22nd April 2001
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President's Fund draws instant money

By Victor Ivan
It is reported that the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake had told Parliament that there is no need to table its accounts in Parliament because no money is allocated to the presidential fund from the consolidated account. This statement of the Prime Minister misled not only the Parliamant but also the public. This will inevitably add fuel to the doubts the people have about the transactions of the president's fund.

The president's fund perhaps is the largest fund in the country outside the consolidated fund. However, the fund has not been audited after 1995 and consequently the present size of the fund is not clear. In 1994 the amount in it was Rs. 3 billion or Rs. 3000 million. However, that cannot be the amount available in it today.

The main source of income for the fund is that derived from the instant lotteries. The income of the National Lotteries Board in 1994 was Rs. 3255 million. In 1995 the income was Rs. 6376 million. In 1996 it was Rs. 8130 million. In 1997 it was Rs. 9595 million and in 1998 it was Rs. 13,195 million. Generally the development lottery and other instant lotteries earn a higher income than that earned by the National Lotteries Board. Accordingly, even if the income from the instant lotteries that go into the president's fund annually is considered to be Rs. 10,000 million, it is possible to surmise the present size of the president's fund.

Several figures that may be compared for the purpose of assessing the significance of a sum of Rs. 10,000 million in relation to the size and the activity of the national money are as follows: The income from the tea exports of the country in 1993 was Rs. 50,280 million. The income from rubber exports was Rs. 2,808 million. The total earned from the sale of 83% of the shares of 20 government owned estate companies was Rs. 3,777 million. The total value of the relief granted to 1,973,183 Samurdhi facilities in 1998 was Rs. 9,652 million. The capital expenditure on education in that year was Rs. 8,198 million. The capital expenditure on health was Rs. 7,109 million. The capital expenditure on the war was Rs. 9,600 million. All this shows that the president's fund is not a minor fund but one of the largest in the country.

This income too is derived not from personal estates of the individuals who are appointed to the post of President, but from the instant lotteries introduced by the government. According to the financial laws of the country all lotteries of the government must be under National Lotteries Board. The income they earn must be credited to the consolidated fund and if there are any special funds of the government, provision for them too must be under the consolidated fund. However, disregarding this rule, Mr. J.R. Jayewardene created a president's fund to suit his own egoistical personality and also set up a system whereby the income from the development lottery flowed to his fund (the president's fund) bypassing the consolidated fund. This system which disrupts the financial management of the State was severely criticised by the then opposition. However, that opposition which has become the government now, has now become great defenders of that very system. According to the Presidential Fund Act, the fund comes under the supervision of the Auditor General and there is also a legal obligation to present the accounts of the fund to the Parliament. Accordingly the statement of the Prime Minister may be considered one meant to camouflage the truth and to mislead the Parliament.

If the institutions under the Executive President of the country are not in a proper order, there cannot be any sense in speaking about those under lesser persons. If the president's fund which is, perhaps, the biggest fund next to the consolidated fund has not been audited after 1995, what it shows is the parlous state of the financial management of the State. In reply to a question of which notice had been given by Mr. Sarath Kongahage where he was a UNP parliamentarian in regard to the president's fund, the government presented to the Parliament a list of the main beneficiaries of the president's fund. Surprisingly that list did not contain the amounts of the donations received by those persons included in the list. 

That the fund had not been audited after 1995 was revealed still later. What the statement made by the Prime Minister now indicates is that the government for whatever reason wants to conceal the transactions that have occurred under the fund.

The writer is Editor of Ravaya

Manorani Saravanamuttu: a rejoinder to Victor Ivan

By Batty Weerakoon
My reply to Victor Ivan in The Sunday Times was specifically on his statement that Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu concealed from the public her knowledge of her son Richard de Zoysa's links to the JVP. As proof of this preposterous charge Mr. Ivan states that Dr. Saravanamuttu did not want the PA Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into her son's abduction for fear that such inquiry would bring to the open what she kept concealed.image

I have pointed out that a Commission of Inquiry had in fact been appointed and that Dr. Saravanamuttu appeared before it and gave evidence. She was quite satisfied with the opportunity which she got, like so many mothers in the same plight, to present her case to this Commission of Inquiry headed by Manouri Muttettuwegama. 

Confronted with this undeniable fact Mr. Ivan resorts to prevarication. He concedes that this Commission of Inquiry appointed by the President could have inquired into Richard's case but that the PA Government wanted to appoint a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry and that Dr. Saravanamuttu did not want this.

Obviously Mr. Ivan has not cared to read the Commission's findings. The Commission vindicated Dr. Saravanamuttu. There was nothing more she did wish for. No Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry could have done anything more.

Mr. Ivan has perhaps not figured out as to what is so special about the Special Commissions of Inquiry Act, No. 7 of 1979 when juxtaposed against the Act of 1947 under which the Muttettuwegama Commission was appointed. There is certainly something special about 1979 being the year of the Act. It was just two years of the UNP's return to power in 1977. It has something special which the Act of 1947 does not have. It empowers the Commission to impose civic disabilities on a person who was the subject of inquiry. This Act targeted the late Prime Minister, Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and shut her out of what was then a forthcoming Presidential Election.

Mr. Ivan's position that Dr. Saravanamuttu fought shy of a Commission being appointed on the relevant issue can be further refuted from the record of her continued fight for the appointment of a Commission to probe her son's abduction and the police investigations conducted on it. Soon after the Attorney General aborted the Magisterial Inquiry into the death it was in consultation with Dr. Saravanamuttu that I drafted the motion that was presented to Parliament by the joint Opposition calling for a Commission of Inquiry on Richard's abduction and killing. The Government of the day defeated this move through its steam roller majority in Parliament. Despite this she kept on her pressure on President Premadasa to appoint the necessary Commission. In my monograph titled ' The Xtra Judicial Execution of Richard de Zoysa" and dated January 1990 I have referred to "the demand for the appointment of a Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act". It was this demand that was dodged by the previous regime but granted by the PA.

Apparently Mr. Ivan's attempt is to clear the previous regime of the charge that in killing Richard, it wanted to silence a highly motivated journalist. He says he has discovered that Richard was killed not because he was a journalist but for being a JVPer. Perhaps this serves a present day attempt by democratic alliances to whitewash their several allies.

Mr. Ivan's so called discovery is old hat. In my monograph mentioned above I have dealt with Richard's purported connections with the JVP. Citing his note books which Dr. Saravanamuttu fought for and recovered from the Police I have written thus: "From what I have seen of Richard's own notes it is clear that he did, at least from about July 1988, travel in the deep South and meet people of the JVP too including a person identified as Wijeweera's brother. Of what this man spoke to him Richard comments, 'The standard line but parries when start talking of Wijaya killing. Why?'." To me what it means is that the Wijeweera brother who figures here spouts out the standard JVP line but dodges the issue as to why Vijaya Kumaratunga was killed by this same movement. This and a little more of what I had written on that occasion on Richard and the JVP was reproduced in Sinhala in the " Yukthiya" of March 1991 as its front page story. It cannot be that Mr. Ivan did not see this. Or is he playing Rip van Winkle in order to serve a present purpose? I am annexing for reproduction a photo copy of the Ukthiya page. So much for honest journalism!

The writer is the Minister of Justice

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