The Pulse

Sri Lanka’s Coalition Government Is Rotting From Within

Recent Features

The Pulse

Sri Lanka’s Coalition Government Is Rotting From Within

The foreign minister’s resignation is another reminder of broader concerns about the coalition government.

Sri Lanka’s Coalition Government Is Rotting From Within
Credit: Flickr/UN Women

In recent times, the political scandal you may not have heard about deals with the corridors of power in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Ravi Karunanayake, the island nation’s foreign minister, recently stepped down due to serious (and credible) corruption concerns.

This is a big deal and reiterates how poorly the government has performed since Maithripala Sirisena was elected president in January 2015.

Karunanayake, a member of the United National Party (UNP), previously served as finance minister from 2015 to 2017. He remains a member of parliament.

Writing for Asia Times, journalist Munza Mushtaq has a nice article about recent developments in Colombo.

Here’s part of that piece:

Plagued by allegations of corruption, foreign minister Ravi Karunanayake was forced to resign from his ministerial portfolio early this month. During an inquiry by an independent commission appointed by Sirisena, it came to light that Karunanayake had allowed a person under investigation for irregularities in treasury-bond sales to pay for his luxury penthouse in Colombo.

Here’s more from Mushtaq:

Analysts are already lamenting that the current administration is no better than the previous government under ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government was also accused of corruption, bribery and nepotism as well as human-rights violations.

Some Sri Lankan politicians, government supporters and Panglossians in the West may argue that Karunanayake’s resignation shows that the system is working and an administration that came to power championing anti-corruption and improved governance is still doing alright.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Moreover, let’s not conflate Karunanayake’s resignation with indictments or any sort of criminal prosecution. Genuine accountability for any crimes committed is still very far away. And we’ve yet to see convictions for corruption that occurred during Rajapaksa’s reign.

Tilak Marapana is now foreign minister. This, too, is alarming news. Marapana is, to put it mildly, a controversial figure who resigned from a previously held ministerial post in November 2015. He has also been implicated in scandalous behavior.

The medley of incompetence, malfeasance, political cowardice and insincerity regarding deeper reform means that we should not expect Sirisena’s administration, an uncomfortable power-sharing arrangement between the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), to turn things around.