A case of how a VIP tried to use his political office to browbeat an insurance company to cough out Rs 17 million on a fraudulent accident claim has come to light following a complaint made at a police dtation in Colombo.
He had claimed that his luxury state-of-the-art four-wheel drive vehicle, like the ones used by wealthy Arabs in the desert sands of West Asia, had met with a horrible accident. It had hit even telephone posts before coming to a halt and was beyond repair. The vehicle had been towed to the area police station in the suburbs of Colombo even before an insurance appraiser arrived. He had later staked his claim for Rs 17 million to buy another brand new vehicle.
While the insurance company in question was processing his claim, it also got in touch with its lawyer. He in turn sought the help of a private investigation agency to check on the claims made by the VIP. It came to light that the vehicle had been insured only two days before the accident. Thereafter, they continued the probe into other aspects.
It was to reveal more startling facts -- the accident had taken place six days before the vehicle was insured. That meant there was no insurance cover at the time of the accident. That is not all. Some of the photographs submitted after the assessor was allegedly threatened showed another wrecked luxury vehicle that was beyond identification. It came to light that the engine and chassis number of the vehicle that lay at the police station, configured in such a way that the worst accident would not obliterate the markings, was intact and not damaged. Nor was the front area of the vehicle except for sections.
There were mounting threats on the insurance company executives to make payment. At first it came from a relative of the VIP. The threats were directed at the insurance company branch in the suburbs. Later, the VIP raised issue with those at the branch office and at their headquarters in Colombo.
They were on the verge of approving payment when another eminent counsel with strong political connections was consulted. He was annoyed at the way threats had been brought on the insurance executives on a fraudulent claim and promised to pursue the matter. He said he would even raise it at the highest levels.
One day, the insurance top boss received a call from the VIP. He identified himself and poured out a verbal barrage in choice obscenity. He asked, "what happened to my claim?" The boss replied that the matter was now in the hands of the influential senior counsel and mentioned his name. "I don't care," he thundered. He went into a rage and warned that if the Rs. 17 million was not paid pronto, the consequences would be disastrous. The boss said he detested the tone in which the VIP was intimidating him. "You wait and see. My tone would be worse when something happens to you," and banged the telephone. What the VIP least realised was that the boss' lawyer was also present when the call was made.The speaker phone was switched on. They took note of the entire conversation.
Immediately thereafter, they went to a Police Station in Colombo and lodged an entry giving the fuller details. The lawyer, who also made a statement, said he was witness to the episode. That ended the drama.
If that acted as a deterrent, Police confidently say the matter will not recur again and there would be no more threats. Yet, some police officers were miffed that they too were brought under pressure to ignore procedures. "We would have been in deep trouble if we raised any issue then," said one of them familiar with the case.
Robbing Marx to gain marks
The old guard of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is now conducting a series of seminars to educate the members on the crisis within the party. This came amidst moves by an extremist group to capture power in the party.
Weeks earlier, one of the JVP cadres was sent to a picture framing shop. That was to frame a photograph of Karl Marx, the father of communism. He did frame the picture but did not bring it back to be hung at the party's headquarters in Pelawatte, Battaramulla. Instead, he took it to the extremist group.
A reference to this was made by JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, when he addressed a seminar in Anuradhapura. JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the same seminar titled Athi Maga Saha Gatha Yuthu Maga (the path available and the path to be taken) that the extremist group were "all robbers."
He said there was a cow at the JVP district office in Kalutara. "They have stolen it. They have also stolen several pigs from a JVP farm in Gampaha," Dissanayake alleged.
GL's foxy diplomacy
An inquiry into the conduct of former British Defence Minister, Liam Fox by the country's Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnel has revealed an interesting facet of Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry.
Minister G.L. Peiris obtained two different appointments with Dr. Fox during visits to Britain. They were not arranged by the Sri Lanka High Commission in Britain or the British High Commission in Sri Lanka.
Instead, he went through Dr. Fox's best man who posed off as an official Advisor, Adam Werrity, according to Sir Gus' report.
Darusman says it's a UN report
An influential Minister had re-named the report on the UN Panel of Experts on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka as the "Darusman Report."
