The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), set up by the ruling coalition, is now probing a case where funds amounting to Rs. 600 million were transferred to the Presidential Secretariat from the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC). The money has allegedly been used by three different contractors to buy “gifts” for pre-identified persons before the January 8 [...]


Alleged Rs. 600 million fraud to buy ‘gifts’ before Presidential poll: TRC in trouble


The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), set up by the ruling coalition, is now probing a case where funds amounting to Rs. 600 million were transferred to the Presidential Secretariat from the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC). The money has allegedly been used by three different contractors to buy “gifts” for pre-identified persons before the January 8 Presidential election. Co-ordinating the exercise and receiving the funds for this purpose has been a member of the Buddhist clergy.

It is also alleged that these TRC funds had been channelled without prior approval. The TRC Board had reportedly granted approval thereafter. Police officials say the Board was not authorised to siphon off funds and no budgetary provision has been made for the transfer of funds.  Former Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga has been summoned to the FCID office on April 23 for a statement to be recorded. He had also served at one time as Chairman of the TRC when the transaction had reportedly taken place. Weeratunga has informed the FCID that he is overseas but will make himself available on Thursday.

Others to be summoned in connection with ongoing investigations include Gamini Senarath, former Chief of Staff of President Rajapaksa. This is related to a probe into Litro Gas which reportedly used money from the Employees’ Trust Fund and the Employees’ Provident Fund for investment in the Celestial Towers or the Hyatt Hotel project. Earlier, he was summoned in respect of an investigation into leasing of vehicles from People’s Leasing Company, a subsidiary of the People’s Bank where he was Chairman.

President’s daughter was lady-in-waiting
Even if the captions to photos officially released by the Presidential Secretariat made no mention, President Maithripala Sirisena’s daughter Chaturika Suranjith was the lady in attendance for Tashi Doma wife of Bhutanese Prime Minister who was on an official visit to Sri Lanka last week.

The Harvard educated Premier Tshering Tobgay paid a three-day visit to Sri Lanka from April 9. Chaturika is the wife of W.P. Gamage Thilina Suranjith who assumed office as Public Relations Officer (PRO) at the Ministry of Defence after the new Government took over.

DPL unaccompanied baggage with ‘Rush’ tags for Rajapaksa’s son
The Weliamuna-led inquiry into goings-on at SriLankan Airlines makes scathing remarks on how the national carrier was run (or run down), the financial and management abuses, favouritism and other misdeeds at the highest levels. It also points the finger at our High Commission in London and requests that the Foreign Ministry be asked to carry out its own inquiry into the conduct of officials attached to the mission as there appears to be collusion by officers of SriLankan Airlines and the High Commission.

The report says there is “prima facie evidence that the Protocol Officer together with high officials of SriLankan Airlines engaged in a serious breach of security procedures in airline industry.” The allegation is that regularly unaccompanied baggage from the Sri Lanka High Commission and addressed to the Presidential Secretariat often carrying motor spares for one of then President Rajapaksa’s sons was sent in the aircraft’s cabin with “Rush” tags attached.

The report said it was strange that the High Commission sought to send these as unaccompanied baggage and not in the diplomatic bag. The baggage had no airway bills or claimants on board. The packages weighed 25-35 kilos and were brought to the airport by the Protocol Officer.

That, official sources say, is a slip-up. The man who constantly sent packages to the Presidential Secretariat was not the Protocol Officer officially sent by the Foreign Ministry but a retired person who had served in other missions before and had been granted regular extensions with the help of the Rajapaksas or friends and officials close to the ruling family, for questionable services rendered.

According to airline sources, the packages were brought to the airport in High Commission vehicles. If that is true then who are the diplomatic administrative officers who permitted the misuse of such vehicles?

The question being asked in and around Republic Square is whether the Foreign Ministry will hold an inquiry as suggested by the inquiry board and also question those who authorised the use of official vehicles or bury the idea in the rubble of a crumbling foreign service.

