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14th June 1998

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'They carried out their legitimate duties'

The following is the full text of the letter jointly written by T. A.de S. Wijesundera (Chairman) and . Rudra Rajasingham (Commissioner) of the Office of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga:

Your Excellency,

We were deeply disturbed to learn from the media that Your Excellency in a letter addressed to the Leader of the Opposition had sought his assistance to "reconstitute" the Commission on the premise that the public have lost confidence in the Commission as presently constituted and also in view of our "bleak record of work".

The underlying insinuation seems to be that we are incompetent to handle the work expected of the Commission.

We note that Your Excellency has laid great stress on the offence of "Corruption" to point out that we have failed to investigate and prosecute successfully a single instance of corruption during the 3 1/2 years of our existence. "Corruption" is just one offence in the Bribery Act introduced with the amendment in late 1994.

There are several other offences of bribery. The public are as yet not too familiar with this offence. Hence there are few complaints on corruption by itself.

Besides, as this offence does not involve the solicitation or acceptance of a gratification, and therefore admits no direct evidence pertaining to the Commission of the offence, the evidence in support of this allegation needs very close scrutiny.

Hence, the paucity of cases relating to this offence. Your Excellency has, however, chosen to underplay the investigations done and the cases filed by the Commission on allegations of bribery.

You have referred to five cases completed in 2 years and 8 months in an attempt to speak of our "bleak record of work". These were only important cases. But we are sure you are aware of the statistics furnished by us for the budget debate in December 1997 (See Annex 1).

Upto that point of time the Commission had received 6896 complaints of bribery, completed investigations in the vast majority of such complaints and where sufficient evidence was available instituted 500 prosecutions.

And this, if I may remind Your Excellency was when the Commission was functioning for nearly a year without the 3rd Commissioner.

Charges for bribery or corruption cannot be led on hearsay gossip, it is only if the material received by the Commission is credible and discloses an offence by any person that the Commission will direct the Director General to institute criminal proceedings against such person.

As a responsible Commission with no political bias, we must assure ourselves that the evidence will stand in a Court of Law.

Irresponsible Commissioners, however, could go for records and score up the statistics to suit their political mentors.

We, however, have tried to maintain the highest and best traditions of the legal and public service and take to court only offenders against whom there is adequate evidence.

Your Excellency will recall the meeting we had at Temple Trees on 03.08.1997. This was consequent to repeated requests made from the beginning of 1997 urging you fill the 3rd vacancy in the Commission resulting from the demise of Mr. Siva Selliah and to replace the Director General Mrs. Gamage against whom we had launched an investigation.

We repeatedly informed you that the work in the Commission was hampered due to this vacancy. From April 1997, we have been seeking to have a meeting with you to bring to your notice the callous disregard shown by your Secretariat by its failure to reply letters addressed to it, and also to bring to your notice the role of the Director-General.

It was after several of these requests that your Secretariat arranged for the Commissioners and the Director-General to meet you on August 3, 1997.

Had Your Excellency's Secretariat been more attentive the current impasse may possibly have never arisen.

At no time prior to that had you called, as you have stated "for regular progress reports to ensure that the Commission fulfilled its duties effectively and expeditiously".

We sent you in advance of this meeting a list of the delayed correspondence and the record of the work done. In this report we brought to your notice that since the demise of Mr. Siva Selliah in January 1997 the two of us have been handling the work of the Commission.

At the said meeting Your Excellency categorically assured us that this vacancy would be immediately filled. Your Excellency never found fault with us on account of our "bleak record of work" nor was one word uttered critical of our work in the Commission.

On the contrary, you expressed your appreciation of the good work done by the Commission. Once again in your letter to us dated 26.11.1997 - 4 months after we met - you stated:-

"I myself personally and the Government are grateful for your accepting that position (Commissioner). I am also appreciative of the work that you and the other members of Your Commission have put in during the last 3 years."

Having said so, it is passing strange how Your Excellency can now turn course and suggest that we are incompetent. Is it to try and frame a case against us and sway public opinion?

Quite apart from filling the 3rd vacancy in November 1997, you wrote to us requesting our resignation. We were at a loss to understand the change in attitude of Your Excellency.

We could only surmise that it had something to do with our investigations against Mrs.. Gamage, the Director-General and her husband. In our reply to you we gave you the reasons as to why we were unable to accede to your request and resign.

You were well aware that by that time there were many on-going investigations against leading personalities in your Government.

Soon thereafter the Director-General Mrs. Gamage was promoted as an Additional Secretary and transferred to the Ministry. Your solution to an "ugly quarrel" between the Director-General and ourselves was to call on all parties to resign.

