He may have been the all-powerful Sports Minister of yesteryear, but the prestigious Singhalese Sports Club doesn’t think he is fit and proper to be made one of its members. Ex-Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has been ‘black-balled’ from becoming a member and entering the hallowed portals of one of the country’s oldest clubs at Maitland Place in [...]

Talk at the Cafe Spectator

SSC’s ‘blackball’ bouncer, Aluthgamage out


He may have been the all-powerful Sports Minister of yesteryear, but the prestigious Singhalese Sports Club doesn’t think he is fit and proper to be made one of its members. Ex-Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has been ‘black-balled’ from becoming a member and entering the hallowed portals of one of the country’s oldest clubs at Maitland Place in Colombo.

In a dramatic turn of events at this week’s Executive Committee meeting of the SSC, the former Minister’s name had come up for membership. His name had been proposed by two former senior Sri Lanka Cricket officials, who are members of the club.

The Executive Committee that consists of past cricketers, lawyers and senior private sector executives grilled the proposer about Mr. Aluthgamage’s track record — not in athletics, but in politics and the string of corruption charges against him. The proposer had argued that the ex-minister had no criminal charges against him and that nothing had yet been proved of his alleged misdemeanors with public funds. “Innocent until proven guilty” was the theme of the argument by the ex-SLC official.

That argument, alas, did not hold with the Ex Co members, or at least the majority of them. The Chairman of the Membership Committee (and Disciplinary Committee to boot), a player in his own rights, abstained. Of the 15-member Ex Co, seven voted to “Black Ball” him, though even one vote is enough to deny him membership.

The application was rejected, but the unkindest cut of it all was when the discussion went to whether the politician could enter the premises to pick up his children who are Juvenile members already. This, too, was over-ruled, and the only concession they have made is that he may come as a guest of another member.

At least, the ex-minister is not Persona non Grata like a film actor who has been thrown out of the club for life after he came as a guest, attacked a security guard and smashed up the phone at the security desk. That actor has a record of beating up people, including ladies – and he is now qualified for politics. He has submitted his nomination papers for the forthcoming election.

The last time the SSC black-balled someone was way back in the days of the legendary F.C. de Saram who, for some reason, ensured that a businessman — who later became a multi-millionaire — was not given membership, said a senior member over his glass of Halmilla arrack.

Sirisena can meet Rajapaksa only in the dark
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake came out with a story this week that he says he hasn’t told anyone but has haunted him for years. Speaking at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Digital Media Academy in Colombo to a well-attended gathering who had come to witness a documentary film ‘S21′, Mr. Dissanayake said that he still hears gunshots that killed his virtual step-brother during the 1989 second JVP uprising.

He said his mother and a known lady in the village (whose son it was) attended Bodhi-poojas for over 10 years hoping to see the young boy again, and various soothsayers would give leads to his possible whereabouts. But he had received a signal from the JVP that the young boy was shot and burnt on a ‘tyre-pyre’.

Giving a preview of ‘S21′, the gruesome torture centre run by the notorious Pol Pot regime from 1975-1979 in Cambodia, the JVP leader said that at least there, those killed had a number and a photograph taken for identification. In Sri Lanka, both in the North and the South, thousands were buried, their identities and existence unknown.

Dissanayake pointed out, that in the documentary; the victims get to meet the guards who tortured them in open daylight. Then, he went on to add his punch line. He said that we have in Sri Lanka a President who said that he would be six feet underground had his predecessor won the January 8 election. Such a would-be victim can meet with his would-be tormentor only in the dark.
“When national leaders don’t have a conscience, the nation has no conscience,” he said.

Sobitha Thera says to get visas to hell
The Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera was a disappointed prelate. His dream of “Yahapalanaya” and of getting rid of corrupt people from politics was shattered when Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President, and his cohorts were given nominations to contest the forthcoming elections.

At the launch of Ossie Abeygoonesekera’s son, Asanga Abeygoonesekera’s, book “Towards a Better World Order”, the venerable monk spoke out: “Our dreams of a new country have been shattered. If the SLFP or the UNP do not get a majority to form the Government, the fun will begin. The auctioneer will say ‘avarai, daavarai and thun avaraai’ as the bids begin to attract those from other parties. Corruption will be rampant as the 20th Amendment was thwarted. Drug dealers, bribe takers will roost and the future is bleak. Those of you who can get out, the time is ripe. If you can get a visa even to hell, please go!” The Ven. Sobitha quoted Udaya Gammanpila as saying that when he had contested the Colombo district the last time, he had not spent any money on hoardings or posters. Even so, his campaign had cost him Rs. 10 million. “If that is the case, you can imagine what the expenses of other politicians are like. They also have to recover what they spend on these elections,” Ven. Sobitha Thera remarked. “If the SLFP or the UNP don’t get enough seats to form a government, that’s when the horse-trading starts! This is what they are hoping for in order to earn money!”

