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Sunday, 15 February 2004  
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Bribery and corruption : Files containing allegations may remain untouched till Commission is set up

by a staff reporter

Files containing allegations of bribery and corruption framed against several UNF Ministers and high ranking officials submitted to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption may remain untouched till the Commission is properly constituted. The Commission has been near dormant since the death of one of its commissioners.

A group of former PA MPs led by Mahindananda Aluthgamage,formerly handed over the files containing complaints to the Commissioner on Thursday complaints of corruption and bribery were lodged against 14 UNF ministers and six officials including Ministers Ravi Karunanayaka, Mahinda Wijesekara, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Rajitha Senaratna, K.N. Choksy, Jayalath Jayawardena, John Amaratunga, S. B. Dissanayake, Bandula Gunawardena, M. H. Mohamed, Thilak Marapana, Lakshman Kiriella, A. R. M. Abdul Cader and G. L. Peiris.

The officials who are charged by the PA MPs include Charitha Ratwatte, R.Paskaralingam, Malik Samarawickrema, Lal Nanayakkara, Wickrema Weerasooriya and Sumi Munasinghe.

Piyasena Ranasinghe, Director General, Bribery or Corruption Commission told the 'Sunday Observer' that the Commission had been inactive for the last 12 months. He said they were not able to proceed with investigations because the vacancy arising from the death of a commissioner had not been filled.

Among the list of complaints, Minister Karunanayake has been accused of importing 40,000 Metric tonnes of rice and re-selling to a local businessman at a lower price. He has also been accused of importing sugar and selling it in a manner similar to the rice. He is also being accused of purchasing sugar for the Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) at a higher price from the local market during the same period.

Minister Mahinda Wijesekara has been accused of selling prime land worth Rs. 300 million belonging to the State Timber Corporation for Rs 30 million without cabinet approval and Rajitha Senaratne is accused of violating the Land Reform Commission Act, the sale of 58 block of lands and getting a commission of Rs.25,000 per acre.

Minister S. B. Dissanayake is accused of illegally depositing Rs. 200 million belonging to Samurdhi Authority in the Pan Asia Bank.

The main accusation against Minister Tilak Marapana is appointing a consultancy firm for the reconstruction of the Valachachenai railway track without following proper government procedures. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe is accused of appointing an insurance agent without the consent of the Cabinet.

The introduction of a new insurance scheme without obtaining prior approval from the Cabinet and awarding the contract to a Jerusalem Insurance Corporation is another allegation as well as awarding a tender to a private company to construct the centre for Foreign Employment Bureau.

Minster Lakshman Kiriella is accused of selling State land at Hantana and Mahakanda. A Part of this land is alleged to have been bought by his wife, at an undervalued price.

Minister A. R. M. Abdul Cader faces charges for importing 2000 buses on a duty free basis. Later, taxes have been reimposed and the buses resold to peoplised bus services through a finance company, making a profit of Rs.120 million.

Minister K. N. Choksy faces charges for settling a Rs 4.8 billion loan obtained by the Yasodha Group of Companies for Rs. 100 million allegedly with the help of Wickrema Weerasooriya and People's Bank Chairman Lal Nanayakkara.

Minister Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena faces several charges, including awarding a contract to construct the A-9 road to the D.V. Jayawardana Company Limited belonging to a family members.

Minister John Amaratunga is accused of awarding a tender for 75,000 hats for the Police Department to a company, which bid the highest price for the lowest quality hats while ignoring the bid by Harsha International which quoted the lowest prices for highest quality goods. Another allegation is the import of 400 substandard jeeps for the police without a tender procedure.

Minister S. B. Dissanayake is accused of depositing Rs. 200 million belonging to Samurdhi Authority in Pan Asia Bank illegally. Another allegation is the import of Mahendra Bolero jeeps from India at overvalued prices.

Minister Bandula Gunawardane is accused of selling the Bank of Ceylon London branch for a pitiful sum, leading to a loss of Rs. 1,000 million.

The main charge against Minister M. H. Mohamed is the vesting of Galle Face Green in the EAP Group for a small sum without following the tender procedure.

The 14 Ministers have refuted all allegations made against them by the SLFP members and in a signed statement have claimed they were totally false and malicious and in an endeavour to tarnish their names in view of the April 2 elections. They have also said they'd contest the allegations.

The officials have also deemed the allegations as 'completely baseless and untrue'.

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