But what happened? We who made an adverse report to you on the Director-General were asked to resign with the attendant hue and cry, whereas the Director-General was given a promotion. Would this not amount to a travesty of justice?

About this time several pressures were exerted on us to resign. When these attempts failed Mr. G. A. S. Ganepole, Secretary to the Commission who acted for Mrs. Gamage with restricted functions retired with effect from 15.02.1998 and was not replaced.

M. S. Othnapitiya, Superintendent of Investigations, whose contract expired was not given an extension. SSP Police investigating sensitive cases against VVIPs were moved out from time to time, and finally all ranks of Police Officers attached to the Commission were transferred.

Repeated requests to the IGP to replace these officers have fallen on deaf ears. In addition to this the Attorney General withdrew State Counsel attached to the Commission protesting that a news item alleging that an offer had come through him requesting my (Chairman's) resignation in return for an alternative appointment, was baseless.

Your Excellency will therefore realise that almost from its inception the Commission has been burdened with problems, but, that in spite of all this, the Commissioners had carried on performing their legitimate duties.

The Public Service Commission was written to by the Assistant Director (Administration) on orders of the Commission to appoint a Board to select a Deputy Director-General and two Assistant Directors- General.

The reply received was that they could not accept any letter written other than by the Director-General, knowing fully well that the post of Director-General in the Commission had not been filled.

We wrote to them once again and they informed us that they had to get your sanction. We have still not obtained any further communication and the posts remain unfilled.

The Director-General was the Chief Accounting Officer, hence all the duties of the Chief Accounting Officer together with the Statutory functions of this post have come to a standstill in the absence of a Director-General, and the Chief Accountant had to run to the Treasury every now and then to obtain funds to meet the current expenditure.

Money due to Contractors has also not been paid for several months and though these matters have been brought to the notice of your Secretary no positive action has been taken.

The 3rd Commissioner has not been appointed since January 1997. The Director-General's post has been vacant since November, 1997. No prosecutions can be instituted without a Director-General. The Commission has been without State Counsel to assist in investigations and prosecutions since January 1998.

All the Police Officers assisting in the Commission have been transferred out since February 1998. The pending investigations have therefore come to a grinding halt possibly wiping out any trace of the offence.

It is clear therefore that the will of Your Excellency's Government is to make the 'Commission' non-functional. The end result would be that these bribe takers would get off scot free.

Your Excellency has referred to the petition filed by the Director General in the Supreme Court and an undertaking given by the Commissioners to refrain from taking further steps on the investigations against the Director General.

It was the Attorney General who appeared for the Commission and our instructions to him were to oppose the application vehemently so that the investigations can go on with a view to bring the offender to book which is the ultimate duty of the Commission.

The Attorney General however took a different view and settled the case stating that if we did not accept his advice we could take our case elsewhere. At no stage did we, the Commissioners, give any such undertaking.

Your Exellency has also chosen to refer to my having availed myself of the services of Mr. Tilak Marapone. I did seek his advice. We are indeed grateful to him. The Attorney General whom one would expect to act independently and protect public functionaries had deserted us. I have known Mr. Marapone for the last thirty years. I have known him to be an honourable person, competent and dependable. Never once did he attempt to take political advantage of our predicament.

On the contrary he advised us to impress upon Your Exellency confidentially the adverse political effects that may ensue to the Government from our resignation.

This I did in my letter to you in December 1997. (see Annex 2). The decision not to resign on 15.05.1998 was entirely mine.

Has not the Commission done good work when it was fully operational? Has not Your Excellency expressed your appreciation of this good work?

When the 3rd vacancy was not filled and the Director General was not removed earlier and replaced by another despite repeated requests to do so, could your Excellency blame anyone other than yourself for the plight of the Commission?

Without pressurising the remaining two Commissioners to resign on baseless allegation, if your Excellency is genuine in your stated desire to take action against bribe takers, and eliminate bribery and corruption at all government levels, we urge Your Excellency to immediately fill this 3rd, vacancy appoint a Director General and take further steps to make the Commission functional. Your Excellency does not need the support of any political party to accomplish this.

Your Excellency has also referred to the cost of maintaining the Commission. The actual expenditure for 1995, 1996 and 1997 according to our records is Rs. 99 million and not 125 million.

Of this capital expenditure which includes expenditure on buildings outlay, office equipment, vehicles, communications etc. amounted to Rs. 33 million the expenditure on salaries, overtime and other allowances amounted to Rs. 47 million. The salaries of the Commissioners amouted to Rs. 2.6 million, a fraction of the total expenditure.

