Top priority by Bribery Com. to Waters Edge deal

By Asif Fuard

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption will give 'top priority' to the Waters Edge land deal, its Director Neville Guruge said this week after handing over a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court this week following a Court directive to pursue the matter further.

Mr. Guruge told The Sunday Times that it is planned to gather evidence relating to the case before questioning former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and others who have been found by the Supreme Court to be guilty of abuse of power and engaging in an illegal land deal.

Chandrika Kumaratunga

“We have given priority for this case and I have appointed a special team to probe into the deal”, Mr. Guruge said. The Bribery and Corruption Commission has so far recorded statements from two people in connection with the deal but has not yet made any immediate moves to question the former President who recently returned to the country. She has been fined Rs. 3 million by the Supreme Court for her role in the Waters Edge deal.

The Commission on Wednesday tendered to the Supreme Court a confidential report on the impugned transactions alienating land in Narahenpita for the purported golf course project. Senior State Counsel Nerin Pulle submitting the report before the Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices Ms Shiranee Tilakawardane and P.A.Ratnayake told Court that all the documents in respect of the said transaction were taken into custody by the Bribery and Corruption Commission and that the process of recording the statement has commenced.

Senior State Counsel also submitted the valuation report prepared by the Chief Valuer P.W. Senaratne of the building of the Waters Edge club house estimating the value at Rs. 6 billion.

The Supreme Court had already ordered the Chairman of the Bribery and Corruption Commission to file report on what action has been taken in respect of the findings of the court against the respondents.
Hearing a petition by some of those who have purchased free-hold land of parts of the property confiscated by the Supreme Court, asking for compensation, the Court advised them to seek such monies from the compensation Asia Pacifc Golf Company, which had a lease on the property, would get for the construction of the club house.

A group of former owners of the property which was later acquired by the State for a 'public purpose' have requested the Court to permit them to engage in cultivation in the areas that have not been demarcated by the Court for flood retention purposes.

These motions were taken up last Wednesday following a fundamental rights petition filed against former President Kumaratunga on the alleged corrupt lease of State lands for the construction of a private and exclusive golf club in which exercise a close family friend of her's, Mr. Ronnie Peiris, who is resident in the United Kingdom was shown to have financially profited from this land deal during her tenure of office. The Supreme Court had determined and meted punishment for private actors who make use of Government corruption to procure special benefits for themselves, and by doing so deprive the citizenry of their fundamental right to equality.

Justice Ms Shiranee Tilakawardane with Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva and Justice P.A.Ratnayake agreeing with her judgment had directed Mr. Ronnie Peiris to pay Rs 2 million and Messrs. Shantha Elroy Godwin Wijesinghe, Siva Selvaratnam and Ms. S.Gressel Selvaratnam each to pay Rs. one million to the State by a deposit no later than January 31, 2009.

Court has also directed the Director General Commissioner of the Bribery and Corruption Commission to conduct an immediate inquiry of the entire transaction with particular scrutiny on the action of former President Kumaratunga, the Urban Development Authority, the Asia Pacific Golf Course Ltd., Ronnie Peiris, the Board of Investment, Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Golf Course Ltd., Shantha Wijesinghe, Siva Selvaratnam and Gressel Selvaratnam.

In accordance with the findings on the alienation of the land in Narahenpita to Lifestyle Health Services (Pvt) Ltd., the court had ordered a full investigation by the Bribery and Corruption Commission into the particulars of that transaction .

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