President Asked Me To Quit Says Tilak Karunaratne
For the first time since announcing his resignation as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tilak Karunaratne has named the person who pressurised him to resign.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Leader Karunaratne said he was ‘pressured’ by the Minister of Finance, which portfolio is held by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to resign from his post. He said Rajapaksa though not having spoken with him directly, got the message across to him. “I got the message through those quarters who are very close to him as well as guys whom I also know quite well,” Karunaratne said.
It was the President who persuaded Karunaratne to take the job after he had declined offers from the President on three earlier occasions. Karunaratne is a long time personal friend of President Rajapaksa. “I thought about it – discussed with my wife and family and decided this is a challenge… and then I said yes to the President,” Karunaratne said.
“I thought that between the two of us we would be able to clean up the bourse and get rid of this mafia. That is what I thought,” he said.
He however refused to name on the record those whom he believes are part of a ‘Mafia’ that has, according to Karunaratne, been consistently engaged in Insider Dealings, Market Manipulation, Front Running and various other violations of SEC Regulations.
Dilith Jayaweera, an advertiser turned high value investor in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) through his investment vehicle Divasa Equity, addressing a press conference last week, denied that he had any involvement in the resignation of Tilak Karunaratne.
Jayaweera was one among a dozen or so names speculated to be a member of the so called ‘Stock Market Mafia’ who Karunaratne told this newspaper call themselves high net worth investors.
It is this group, Karunaratne told The Sunday Leader, that was responsible for influencing the President to push for Karunaratne’s resignation.
Karunaratne, a highly respected businessman and one time politician is the second head of the SEC to be forced to resign within nine months. His crime is that he was taking steps to clean up the share market of manipulators and speeding up investigations into various market manipulations by members of the ‘Mafia’.
Indrani Sugathadasa, a highly respected public servant with an unblemished record of integrity, was forced to resign as head of the SEC on December 1, 2011. The same ‘Mafia’ was held responsible for forcing her resignation as well.