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28th October 1997

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Mirror Magazine

On eagle's wing : young women passing out for service in the Sri Lankan Air Force yesterday were led by an airman with a live eagle on his shoulder at the Katunayake air base. Pic by Sajiva Chintaka




CID storms Customs Department

Seizes documents based on a 'complaint'

By Christopher Kamalendran
The CID launched a raid into the import division of the Customs Department this week in what could be a new twist to allegedly one of the country's biggest investigations into import transactions.

On Wednesday, September 24, a group of CID officers visited the Customs head office at the former Times building in Colombo Fort and began an inquiry into import consignments since 1995 todate.

After a consultation with Customs Director General S. M. J. Senaratne, the CID had taken away back-up computer files from the automated data-processing unit (ADP), all of which related to a number of import consignment of various companies.

The CID is gathering sealed back-up tapes which lend information on all import activities during this period. Customs officials say they are confused as to why the sudden investigation has been ordered in the first place. The Customs Department and the Preventive Division assert the establishment is being harassed due to officials having initiated a raid on Stassen House earlier this month from where the Customs took some 41 files into custody over suspected under-invoicing frauds.

CID chief T. V. Sumanasekera, under whose personal direction, the detectives conducted the raid on the Customs, told The Sunday Times yesterday that he ordered the raid upon receiving a complaint that there was an alleged fraud involving the Customs' banking branch and Customs' import division.

DIG Sumanasekera refused to say who the complainant was, but added that the raid had nothing to do with the Customs' raid on Stassen House.

Customs Chief Senaratne said the CID were conducting the investigations on the hypothesis that some importers had submitted forged documentation claiming false declaration of payments to Customs. He denied claims that he was under political pressure with regard to the Stassen House investigation. "I am immune to any kind of political pressure," Mr. Senaratne told The Sunday Times.

He said he was yet in the process of collecting evidence in the case against Stassen.

Customs officials who refused to be quoted told The Sunday Times that some of their colleagues currently probing the alleged Stassen House under-invoicing frauds had come under "severe pressure."

Zimbabwe confirms loss of Colombo-bound mortars

The Zimbabwe Government has confirmed revelations made exclusively in The Sunday Times that a ship carrying 32,400 rounds of 81 mm mortars to Sri Lanka has gone missing.

The confirmation came from none other than the head of the state owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), Colonel Tshinga Dube.

Breaking the official silence that blanketed the mystery of the missing ship for the past three months, both in Colombo and the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, Col. Dube told Financial Gazette (a leading newspaper) it was possible his firm was conned into loading and transporting the mortar bombs into a wrong vessel.

That is not all. Ben Tso, an Israeli arms dealer, whom Col. Dube says part chartered the cargo vessel with the 12 containers stuffed with mortars, has denied his involvement. He says he has not handled the transportation of arms although he knew that the whole consignment was now in the hands of the LTTE.

Contrary to some reports leaked to sections of the local media, ZDI has not yet replaced the consignment of mortars with another stock. Col. Dube has said the cargo will not be replaced until the whereabouts of the missing bombs were established.

The remarks contrasted with claims by Deputy Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, that "all what we have ordered have reached here."

Investigations by the International Police Organisation (Interpol) have also confirmed that the mortars have fallen into the hands of the LTTE. However, they are now trying to establish how this happened.

Iqbal Athas who broke the news of the missing ship carrying mortars in his SITUATION REPORT on July 20, later gave exclusive accounts of what has been going on.

Today he reveals more details of how LTTE top runger, Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP, who reports directly to LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, carried out the operation.

See Situation Report on Page 9

Political whirlpool on Wijayapala motion

By Shyamal A. Collure

Amidst cross currents of intense political negotiations and speculation behind the scene, the, man in the centre of the controversy, Opposition Chief whip Wijayapala Mendis yesterday expressed confidence that Parliament would not give a two thirds majority for the stripping of his civic rights and his expulsion.

But UNP back benchers, determined to project the party as corruption free, are keeping up the pressure on the leadership to support the motion that will be presented in Parliament by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike next Tuesday.

