ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former minister of finance minister Ravi Karunanayake who fell from grace after being implicated in the bond scam, is likely to be brought back to the cabinet, official source said.
Unless there is a last minute change of heart, Karunanayake, 55, is tipped as the new minister of tourism under the minor reshuffle on Tuesday, the sources said.
President Maithripala Sirisena is expected to take over the Buddhist affairs ministry.
Karunanayake was forced to resign in August last year after the presidential inquiry into the central bank bond scam was told that the rent for his super luxury apartment at Monarch had been paid by a bond dealer who is now in remand custody.
His finance portfolio was removed in May 2017 and he was shifted to the Foreign ministry where he served for less than three months before being forced to step down.
However, Karunanayake has fought back and managed to retain his position within the United National Party (UNP) despite his successor at the foreign ministry, Tilak Marapana, recommending that he be stripped of his party responsibilities.
Marapana, himself was forced to resign from his law and order portfolio in November 2015 after a controversy over his links to a company that is still under investigation for gun running and money laundering. After a 21 month rehabilitation, Marapana was brought back to the cabinet in August 2017 to take the foreign ministry job of Karunanayake who stepped down.
If Karunanayake’s re-induction to the cabinet takes places on Tuesday as scheduled, it would be a demonstration of the UNP asserting its authority after successfully defeating the attempt to topple Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier in April.
It has emerged that a key figure behind the April 4 no-confidence motion (NCM) against Wickremesinghe was President Sirisena. The President who came to power in January 2015 with Wickremesinghe’s support has now turned against him.
Both men are hopeful of contesting the 2019 presidential election and hence the bad blood between them.
After losing the NCM, Sirisena suffered a further split in his faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party with 16 MPs distancing themselves from the president.
Despite Wickremesinghe refusing to publicly engage in a show down with the President, the UNP rank and file have been mounting pressure on their leadership to take Sirisena head on.
A newly published Sinhala newspaper, the Anidda (the day after tomorrow) said Sirisena’s daughter Chaturika had obtained a liquor licence although he had vetoed a proposal by the Finance Minister to lift a ban on women selling alcohol.
Sirisena had maintained that it was against Sri Lankan culture to allow women to buy or sell liquor and wanted the archaic law kept in statute books despite minister Mangala Samaraweera arguing that the discriminatory law should go.
Sirisena taking the Buddhist Affairs ministry will be ironic given the first family’s interests in selling liquor. (COLOMBO, April 30, 2018)