Ravi Karunanayake

Finance Minister Ravi Karunayake contends the country is moving forward while dogs can only bark as a set of ‘double-gamers’ are earmarked for dismissal

Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake in an interview with the Rivira Sunday edition opens out over the speculated Cabinet reshuffle, changes in the posts within the United National Party (UNP) and the state of political affairs of the nation.

Q There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle. Is there any truth in this?

A: This story is being asked for nearly a year now. There is a group that suffers from jealousy. On the other side, there is a group that doesn’t work. There is also the side of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa which causes problems for President Maithripala Sirisena. So these people keep spinning new tales on a daily basis. Just because these dogs bark, we don’t pay heed to them. We are continuing with our work. We didn’t form this government to engage in false and idle chatter. We formed it to work for the people of the country.

Q: What I am asking is whether a Cabinet reshuffle is going to take place or not?

A: There is no need for such a Cabinet reshuffle. Even if it happens, it will be with regard to a couple of Ministries where no work is being done.

Q: What are these Ministries where no work is being done?

A: It is not good for me to air it publicly. The President and the Prime Minister will take appropriate action at the appropriate time.

Q: Do you fall into the group that works or in the one that doesn’t work? A: That I cannot say. It is not proper for me to boast about me. The people of this country know whether I am working or not.

Q: Do you think that you are doing your job properly?

A: This is evident now. Even though the world economy is crumbling, we are still saved. This doesn’t happen automatically. What a big bomb it was that Rajapaksa left us? They are now amazed when they see how we are taking this forward. One thing however has to be said. That is, even though we are a new government, those inside are still the old officers. In the Central Bank too there are two or three officials attempting to sabotage the bank. Before pointing fingers at Ministers, it is necessary to punish these officials. Governments change. However, these officials don’t change. They are the biggest problem. In the Central Bank, the thefts that took place from the level of former Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal are now coming out. Today, Assistant Governor and the Secretary to the Monetary Board, H.A. Karunaratne is talking about how the matter related to the Greek bonds took place.

Q: However, the bonds scam, which caused this issue, takes place during the time of your government  

A: Today, people are talking about it. Investigations are being conducted. Back then, did any of what Cabraal did, come out? None of us are attempting to cover up the wrong that was committed. However, we will not allow the lie to become the truth either.

Q: MP Bandula Gunawardena has stated that the Minister of Finance must take the responsibility for the breakdown of the country’s economy.  

A: Gunawardena is a person on whom it is not worthy to waste even two or three words. Back then in Parliament, he jumped up and down and shouted that my name was not Ravi Karunanayake but Ravi Karunanayagam. In Parliament, he shouted at the top of his voice that if he couldn’t prove this, he would resign from his Parliamentary status. What happened in the end? He became a fool. On the other hand, this is the person who gave tuition about how a family could eat for a month with just Rs 2500. This is the same chap who went before the Commission investigating the bonds scam and apologized. So, why should we talk about people like this? I feel sad for the children who took tuition from this buffoon. Just because one keeps turning around a set of words, economic problems don’t get solved.

Q: There is much talk about the move to sell the Hambantota port to China. What is your analysis of this?

A: In reality, the Hambantota port was built at the whims and fancies of Rajapaksa. They spent Rs 196 billion on its construction. The debt instalment is Rs 11 billion. This is paid for by the Colombo port. Therefore, in order to take this forward, one has to find a way to earn an income from it. If we can’t get India involved in this, we have to get the support of Japan or China or South Korea. If we can bring them or one of them on board and find a way to pay the debt instalment there is no wiser thing that can be done? Yet, there are certain limitations imposed in this regard on the President and the Prime Minister. As leaders of the country, there are things that they must protect and safeguard. It is subject to all these conditions that this deal is taking place. When we try to defuse the bomb Rajapaksa put into our hands, they go mad. They thought that this would blow up in our hands.

The other thing involves the Mattala airport. There is no end to the loss caused to the country as a result of their song and dance in Hambantota.

Q: But in the past couple of days, it has been reported that under the re-export programme taking place in the Hambantota port, it has started making a profit.

A: What Montessori kid is saying thus? This is something that has entirely been done for a political agenda. Today, where is the Chairman who was behind the construction of this port? Back then, the Central Bank bragged. They said that all the ships travelling near Sri Lanka will come to the said port. Where are they? Did at least one such vessel come? Who are these people protecting? In actuality, it is this fraud that must be revealed.

Q: In an unprecedented fashion, the value of the US dollar has increased. Doesn’t this impact the country’s economy crucially?  

A: It is like this. We have problems. Exports have come down. The Gross Domestic Product has come down from 20% to 10%. At the same time, the loans borrowed, must be repaid. These are not loans that we took. Yet it is we who are saddled with the bad luck of having to settle them. There was a company called Templeton that the previous government brought down. They themselves then sent them back. In reality, one must be happy that we are taking this forward even in this manner. There is a certain measure of trust and faith that has built up in the people with regard to how the President and the Prime Minister are working. That is why in reality this situation is balanced.

Q: Even though you say so, politicians in the Opposition say that the divisions within the government are strong and therefore this government will not continue for long.

A: This is a very good question. On January 8, Maithripala Sirisena, MP Duminda Dissanayake and six or seven others came and sat down together with the UNP and we decided to form a new alliance. We will send out a group of thieves. We have chosen Sirisena as our President and we will go on this journey. At the time the government was being formed, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he was forming a joint government with Sirisena. Good people have come to this joint government. They include those like Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mahinda Samarasinghe. Another group comes to destroy this. At night they are with Rajapaksa. At noontime, they are with Sirisena. It is this gang of thieves that is trying to destroy our unity. Now, they are saying that the entire economy is being run by the UNP. Today along with the President and the Prime Minister we are going on a good journey. This is the best example we gave to the world.

Rajapaksa cannot sleep until he breaks this unity. It is to achieve this that they are shouting here and there that the government has fallen. This is a government with a two-thirds majority. This cannot be easily toppled.

Q: We hear that there are going to be special changes in the posts of the UNP. Can we talk about this?

A: What we tried to do then, is now bearing fruit. From back then, I have been for the Party and its leadership. Others are those who were cutting necks. In reality, we didn’t get what we should have. We will get them at the appropriate time. Yet, we didn’t ask for posts. Some are crying and asking for posts. When they are being cradled, they cry. However, when the cry baby is placed on the floor, it cannot even walk. It is people like that who are jumping up now. There are people with the ability. The people are observing as to who can work. It is only with purity that one can go on this journey.

Q: It is being said that several deputy leader posts will be created.

A: I don’t think that such a laughable situation will arise. Let us see what happens on April 5.

(Source: The Nation – By Chandana Kariyawasam)