Recovery of plundered assets: WB team coming again
A team from the World Bank’s Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (StAR) will arrive in Colombo for talks with Government officials including the Police.
The team is now assisting the Government to trace the foreign assets of leaders of the former Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Senior officials from different police investigation arms are expected to brief the visiting team on their current investigations and assistance they may also require in other countries.

Karu’s Yahapalanaya in the air
It was a practice for SriLankan Airlines during the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa administration to ditch passengers from Business Class flights when Ministers or VIPs wanted to fly in a hurry.  Some were offered concessions in the form of v.ouchers for duty free purchases whilst others were not so lucky — or unlucky as the case may be.

Yahapalanaya or good governance appears to have changed this practice, at least in one instance. Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Buddha Sasana, Public Administration and Good Governance, wanted to take a flight to London on a private visit. He learnt that all seats were full on the SriLankan flight. However, they asked for time to accommodate him.
Mr. Jayasuriya politely declined the offer. Instead he boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai and there onwards to London on the same airline.

Boggles the mind: Tories also may see stars
What was former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama doing strolling down Oxford Street, London’s fashionable shopping area, even though the Colombo Chief Magistrate had apparently stopped him from travelling abroad earlier this month?

Boggles some of whose activities which cost the taxpayer loads of moola particularly when he was foreign minister earned himself this sobriquet for a lot of his expensive comings and goings which really boggled the mind. He was captured on camera with former Conservative Defence Minister Liam Fox having enjoyed a cup of coffee.Earlier this month the Chief Magistrate had enlarged Bogollagama on Rs. 50,000 bail and banned him from travelling abroad over a complaint made by the Bribery Commissioner concerning a misappropriation of funds when he was Investment Promotion Minister.

But what was he doing with Fox who resigned over a controversy concerning his association with one Adam Werrity, flat mate who had no official role at the defence ministry but had accompanied the minister on 18 foreign trips and had been present at official meetings for which he had had no security clearance. One website claimed that Boggles had a “programme” relating to the upcoming British general election. If the Conservatives are consulting Boggles on how to win elections, they might as well be asking MR’s one-time astrologer.

With OICs like this, police stations not yet safe for people
It appeared to be a ‘mistaken identity’, but the consequences were serious and may be a costly mistake to the Officer in Charge of the Weligama police station.
Five persons including a 17-year-old student from Ambalangoda visited the Weligama Police last week. The purpose was to remove one of the vehicles which had met with an accident in the area and later taken to the station.

They brought along with them a vehicle to tow the damaged van, but they realised that the vehicle was not good enough. Hence, they ordered for another one. They decided to stay at the police station until it arrived. As they were waiting for their new vehicle to come, the Officer in Charge arrived. He allegedly assaulted them and then pushed them into the cell. The student escaped as the adults pleaded on behalf of him.

None of them was aware as to why they were assaulted and pushed into the cell. It was hours later when the second vehicle arrived they found these persons in the police cell. It was only later in the night the OIC realised the mistake. This was when an officer in the Traffic branch identified these persons as those who were awaiting the release of their vehicle and informed the OIC. Apparently, the OIC had assumed that these were persons connected with a narcotics case and had been ordered to report to the police station.

However, thereafter some of the policemen on duty had threatened the persons in the cell not to disclose the details of the incidents or complain to the police superiors. It was only the next day the persons in the cell were released. Those who were assaulted have now lodged a complaint with the DIG’s office in the Southern Province. The complaint is under investigation. This is discipline nowadays in police stations where law abiding citizens fear to tread.

His Exc is now Ex
It is not only the people here who are confused with Ministry portfolios and change of ministers. The United Nations affiliated bodies too are yet to discover the changes.
For United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), Bandula Gunawardena is still the Education Minister of Sri Lanka.

In a letter dated February 11 (IIEP/Prg.OD/15.025), the Director of the Institute forwards a letter to “His Exc. Bandula Gunawardena, Minister, Ministry of Education.”
Clearly, the organisation was unaware that “His Exc” lost his portfolio as Minister — he became the ‘Ex-Minister’.Last week he was removed from the Central Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.