Koloppan in White House, kulappu in penthouse

Aug 6 2017 - It is indeed a giant step for mankind. Both the print and electronic media in many countries carried the startling and happy news last week about a major breakthrough in scientific research that would have huge ramifications. A joint team of scientists from the US and South Korea has discovered how to eliminate deadly heart disease running in families by editing a piece of faulty DNA.

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake at the centre of a financial scandal.

The average person would know little of the actual extent of its usefulness. But most, if not all, would wish science is able to alter the embryos of politicians and turn them into decent, clean and honest human beings instead of the abject crapness of today’s ruling class, so experienced in artifice and deceit, that has been foisted on the people in the name of democracy.

This discovery would doubtless provoke endless discussions with talking heads debating the morality of tampering with genes and whether man’s genetic engineering interferes with the natural order.

All this scientific mumbo-jumbo is way above the heads of ordinary folk like us. Whether this would lead to an imbalance in the nature’s scheme of things, important as it would be, is not our main concern right now.

What is regrettable is that these scientific discoveries did not come much earlier. It is claimed this breakthrough has the potential to prevent some 10,000 diseases that are passed down from one generation to the next.

Normal folk would earnestly hope that one of the diseases that could be cured is the politics of denigration, division, disruption and corruption that is the bane of many countries and has brought a lunatic fringe on to centre-stage.

If so a high priority in the application of such research must surely be to drastically alter the value system of politicians worldwide so that their faulty DNA could be replaced by one that instills justice and a sense of morality that appears sadly lacking these days.

We would then be governed by those with an ethical code which has no place for cheats, liars, abusers of power, back stabbers, front stabbers, the corrupt, the narcisstic and crafty whose desire for self-aggrandizement supersedes all else.

The new DNA or whatever the scientific terminology for it, should be such as to compel law makers and other politicians to eschew these vulgar and deleterious habits.

Let them awaken each morning with thoughts of adherence to Buddhism’s five precepts including musawadha and the Christian ten commandments which says “Thou shall not lie”. No doubt other religions practiced in Sri Lanka have their own precepts to remind politicians of clean, upright living.

Such scientific advancements that could eliminate the noxious DNA and inject a new morality would have been immensely valuable not only to the Trump presidency but Sri Lanka’s own leaders who preach political cleanliness but sadly need more than a single dry clean.

Naturally the Trump presidency has in its first six months attracted worldwide attention because of the pivotal role of the United States in world affairs and the power and influence wielded by the US president.

If the Trump presidency and the chaos and caterwauling in the White House seemed like a part of Shakespeare’s comic universe, Sri Lanka’s politics has appeared like the tragic happenings in Julius Caesar with our current foreign minister saying “et tu Brute” as the pin-pricks as he calls them, of his colleagues and friends begin to hurt.

Take the Trump administration. Major figures, some of them inducted into the White House by the new incumbent himself or appointed by him to key positions outside the West Wing have hardly had time to unpack their bags and test their comfortable seats before being shown the door. The last one to exit – at the time of this writing that is – was Anthony Scaramucci, the new Director of Communications who survived for 10 days.

As the Bard said “they have their exits and their entrances”.

That unfortunately has been the trouble with Trump politics. In his own crazy, bigoted, brash and incompetent way Trump has not hesitated to get rid of officials who were friends for what he perceived as gross incompetence or unacceptable disloyalty. Our politicians try desperately to provide cover and succour to the corrupt and crooked.

Late last week events took a turn for the worse for Trump as Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the US presidential election empanelled a grand jury that would subpoena witnesses and documents.

This could bring the investigators to look towards Trump and his associates’ possible financial connections and relationships with Russia. Trump had earlier warned that any such probe by Mueller into his finances would be to cross a “red line” in the investigations.

While all this koloppan over Russian collusion and Trump’s finances embroiled the White House, in Sri Lanka all the kulappu in political circles was over a Colombo Penthouse occupied by then finance minister and now foreign minister Ravi Karunanayake and who paid the substantial monthly rent of some Rs 1.4 million for it before the apartment was purchased by the Karunanayake family for some Rs 165 million.