The motion seeks to strip Mr. Mendis of civic rights for seven years and expel him from parliament on the recomendation of a Special Presidential Commission which found him guilty of abuse of power over some land deals. The commission has also recommended that the fromer powerful Treasury Secretary Ramalingam Paskaralingam and Energy Ministry Secretary Ackiel Mohamed also be stripped of their civic rights for corruption related offences.

All three motions have been placed on the Order Paper for October 7 but there is growing speculation that the UNP hierarchy is putting pressure on Mr. Mendis to resign before that. Mr. Mendis however, has rejected calls for his resignation and vowed to fight on. UNP sources say his resignation would enable the party to come out of a situation where either way it could suffer political embarrassment or damage. Opposing the motion would leave the UNP open to the charge of condoning corruption while supporting the motion could be interpreted as letting down a senior member.

A defiant Mr. Mendis told The Sunday Times "a considerable number" of MPs of Tamil political parties had assured him they would not vote for the motion against him.

Rejecting the findings of the commission as 'ad hoc" Mr. Mendis also said the PA government had no moral right to impose such punishment on him. Mr. Mendis said the govt. had recently given Jeyaraj Fernadopulle a promotion to full cabinet rank after the highest court in the land had found him guilty in a fundamental rights case. In addition the PA governemnt had also introduced a motion in parliament to invalidate the findings and recommendations of an SPC which in 1979 had found Sirimavo Bandaranaike guilty of abuse of power.

The SPC which heard the cases against Mr. Mendis and others comprised Supreme Court Judge Priyantha Perera (Chairman) and Court of Appeal H. S. Yapa.

CBK in the dark

The two-minute blackout on Tuesday at the BMICH when President Kumaratunga was at the SAARC Tourism Ministers Conference has raised serious questions related to Presidential security.

The CID and the Presidential Security Division are carrying out investigations on the blackout after which an apparently disturbed President had asked what went wrong, sources said.

IGP ordered to cancel 'capricious transfer,' pay cost personally

SC indicts Police Chief

By K. M. Weeraratne
The Supreme Court has delivered a strong indictment on Police Chief W. B. Rajaguru, ruling that he behaved in an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable manner when he ordered the transfer of a police officer from Kurunegala to Moratuwa.

Delivering the hard-hitting judgment in a fundamental rights case, filed by the police officer, the court ordered the IGP to personally pay Rs. 15,000 as legal cost to the petitioner while the state was ordered to pay Rs. 25,000 as compensation.

The petition was filed by Inspector Palitha Range Bandara, officer in charge of the Weerambugedera Police Station in the Kurunegala district, claiming that his transfer to Moratuwa was wrongful and a violation of his fundamental rights.

Acting Chief Justice Mark Fernando, delivering the judgment with Justices Somawansa Wijetunge and Asoka de Z. Gunawardene, agreeing, said court was of the view that the summary transfer of the inspector to a distant place was unreasonable, on the material available to the IGP, and it was also a misuse of authority to withhold from the inspector the true reason for the transfer, because it deprived him of the opportunity to question it.

"I hold that the IGP's decision to transfer the inspector was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, and in violation of his fundamental rights under Article 12(1) of the Constitution. I quash that transfer.," Justice Fernando said while pointing out that nothing in the order would preclude disciplinary proceedings against the inspector for any past misconduct, or his transfer, in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations.

"In making the impugned transfer order, the IGP was acting as a public officer exercising powers delegated to him by the Public Services Commission. Those powers are held in trust by him, and should have been exercised with due care for the purpose for which they were entrusted to him by the PSC, and with the same independence which the public have the right to expect, and which Article 60 of the Constitution protects on pain of punishment.

"The evidence in this case shows that what happened was not the result of a mistake or an error of judgment, but of a misuse of those powers of a kind which demoralises and demotivates the victim, and indirectly the entire service," Justice Fernando said.

"The IGP does not claim that he acted on material furnished by his subordinates; his affidavit suggests that he gave his conscious attention to the relevant facts. I therefore direct that the compensation be paid by the State and that costs be paid by the IGP personally," the judge said.

Attorney Chula Bandara appeared for the petitioner.

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