The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has started a probe on how a Sri Lanka Consul General’s office in Los Angeles received Government funds running into millions of rupees when it was not staffed for more than two years. The probe comes on a directive from Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera to FCID Chief Senior DIG [...]


Millions wasted on Lanka’s ghost consulate in LA


The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has started a probe on how a Sri Lanka Consul General’s office in Los Angeles received Government funds running into millions of rupees when it was not staffed for more than two years. The probe comes on a directive from Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera to FCID Chief Senior DIG Ravi Waidyalankara. This follows a written complaint to the Police Chief from Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Earlier, speaking on the votes of the Foreign Ministry during the Committee Stage of the budget, Mr. Samaraweera alleged that the office in question had been used by the son of the former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa strongly denied the accusation. However, the Foreign Minister’s written complaint makes no mention of the former Defence Secretary’s son.

FCID detectives have questioned several senior officials in the Foreign Ministry. Foreign Secretary Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, FCID sources said, had in a statement stated that a Sri Lanka Consul General’s Office had functioned from 2012 to 2015. He has said that a house was taken on lease as the residence of the Consul General in 2013 at a monthly rental of US$ 8300. He has said that two Army soldiers, who had earlier served in the Presidential Guard, had been posted to the residence and their emoluments paid in foreign exchange.

Mr. Weerakoon has added that he is now Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs having served a stint in 2011 as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States. He has said that Dr. Hector Weerasinghe had served as Sri Lanka Consul General. When he ended his tenure, Malraj de Silva, a former Army officer, it was claimed, succeeded him. However, it was his understanding that Mr. de Silva had not accepted the appointment, Mr Weerakoon has pointed out.

Aparekha Liyanagamage Ratnapala, Director of Overseas Administration at the Foreign Ministry, had told detectives in a statement that the working of Consulate offices came within his purview. It was on a written request by the then Consul General Weerasinghe for an official residence that permission was granted to obtain a house on lease. In July 2013, Dr. Weerasinghe had finished his duties. From that period until March 11, 2016 the rent for the residence, telephone charges, gas bills, satellite television bills, water bills and other expenses had been met by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when G. L. Peiris was Minister.

He has said that Malraj de Silva had not officially accepted an appointment. There was documentation to confirm this, he has said. Kaludeva Aravinda Priyadarshi de Silva, the Chief Auditor, has also made a statement. In addition, Galhenage Arunakeerthi Senaratne, Chief Internal Auditor in the Foreign Ministry, has confirmed that so far Rs. 23 million has been paid for the upkeep of the Consul General’s office in Los Angeles. A further US$ 10 million has been placed as a deposit together with Rs. 6 million.

FCID detectives said they may obtain the help of US investigative agencies to question those linked to transactions in Los Angeles. What an utter waste of foreign exchange by the then Foreign Ministry!

Model National School in Polonnaruwa
A new National School with “multi-ethnic and trilingual education” is to be located in the Polonnaruwa District, the Cabinet of Ministers has decided.
It will be constructed with development assistance from the Government of India.

Lankan student leader backs Merkel’s full face veil ban
A New York Times story on Angela Merkel calling for a ban on full face veils mentions Jenovan Krishnan, a member of the Christian Democratic Union federal executive. The 25-year-old Mr. Krishnan is of Sri Lankan descent and National Chairman of the Ring of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS), a group with 8,000 members in several universities. He said he and his associates wanted an explicit ban on face veils.

Mr. Krishnan, based in Nuremberg, Bavaria is a German student of political science and politicians. With him, the RCDS has for the first time a leader with a migration background. His parents are Tamil Catholics from Sri Lanka.

SLAF to buy six training aircraft from China

A PT 6 trainer aircraft

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) has concluded a deal with China’s NORINCO to buy six PT6 primary trainer aircraft at a cost of more than US$ 5 million.
This aircraft is a single-engine, tandem seat propeller trainer capable of performing primary flight training. PT-6 has been widely used by China’s Air Force and countries such as the United States, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The deal for the procurement has been entered into between Lanka Logistics Ltd and China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).The new aircraft have been necessitated by the expiry of service of at least five PT-6 aircraft with the SLAF. The need for replacement was approved as far back as July 2015 by the National Security Council.

The SLAF is also venturing out to other areas. Its commercial arm, Helitours, will be the Government shareholder in a proposed venture with the private sector to operate a domestic airline. The Cabinet of Ministers has already granted approval for this project for which Request for Proposals (RFP) is to be called from the private sector.

An SLAF request for six to eight multi-role combat aircraft to replace an aging fleet is on hold in view of financial constraints faced by the Government.

Lanka’s cricket team selected in parliamentary premises
The Sri Lanka cricket team and some of the country’s top cricketing legends are known to be record breakers and trend setters in world cricket. But what comes around of late in form of news on cricket is not so welcome. The latest of them is quite disturbing.

Usually the selection of the national cricket team is done by a duly appointed National Selection Committee. The procedure is that once the selection is made, the list is sent to the Miniser of Sports for ratification.

For the first time in Sri Lanka’s cricket history, probably in world cricket too, the Sri Lanka team was picked inside the building where the country’s legislative decisions are made — Parliament. The members of the selection committee were summoned to the Parliament premises by Deputy Speaker, who also happens to be the President of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Funnily, or surprisingly, the selection process was presided by the Deputy Speaker, perhaps, being used to handle Parliamentary sessions in the premises.
Even before the team for the South Africa tour was selected, rumours roamed around that political influence has given one or two blue eyed boys the passage to travel to Africa. The episode raises a serious question- where is cricket heading to?

Extension to Presidential Secretariat
The Cabinet of Ministers has approved a Rs. 63 million project to provide additional building facilities for the Presidential Secretariat.
The move followed a recommendation made by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Work connected with the project will be carried out by the Sri Lanka Navy.
At present some of the Presidential Secretariat offices are located outside the Secretariat.

Official defies MP’s threat, won’t sign document
Not only those in the country’s administrative service but even Government ‘loyalists’ appointed to key official positions appear to be wary to put their signatures to what they believe are suspect contracts.

This is due to the fear that one day they could be hauled up for questioning, something President Sirisena himself recently said was a good thing that has happened to the public service.

One political appointee this week refused to sign a letter that would have allowed parliamentarians to use vehicles hired at a cost of Rs. 700,000 a month. He said that the duration of such vehicle issue covered five years when the remaining tenure of the Government was much less.
An MP warned the new bureaucrat that he would have to go home if he cannot carry out duties. He was not impressed by the MPs’ threat. He is staying put.

Hambantota Port project signed, but Ports Authority stays away
Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga on Tuesday declared that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) would not be a signatory to any agreement connected with the Hambantota Port development project.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who briefed ministers on the outcome of negotiations with China on the matter said it could then be signed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, the Secretary to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance.

Ministers then gave approval for the project that is due to yield 1.2 billion US dollars, according to the proposal. The contours of the Framework Agreement were further studied after the ministerial meeting in consultation with the Attorney General. It was later signed on Thursday.

Galle Harbour to become marina for pleasure yachts

The Government is to convert the Galle Harbour into a marina — a specially designed harbour with moorings for pleasure yachts and small boats.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Matters (CCEM) chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Relevant officials have been told to formulate plans on how to establish the marina. The proposals will thereafter go before the Cabinet of Ministers.

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