Not that it mattered. For those who despised the report, it was dirt by another name. To others, it remains the UN Panel Report since the panel was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The issue figured at a news conference by Marzuki Darusman, the Indonesian who headed the three-member panel. This is how the New York based Inner City Press reported the matter:
"When Marzuki Darusman spoke to the Press at the UN on Thursday, his biography as read out by the UN did not include his recent work on Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked him about what the Sri Lankan government has taken to calling the "Darusman report." Darusman said, "it is a UN report, no less, no more," coming from a "Panel of Experts instituted by the Secretary General" Ban Ki-moon. "Therefore it can only be known as a UN report on Sri Lanka."
"Inner City Press asked about how the report was only belatedly transmitted to the Human Rights Council, without much of a push by Ban for enforcement. Darusman merely said "it is now being referred to the Human Rights Council in Geneva."
"Multiple sources tell Inner City Press that when Ban, his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar and others met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in September, Ban openly criticized his own UN staff in front of Rajapaksa, for failing to provide enough advance notice to the Sri Lankan Mission before the transmission to Geneva. After Darusman's press conference, Inner City Press spoke with a Sri Lankan diplomat who asked to be anonymous, referred to only a "Sri Lankan" to the effect that Darusman "has a big head" and is misstating the law by calling it a UN report.
"But if anything, Darusman has been too quiet. While Sri Lanka complains that on a previous panel in Sri Lanka Darusman was most interested in "getting paid," now Darusman has rebutted the marginalization of the report, affirming it as a "UN report." How about Ban Ki-moon?"
Bopage at accountability seminar
The British-based Global Tamil Forum and the Australian Tamil Forum held a three-day conference on what they call accountability issues in Sri Lanka.Among the participants was Lionel Bopage, a onetime JVP strongman who emigrated to Australia. Another was an MP from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Jaffna mangoes for US Congressmen
Three US Congressmen visited Sri Lanka this week. A visit to Jaffna was on their itinerary.
During their visit to the northern capital, they met Government Agent Imelda Sukumar and inquired about the famed Jaffna mangoes which are known for their succulent taste.
The Congressmen were eager to taste some before they return. The GA immediately detailed her officials to take them to Thirunelveli market in Jaffna and buy some mangoes and nelli cordial for them.
So the Congressmen came back to Colombo with several boxes of mangoes and bottles of nelli cordial.
Azwer praises Gaddafi
UPFA National List MP A.H.M. Azwer was the lone voice that spoke up in Parliament to condemn the killing of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Speaking during an adjournment debate on Friday, Mr. Azwer said the late Libyan leader was a good friend of Sri Lanka and had visited the country in 1976 to attend the Non Aligned summit.
Acting DIG sent to south, then to north
A group of Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) were appointed a few days ago to act as Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs).
They will wear the uniform of an SSP and draw the salary entitled to that office. However, they will work as acting DIGs.
One such appointment was that of SSP V. Indran. He was named acting DIG for Matara, the southernmost part of the country.
On October 17 he went to Matara and assumed duties. On the night of October 19, just one day later, he received transfer orders. This time, he was transferred to Jaffna, the northernmost part of the country.
So he paid a thousand rupees to a guest house where he stayed and shifted location pronto.
Flag falls on new mayor
Kalmunai's new mayor Mohamed Siraz was hoisting the national flag on Wednesday in front of a large gathering but unfortunately the flag came tumbling down. He was deeply embarrassed at the turn of events and instead chose to hoist a council flag.
Wishing or fishing for Ganeshan?
There was a witty exchange when President Mahinda Rajapaksa telephoned to congratulate Mano Ganeshan, leader of the Democratic People's Front, which won six seats in the elections to Combo Municipal Council.
"The Tamils of Colombo have placed you back in the seat," said Rajapaksa whilst extending his best wishes. "Sir, that is why you are calling me," replied Ganeshan.
Rajapaksa referred to speculation in opposition circles that some were trying to make Ganeshan the Mayor. Ganeshan said the Tamils have given his party a mandate to serve them. Added Rajapaksa, "Let us get together to serve them." He asked Ganesh to visit him sometime.
Politico's company goes sky high
A highly influential local official turned politician has become the boss of a company that has acquired two Bell 412 helicopters.
They are being leased out by his company for oil exploration work in the Mannar basin.
The choppers are being maintained by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).
Parippu protest by Tamils in Oslo
When two Sri Lankan ministers walked into the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo last week to meet the Norwegian Foreign Minister, a few people were seen loitering in the open area in front of the premises.
When the two ministers concluded their meeting with the Norwegian Foreign Minister and left the Foreign Ministry more than one hour later, about 18 persons were seen gathered outside holding a few placards that read "War criminals not wanted in Norway".
