seek justice their way
- Say party hierarchy taking no action against two ministers, found guilty by disciplinary committee
- Distribute Sinhala tabloid headlined ‘Who is he? What is he doing?’
A group within the SLFP has raised questions over reasons for the failure by the party hierarchy to punish two Western Provincial Council Ministers who were found guilty by an internal disciplinary committee unanimously nearly nine months ago over acts of human smuggling, including that of a wanted person in an attempted murder case.
The tabloid: A bust of Hector Bethmage surrounded by press clippings
The two ministers are Western Province Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Animal Production & Health, Irrigation and Tourism Hector Bethmage and Minister of Sports, Youth Affairs, Fisheries, Rural Industries, Rural Development and Rural Institutions and Housing and Construction A.D. Gamini Thilakasiri.
The disgruntled SLFPers told The Sunday Times that they had begun their fight for justice in this manner as the party hierarchy was turning a deaf ear to their plea for action against these two individuals. As a first step in this direction they have begun distributing a tabloid size newsletter in Sinhala headlined: Who is he? What is he doing? Accompanying the headline is a quarter page bust of Hector Bethmage surrounded by press clippings on this case.
Two pages inside and the back page are devoted to giving details of the charges levelled against the two ministers and the documentary evidence provided to prove those charges.
SLFP sources said the disciplinary committee concluded their findings against the two ministers on January 13 and thereafter submitted their findings to Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena for action.
In late March, Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee Minister John Seneviratne and its Secretary Champani Padmasekera both confirmed to The Sunday Times that disciplinary proceedings against the two were concluded and their report had been submitted to the party General Secretary.
Party General Secretary and Minister Maithripala Sirisena contacted in this regard on Friday said the matter had to be decided by the SLFP Central Committee. Asked when it would be put to the Central Committee, Minister Sirisena bluntly declared: “Don’t ask me about the internal affairs of the party. This has no importance to me.”
But the disgruntled elements retorted that it was strange that the same party which is ready to go hammer and tong against dissidents like former Minister Mangala Samaraweera and former Deputy Minister Sripathy Sooriarachchi is shy to take any action against those who had already been found guilty unanimously by a party disciplinary committee comprising at least three Cabinet ministers and six lawyers.
They alleged that these two “guilty” individuals were being shielded by the party hierarchy.
It is learnt that since the acts committed by the two were so serious the Committee had recommended that Mr. Bethmage be stripped of his portfolio and be suspended from the party for a period of three months and in the case of Mr. Thilakasiri he be suspended from the party for a period of six months.
Interestingly the charges with relevant documentary evidence against the two were brought forth by the present SLFP Chairman of the Kaduwela Pradeshiya Sabha G. H. Buddhadasa.
Among the charges the two Ministers were found guilty of, was that they along with their spouses accompanied K.N. Jagath Kumara, a wanted person in an attempted murder case and his wife to United Kingdom on June 5, 2006 on Kuwait Airways flight KV362. Mr. Thilakasiri had even falsely issued a letter to the Controller of Immigration and Emigration stating that Mr. Jagath Kumara is employed in his ministerial staff as a personal assistant.
Mr. Bethmage was also found guilty of helping to smuggle a number of other persons out of the country between July 22, 2004 and October 30, 2006.
The SLFP disciplinary committee, which acts as a Standing Committee of the party Central Committee comprised John Seneviratne, Prof. Vishwa Warnapala, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Prof. A.V. Suraweera, Dr Jagath Balasuriya, W. Karunajeewa, Saliya Mathew, Jerry Jayawardena, Champani Padamasekera and late Anil Obeysekera.