MiG deal: Slain editor’s name misused for political ends

16 April 2018 - 167   - 0

The talk in the Mess Hall of a service arm early this week was about the 2006 MiG-27 deal. One senior officer sipping a local gin and tonic asked a colleague nursing a keg of beer, “What is the latest in the investigation?”

He responded by asking “which investigation, one by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) or the one by Health Minister and official Government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne?”

What’s the difference asked the questioner. The other replied; “according to the FCID investigation lasting some three years, it has found that the agreement for the deal signed in Colombo and Moscow in July 2006 was fraudulent.” He said just weeks earlier, FCID took possession of certified copies of the correct agreement. They were not known until then.

However, according to Minister Senaratne, the real agreements have been in circulation even in 2009. He claimed this was why journalist Lasantha Wickremetunga was killed. He had planned to publish them.

Mr. Wickremetunga would be turning in his grave to know that his name is being used for political ends. This is notwithstanding a string of ‘B’ reports the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has filed in courts about the alleged murder. None of them speaks of the motive being the MiG-27 procurements or of him being in possession of any agreements.

That is not all. According to Minister Senaratne, the procurement agreements for MiG-27s have been signed by the two Defence Ministers, one from Sri Lanka and the other from Ukraine. If he is correct, it would have been then President Mahinda Rajapaksa who signed for Sri Lanka as he was the Minister of Defence.
In reality, there was no purchase directly from Ukraine of any MiG 27s. It has now transpired during the FCID inquiry that the purchase was made from Ukraine by Bellimissa Holdings Ltd., a British Virgin Islands registered offshore company and sold to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF). A director of this company had also been a key player of D.S. Alliance, a Singapore registered company which supplied MiG 27 aircraft on two previous occasions. They have all been listed as key suspects in reports filed before Courts by the FCID.

Meanwhile, the extradition of Udayanga Weeratunga, a prime suspect and former Sri Lanka Ambassador to Russia now in custody in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) awaits the completion of legal formalities. A Sri Lanka team is expected to leave for Abu Dhabi for this purpose anytime now.

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