ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Sripathi arrested, remanded till Tuesday

By Asif Fuard

In a dramatic turn of events, the sacked headline-hitting minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi was yesterday arrested by police, produced in court and remanded till Tuesday, on charges relating to the misuse of a state vehicle.

Mr. Sooriyarachchi who has accused President Rajapaksa’s camp of entering into a secret deal with the LTTE before and after the November 2005 presidential election, was produced in court on charges he failed to return a Land Rover given to him in 2004 when he was Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs.

Former minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi handing over his ring to his colleague Mangala Samaraweera’s coordinating secretary Ruwan Ferdinands, before going to the remand prison yesterday. Pic by J. Weerasekera

The drama began yesterday morning when CID detectives summoned Mr. Sooriayarachci to the CID headquarters in Fort and questioned him for about five hours before placing him under arrest.

Before proceeding to the CID office, Mr. Sooriyarachchi told The Sunday Times that the allegations against him were not true. He said the Land Rover had been returned on March 3, this year.

Mr. Sooriyarachchi was produced before Colombo’s Additional Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya, who directed that the former minister be produced before the Kaduwela magistrate on Tuesday and that till then he be remanded in the prison’s hospital for security reasons. But Mr. Sooriyarachchi said he preferred to go to the remand prison.

Mr. Sooriyarachchi, who played a key role in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign was sacked on February 9, along with another minister Mangala Samaraweera after they allegedly made several statements against the government.

Besides the allegations of a secret deal with the LTTE, the two sacked ministers dropped another bombshell on Wednesday when they made a complaint to the Commission probing bribery or corruption, citing allegations of a huge fraud in the recent purchase of MiG 27 fighter jets from Ukraine.

They handed over a Sinhala translation of The Sunday Times front page report of December 3, 2006.

Following that move, Mr. Samaraweera and Mr. Sooriyarachchi were removed from their posts as SLFP organizers in their respective electorates.

On Friday Mr. Sooriayarachchi was directed to appear before the Kaduwela Magistrate courts after the CID filed a report about the non-return of state vehicle. Kaduwela Additional Magistrate Lakmal Wickramasuriya ordered the CID to record a statement in open courts, but after Mr. Sooriyaarachchi’s lawyers said that he could make the statement at the CID, permission was granted to make the statement at the CID Headquarters.

The CID is also probing any possible links between the former minister and the LTTE.“He (Mr. Sooriyarachchi) was questioned regarding a vehicle, but other aspects also are being probed” CID chief D.W. Prathapasinghe told The Sunday Times.

Earlier this week, the CID arrested Lt Commander Rohana Gamage from Anuradhapura. He was earlier serving as the Deputy Director of the Youth Corps in the Ministry of Skills Development, of which Mr. Sooriyarachchi was the minister.

CID detectives said they had obtained ‘vital documents’ from Lt. Commander Gamage.

Lt. Commander Gamage’s wife claimed that her husband had no links with the LTTE, but the pictures and documents the authorities had collected from her husband were documents he would naturally possess as a navy intelligence officer.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.