Your Excellency has gone to say that an awful lot of public funds had been spent for the meagre work done. We have already pointed out the considerable amount of work that we have done and whether you recontitute the Commission or not an 'awful lot' of public funds will have to be spent unless you scrap the Commission.

As we had explained to Your Excellency previously should we resign under this pressure it is bound to create a public preception that Your Excellency has pressurised us to resign because of the complaints made and the investigations pending against high ups in Your Excellency's Government.

We have refrained from referring in this letter to the conversations that took place on two occasions between Your Excellency and the Chairman.

I am forwarding a copy of this to the Leader of the Opposition.

Your's sincerely,

T.A.deS.Wijesundera, Chairman.

Rudra Rajasingham,

Commissioner.


CID asks for more time

Athas case

The Gangodawila Magistrate, has given further time for the CID to arrest and produce the suspects connected to the case of the alleged harassment and intimidation of 'The Sunday Times' consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent, Iqbal Athas.

Magistrate N.V. Karunatillake gave the direction last Wednesday after refusing a plea from the Defense Counsel to lay down the case against the two suspects until the CID investigations are completed.

Defence Counsel, A.R.C. Perera told Courts the CID failed to arrest the wanted suspects and since there is no evidence against the two suspects Squadron Leader Rukman Herath and flight Leutenant D.S.P. Kanangara, the case should be laid by

The Counsel for Mr. Athas said that the statements of 41 witnesses needed to be recorded.

The CID said the investigations had not been completed and moved for another date to file a further report. The CID told courts that they had recorded the statements of Wing Commander, Vijith Tennakoon and Flight Lieutenant, Eric Weerasinghe in connection with the complaint made by Mr. Athas.

The suspects were directed to appear before courts on June 24.

Hemantha Warnakulasuriya with Tyronne Silva and Ms. Vijitha Wickramasekara watched the interests of Mr. Athas.


Enjoining order to stand

Cornel's derivative action:

The Supreme Court has upheld the Commercial High Court order into Hilton case action instituted by Cornel & Company Ltd onbehalf of the Hotel Developers (Lanka) Ltd (HDL) against the Mitsui & Company Ltd, Taisei Corporation, Attorney General and the Directors of the HDL.

The Director named as defendants included Nihal Sri Ameresekere. D.Y. Liyanage, P.B. Jayasundera, Ms Padma Maharaja, all of whom were the government nominee Directors.

In the plaint filed in the Commercial High Court, Cornel & Company Ltd stated that the present majority Board of Directors knowingly and internationally are acting against the interest of HDL.

Plaint stated that the Directors named as defendants were acting against the interest of HDL and they are acting for the benefit of some of the Directors, namely, the 4th defendant, Nihal Sri Ameresekere, who although alleged and established that the Japanese contractors, namely, Mitsui & Company Ltd and Taisei Corporation had committed a fraud, has now settled the said case for his personal benefit.

It also stated that Mr. Kanag-Isvaran who was the Counsel in the case for Mr. Ameresekere and who has now been made a Director of this Company have now joined hands and are working together to the loss and detriment of HDL.

It added that the purported settlement agreements are not for the benefit of HDL and that Mr Kanag-Isvaran, and Mr Ameresekere who are on the Board, are now improperly, wrongfully and unlawfully controlling the affairs of HDL.

The Commercial High Court on March 31, issued an enjoining order until the application for interim injunction is heard restraining the government and its servants or agents, including the Treasury Secretary and the nominee Directors of HDL from implementing and/or giving effect to any and/or all of the terms and/or provisions of the purported settlement agreements.

The Court also issued a further enjoining order restraining HDL by itself and its Directors and agents from implementing and/or giving effect to any and/or all of the terms and/or provisions of the purported settlement agreement.

With regard to the enjoining order to restrain Mr. Kanag-Isvaran and Mr. Ameresekere from functioning as Directors, the Court issued only notice of interim injunction.

Against the said order, three separate applications were filed by the defendant Japanese parties, Attorney General and the Directors of HDL to the Supreme Court.

After hearing the submissions in the three applications the Supreme Court made order that whether the Commercial High Court had jurisdiction or not is a mixed question of fact, and it was premature for a determination and upheld the order of the Commercial High Court and dismissed the three applications.

The Supreme Court also extended the enjoining order issued by the Commercial High Court until the final hearing and determination of the application for interim injunction by the Commercial High Court.

Mr. Kanag-Isvaran has, however, after the institution of the said action in the Commercial High Court, tendered his resignation from the Board of Directors of HDL.