Well not exactly the family because the master of the house- well not exactly house either but never mind – did not know anything about the lease and perhaps the purchase too and who has paid for such luxury and how.

Well that is what Ravi Karunanayake said. Now if you believe what he said and why not after all he was doing so under oath, one might well wonder how the country trusted him with the nation’s finances when he showed such nonchalance about the financial dealings that led to the lease and later purchase of the very apartment he is living in.

Apparently it was only when the name of Arjun Aloysius came up in parliament in mid-2016 that the finance minister sought to inquire from his dear spouse what all this was about or words to that effect, as he told the Commission of Inquiry.

This is only a sub plot – but a very important sub plot – in the wider drama of the treasury bond scandal that is increasingly choking the Yahapalanaya “Unity Government” since mid-2015.
Despite the strenuous efforts of a major constituent of the Yahapalanaya government to throttle the scandal at birth all attempts to put the genii back in the bottle has only proved more disastrous to those who have long wished to bury it.

One would have thought that having lived in his new abode for nearly one and a half years he would at least asked his wife in casual conversation whose apartment he was living in, how she came to negotiate it, how she was paying for it and how much.

Oh no. Mr. Karunanayake is not the inquisitive type. He does not go digging into domestic affairs and ask awkward questions from his wife. He minds his own business, as it were which was looking after the country’s finance at the time. It is probably because of his lack of interest in domestic affairs including that of his own household that prompted President Sirisena to entrust him with the portfolio of foreign affairs.

Unlike Mr. Karunanayake’s disinterestedness in domestic matters – he probably does not know where his wife keeps the family silver – the Attorney General’s Department counsel have been probing into his travel habits especially his visits to Singapore. Such probity is not deserving of the man who was chosen as Asia’s best finance minister. Some might be inclined to say this does not speak much for London’s “The Banker” magazine that paid him this honour.

It was perhaps natural for the “Best Finance Minister of Asia 2017” to travel about in Asia – as elsewhere – at least for those in this vast continent who do not know him to come to recognise Asia’s best.

So if he went to Singapore 13 times between certain dates what does it matter. After all such a man of stature should be seen even if he is not heard or heard of elsewhere. It was revealed that Karunanayake and Aloysius were once on the same flight. If it was on Sri Lankan Airlines it was probably to keep the national carrier afloat seeing that some of his schoolmates running it needed a helping hand just as Karunanayake needs now from his FRCS types.

So what if he had known Aloysius long before this fiasco which is beginning to look like the morass Trump has stepped into, though it might not be of the same proportions.

Surely Aloysius did not have to go up to RK/Ravi K/ or simply K and say to him “The name is Bond, Aloysius Bond”. After all they knew each other and probably spent Christmas in Singapore if not together at least at the same time.

And what is all this about a not-so-crispy letter that had no date, reference number or the name of the recipient? What does the learned counsel expect, a letter resembling a limp papadam?
What worries me is Karunanayake’s forgetfulness. He forgot to date that letter and to give it a reference which state communications normally carry. Why he did not address it to the Governor of the Central Bank who apparently requested it. He simply wrote “To whom it may concern”.

Now that is sheer forgetfulness. He seems prone to amnesia which is not a good sign now that he is dealing with international matter. Seriously he should consult a doctor before he forgets. But then our chaps are so often on strike that he might have to consult a stethoscope-wearer in Singapore on one of his numerous visits to the city state or during a transit. Why, he might even run into Trump. It would do their tormented souls a lot of good to compare notes on their respective woes. Trump calls his a “witch hunt”. Wonder whether Karunanayake thinks the same of his troubles. Maybe he knows who the witches are. Or has he forgotten that too?

In Sri Lanka our leadership that appoints cronies and old school chums into positions of importance and power will defend them to the last despite their public display of arrogance, of dubious practices, abuse of power and waste of public resources.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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