As all government institutions are under heavy police protection since the terror attack on July 22 in Oslo, several police officers were seen cordoning off the area in which the small group was gathered. Police officers, Foreign Ministry staffers as well as officials from delegations of several other countries such as Uganda, Uruguay, EU and India, that had official meetings scheduled in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on that day, were left wondering as to what this small group of people were up to with many of the 'protesters' neatly concealing their faces with caps and hooded garments even though it was a nice bright day.
When one of the police officers inquired from the group as to what they were doing, many had remained silent whereas the apparent 'leader' of the group was seen and heard on two mobile phones berating some would-be participants in choice words. Finally, one 'protester' had replied that they had come to protest a meeting in the Foreign Ministry.
The perplexed police officer reminded the group that there were several meetings taking place in the Foreign Ministry on that day as there had been an international conference on energy during the week, and asked the gathering which meeting they had in mind.
The protesters had replied that they were there for the Sri Lankan ministers meeting the Foreign Minister.
Well after the Sri Lanka delegation had left the Foreign Ministry premises, the number had grown to 25 with one person seen holding a crumpled and faded LTTE flag. Two of the participants who had kept their faces carefully concealed were later heard conversing with some from the community, including a few comrades who had apparently 'missed' public transport to make it in time, in very colourful Tamil vernacular to the effect: "Brother, we need some bread in a hurry"; "Why?"; "To eat the parippu we got a little while ago!"
China follows Lanka to Patton Boggs
While our paid Sri Lanka embassy staff in Washington DC remains virtually idle, the country's propaganda war continues to be in the hands of one of the most expensive public relations firms in the U.S. Patton Boggs. And last month, one of Sri Lanka's closest political allies -- China -- has gone the same route.
With the US Senate punishing China over currency manipulation, the Chinese embassy in Washington DC has apparently hired Patton Boggs to put a political spin on its trading malpractices (or so the Americans say). The fee for the lobbying services: a staggering $420,000 annually.
How the road to JVP HQ was paved
JVP leaders held a news conference at their party office at Pelawatte in Battaramulla to demand a pay increase and other benefits to the public in next month's budget.
One of the journalists questioned how the rugged gravel road leading from the main Pelawatte Road to the JVP office was now being paved. "Have you sought help from the government?" he asked.
"We got the job done by using the funds available to our MPs on the decentralized budget," replied JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva.
Uniform issue backfires
A hotel in the suburbs of Colombo felt reluctant to allow two armed policemen to enter their premises with the minister who they have been tasked to protect.
They said that the gun wielding cops would frighten the large number of tourists at the hotel. The move to ask police officers to wear uniforms came after the shooting incident involving Parliamentarian Duminda Silva MP and Presidential Advisor on trade union affairs, Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, who was killed.
The issue of wearing uniforms was raised at last week's meeting of the government Parliamentary group. Some MPs pointed out that the police officers assigned to them were given only two sets of uniforms and it was practically not possible for them to wear them for days.
Concern over CID leaks
Reports of leaks to the media have caused concerns in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Insiders say that one officer holding a gazetted rank has been transferred out and more are to follow.
Billionaire Raj will get only 17 cents an hour
Sri Lankan hedge fund head honcho Raja Rajaratnam's reduced sentencing -- 11 years behind bars instead of the 19-24 years the prosecutors demanded -- has provoked widespread criticism of Manhattan federal judge Richard Howell who presided over the case. According to published stories last week, the judge's lenient sentencing was attributed to two reasons: Rajaratnam's health and his contributions to charity.
Rajaratnam is said to be suffering from acute diabetes and is badly in need of a kidney transplant, according to his lawyers. Still, one blogger wrote: "His health woes warrant medical attention, not a massive reduction in sentence."
The judge was inundated with nearly 200 letters written in Rajaratnam's favour glorifying his philanthropy, including his contributions to the Sri Lankan tsunami relief fund and to earthquake victims in Pakistan.
In a two-page spread, the New York-based weekly 'India Abroad ' said the 54-year-old one-time billionaire would be forced to work cleaning kitchens and toilets in the federal prison -- and paid about 12-17 cents an hour.
Larry Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, was quoted as saying, "Irrespective of whether one is a white-collar employee or not, people in prisons are treated with humiliation. If you get arrogant with fellow inmates -- who might include murderers, rapists and other criminals -- they get pissed off with you and treat you like s--t."
And Rajaratnam's survival in the hardened U.S. prison system will depend largely on his humility.