SLFEA officials take Keheliya to Court

A Fundamental Rights petition has been filed in the Supreme Court citing Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion Keheliya Rambukwella and 21 others alleging wide scale fraud and malpractice at the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Agency (SLFEA).

The 12 petitioners, all employees of the SLFEA which comes under the purview of Minister Rambukwella say their fundamental rights have been violated by a decision taken to send them on compulsory leave and are seeking Court intervention to stay the order. They are also asking Court to look into several malpractices they allege have taken place in the Agency with the knowledge of the Minister and others cited in their petition.

The SLFEA is a company fully owned by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, which is a statutory body of the Government. The petitioners state the Minister is totally responsible for the situation which has resulted in the coffers of the institution being completely exhausted and emptied.

Some of the allegations contained in the petition include misappropriation and cheating that has taken place including printing of calendars, diaries and hoardings, election posters etc, as well as the purchase of a new building valued at Rs. 42 million at a cost of 62 million and the misuse of vehicles.

The petitioners state 17 co-ordinators all from Kandy --the Minister's constituency-- attached to the SLFEA cost approximately Rs. 570,000/- per month. These c-ordinators received salaries, fuel allowance and other benefits from the company. The petitioners state none of these co-ordinators have any function nor have they even stepped into the SLFEA in order to justify payment of salaries. The petitioners allege a Montero jeep valued at Rs 7.5 million is being used by the 19th respondent Lalith Rambukwella, the brother of the respondent Minister and the monthly fuel allowance borne by the SLFEA was in excess Rs 30,000 per month.

The petitioners claim he is the owner of a restaurant operating under the name ‘Hawaii’ and caters to the SLFEA as well as the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (8th respondent), but he does no work for the company and has no reason to be provided an official vehicle with fuel at state cost. The petitioners also state that the brother of the Minister runs another Employment Agency and is engaging in competitive business with the SLFEA in the name of ‘Sheik One Lanka Ltd’ at Maradana.

The petitioners allege a brand new double-cab was issued to a person holding the post of co-ordinating secretary to the Minister that is at all times used by a Buddhist monk who is among many other co-ordinators of the Minister, allegedly employed by the SLFEA. The fuel expenditure on this vehicle have been met by the Agency and was always in excess of Rs.30,000 per month (approximately Rs. 32,000).
The petitioners state that when the SLFEA was in financial difficulty, due to pressure from the Minister it printed 100,000 calendars with the photograph of the Minister at a cost of 1.8 million around late December 2008.

The petitioners, among several other pleas, are seeking leave to proceed with their application as well a declaration their fundamental right to equality and the equal protection of law, guaranteed by the Constitution have been violated.

They also request Court to order the Commission on Bribery or Corruption be ordered to investigate the matter referred to above and prosecute the responsible persons and grant costs to the petitioners.

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