Karunanayake one there too.

Nevertheless, Karunanayake's fate will be decided on what agenda both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have in their mind for the 2020 Presidential Election.

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