Rupavahini to pay Rs. 1m to film maker

By K.M. Weeraratne

The Supreme Court has declared that the refusal by the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation to telecast the teledrama "Makara Vijithaya" during prime time is unjust and unreasonable and ordered the SLRC to pay the producers, Bennett Ratnayake, Rs.1,000,000/- as compensation before June 30, with further interest calculated at the rate of 24% a year in the event of delay.

The then Director General W.D. Jayasinghe and the Chairman D.E.W. Goonasekera were ordered to pay personally Rs.7,500/- each and the directors Dr. Sunanda Mahendra, Wasantha Obeysekera, Dr (.Ms) Thiruchandran and P.A.S. Pathiraja to pay Rs. 2,500/- each as costs to the petitioner Mr. Ratnayake.

The bench comprised Justice Mark Fernando, S.W.D. Wadugodapitiya and Dr. Asoka de Z Gunawardena.


Appeal for blood well answered

Campaign launched at the Central Blood Bank to collect blood urgent ly is still in progress, National Hospital Director, Dr. Terrance de Silva said.

The blood donation campaign that took place after a desperate appeal by the Health Ministry to treat injured soldiers, has received a favourable response, Dr. de Silva said.

He added, "The Blood Bank has enough stocks now. More than 1000 pints were collected on Poson Poya day at Karagampitiya."

Following the appeal made by the Health Ministry, several private organisations too carried out their own campaign.


Weapons found in Kandy meant to kill President

By J. Jayasinghe

Police have detected a suicide kit, weapons and ammunition believed to be smuggled into the Kandy area by LTTE to assassinate President Chandrika Kumaratunga or Power and Energy Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte.

Police said the detection was made in a jungle close to a tourist hotel in the Heeressagala area a day after President Kumaratunga visited the Peradeniya University for two different official functions.

A special police team carrying out the investigations said that they believe that a couple had stayed in the area plotting the assassination.

Police had found 350 rounds of ammunition.

Kandy DIG Sirisena Herath said that following the detection a full search has been ordered in the area.

The owner of an estate in the area is being questioned.


Clashes amidst anti-tobacco protests

By Shelani de Silva

An islandwide anti-tobacco protest has met with severe resistance from the company resulting in police intervention after clashes broke out between the two groups.

The incident took place when a group of volunteers of Alcoholic Drug Information Centre (ADIC) were making preparations to mark World Tobacco Day on May 31. The group were to put up posters in Kandy town as an awareness programme for the following day.

The youngsters allege that while they were putting up posters a group of CTC employees had attacked them. Two persons received head injuries during the clash. The police was called in and the two parties were taken in and a statement recorded.

One of the volunteers Amitha told The Sunday Times that this was not the first time that they have been threatened. He alleged that last year their posters were burned.

This year with the co-operation of the police we decided to launch a campaign and a programme on May 31 to mark World Tobacco Day. The previous night a group of 15 boys were to put up posters opposite the Kandy clock tower. Since we knew that the posters will be removed we decided to start work around 8.00 pm and continued till morning, he said.

He added that two boys had been beaten up and accused of breaking a window. He alleged that the group had been armed with knives and other weapons. The men had pulled down the banners and destroyed the cutouts.

Meanwhile an official of the ADIC said that there has been an increase in attack specially in the outstations.

The campaign in Colombo is not affected so much. This awareness programme is not anything new. We have been doing it for years but now the impact is more because the younger generation is also against smoking. We have got them involved and this has caused problems for the company, she said.

She added that these anti-tobacco groups will carry out a picketing campaign next week to protest the recent attack.

Meanwhile officers of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, a government organisation, allege that they too were attacked the day before the World Tobacco Day. They had lodged a complaint at the Kandy police station. Another group, Swarna Hansa Foundation claims that they were attacked in Ratmalana while putting up posters.

An official of NDDCB told The Sunday Times that this was the first time that they got involved in a poster awareness programme. They allege that the company may have thought that they belonged to ADIC.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Ceylon Tobacco Company told The Sunday Times that on May 30 posters infringing CTC' s trade marks were observed. Retail outlets had complained of vandalism of CTC advertising.

"CTC field staff spotted a group of persons involved in putting up posters and advised them that they were using CTC's products and Trade Marks in their posters. A few hours later a group of persons had thrown stones at the CTC field staff vehicle and the supplier," he added.

He added that the police had arrived on the scene and asked both CTC employees and the group to call over at the police station and later warned both parties.

He denied any attack on officers of the NDDCB and Swarna Hansa Foundation .

When asked to comment on the mass campaign carried out by anti-tobacco groups against CTC he refused.

Meanwhile moves are under way to ban liquor and tobacco advertisements on all media with effect from January 1.

This action is being taken on the instructions of a Presidential Task Force which studied the matter.


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