This is an interview given to the Rivira Media Corporation by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake on the matters pertaining to the Cabinet reshuffle, the future plans of the Foreign Ministry and the vesting of the National Lotteries Board and the Development Lotteries Board under the Foreign Ministry.
Q : What is your Ministerial portfolio – Finance or Foreign Affairs?
This is a decision taken by the President and the Prime Minister. This decision might have been influenced by my ability to manage successfully the affairs of the Finance Ministry previously. They think that I would contribute the same success to the Foreign Affairs Ministry too.
We took many positive steps to increase the Government revenue from 10% to 16% so that we could reduce the tax burden on the masses. We took steps to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) between Nine to 10% from the 15% which we imposed reluctantly.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry like the Finance Ministry faces many challenges. We dedicate our full effort to take advantage of the full support of the foreign countries to uplift our economy.
Q : Did you ask for the two Lotteries Boards or were they offered to your Ministry?
That question is immaterial. It depends on the capability of the person who holds the portfolio. Some Ministers who hold a few Ministries have messed up their work and some Ministers who hold many Ministries work excellently. The best policy is to entrust duties to capable persons.
Under my purview the Finance Ministry worked in a very transparent manner and eliminated corruption totally. Some were irked by the elimination of corruption because they lost their illicit earnings. They are the worst enemies of the country.
Only a single person is very vociferous against the Lotteries Boards being vested in my Ministry. A friend of this person provided services to the Lotteries Boards without any tender bidding for 10 to 15 long years. We conducted the affairs of the Lotteries Boards in a clean and honest manner which went against their wishes.
Now all the profit of the Lotteries Boards is transferred to the Mahapola, the President’s Fund and the development of the country instead of to one single person’s pocket.
When the Lotteries Boards were started during the regime of former President J.R. Jayewardene it was under him. Next it was under late Minister Lalith Athulathmudali’s Defence Ministry. Thereafter it was under the Science and Technology Ministry. Why do they raise such a fuss when it comes under my Ministry?
The President and the Prime Minister have confidence in me that I may manage the affairs of the Lotteries Boards with the same enthusiasm like Athulathmudali, the latter who was my guru. My efforts have been recognized internationally.
Q : According to the National Lotteries Board Act and the Development Lotteries Board Act, only the Finance Minister can issue directives to the Boards. Is it correct?
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka, according to its Act, should be under the Finance Ministry but now it is under the Prime Minister. What is wrong with it?
Q : Though you were voted as the best Finance Minister in South Asia in the recent Cabinet reshuffle you were removed from the same portfolio. Can you explain why it was done?
As a very senior Member of the United National Party I will not mention names. However, at the appropriate time I will reveal all about who did it and what was the theft. All this is because we did not allow them to steal here and because they were not allowed to dance according to their tune. Some do not like that clean governance was done through the Ministry of Finance, and also that the President and the Government were safeguarded. Even though I do not name names, those who know, know.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)