IGP saves his predecessor’s blushes
The long arm of the bar rules seem to have caught up with a former Inspector General of Police — but it seems the incumbent to hold the office has ensured he gets ‘Police bail’.

Ex-IGP Mahinda Balasuriya who was suddenly booted out of his job following the mishandling of a street demo in the Free Trade Zone and sent on ‘punishment transfer’ as Ambassador to Brazil, had an unsettled booze bill at the Police Senior Officer’s Mess at Police Park. His name, among several others was pasted at the Mess. This thereby bans him from entering the premises.
No-one is quite sure when the ex-IGP drank so much on credit, but insiders believe it was when he was Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order during the last Presidential election.

Hardly had the results been announced, the one-time top cop took fright and then flight abroad. In the rush the last thing on his mind would have been to settle his bar bill. The present IGP has now ordered that the names be taken off the Notice Board.
What senior officers are asking is not so much as to why he hasn’t settled his bills, but how come when the rule is that no credit is given for any amount over Rs. 5,000, Balasuriya was allowed credit several times the limit.

More wheeler deals over hiranthi’s Prados
The mystery over the World Food Programme donating two Prado SUV vehicles to Siriliya Saviya, an NGO under Shiranthi Rajapaksa, has deepened. The Department of Motor Traffic has told the Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court in Tangalle that it had no records of the two vehicles in its computers. However, K. Nilanthi Fernando, the Chief Internal Auditor, has said in a letter that the two garage number plates used by the two vehicles in question — CR 109 and CR 114 — had been issued by the Department to the Ministry of Law and Order. At least technically, that meant the two vehicles were on the roads, fronting as those from the Ministry.

How did the two vehicles donated by the WFP to Siriliya Saviya get garage number plates issued to the Ministry of Law and Order by the Motor Traffic Department? Such number plates were usually issued to the Ministry to be assigned to its vehicles until registration formalities were completed.

An official statement from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the two vehicles were among a fleet WFP imported for relief work after the tsunami in 2004. In 2012, Siriliya Saviya had received two of these Prados bearing garage number plates CR 109 and CR 114. The NGO had not been able to get these vehicles registered due to heavy import duties levied by the Customs, the statement said. The existence of those vehicles came to light after one of them met with an accident. A Presidential Security Division member had been driving it.

Angeli Mendoza, Communications and Social Media Officer of the UN World Food Programme Regional Bureau for Asia, in response to an e-mail query from the Sunday Times said, “These vehicles were provided with red plates which allowed us to immediately use them without being registered with the RMV. After the closure of our tsunami emergency operations, WFP donated a number of these imported vehicles to various government institutions and NGOs. Two of these vehicles, Toyota Prados with red plate numbers bearing CR 109 and CR 114, were donated in September 2012 to the Siriliya Saviya Foundation. The vehicle donations were made following standard WFP protocols and procedures for such transfers, including obligating the recipients to register the vehicles under their names and replace the red plates with ones issued by the authorities.”

It has now come to light that in 2012 the WFP office in Colombo donated 19 more vehicles imported into the country. A WFP news release then said: “The vehicles were handed over at a ceremony attended by WFP representatives, government officials and the media, to the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Heath, Ministry of Irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, the Presidential Task Force and District Planning Secretariats of Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Mannar, to support various activities where WFP’s operations are on-going.”

“In view of the importance of building operational capacity of institutions working at the grassroots level, WFP is happy to make this symbolic contribution to strengthen our long partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka,” said WFP’s Country Representative, Adnan Khan…..”

There was, however, no mention of the vehicles WFP said it had donated to NGOs.Now, the Ministry of Finance has directed the Customs to conduct a full probe. The thrust of the investigation is to determine how WFP vehicles ended up in private hands without the payment of duty. A Customs official said the importer was required to pay the duty before transferring the vehicles to a third party.

The prospects of the vehicles being returned to the Ministry of Law and Order (since they held garage number plates assigned to them) or to hand it over to Customs is under consideration, said an official. This is whilst those at Siriliya Saviya are making efforts to claim the vehicle through the Police.

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