Keheliya on the dock
By R. Wijewardene
Documents in the possession of The Sunday Leader suggest
that Defence Spokesman and Minister of Foreign
Employment Promotion and Welfare, Keheliya Rambukwella
was intimately involved in a series of massive
frauds committed by the General Manager of the Sri Lanka
Foreign Employment Agency.
Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Agency is a state owned
company that provides overseas jobs to Sri Lankans
looking for work abroad. The company established in
1996 is essentially a subsidiary of the Sri Lanka Bureau
of Foreign Employment and in 2006 it fell under the
purview of the newly created Ministry of Foreign
Employment Promotion and Welfare headed by Keheliya
alleged that by appointing his former ministry secretary
a Ranjini Nanayakkara as General Manager of the SLFEA
Rambukwella was able to engineer a series of
transactions through the SLFEA which ultimately
benefited only himself or his close associates including
his coordinating secretaries and brother.
Documentary evidence suggests that Rambukwella, drove
the SLFEA to purchase an overvalued piece of land at
Nawala for Rs. 60 million when the actual value of the
land as per a state valuation was only Rs. 40 million.
Documents also indicate that vehicles purchased by the
SLFEA including two double cabs and a Montero jeep were
being used not by SLFEA personnel but by associates of
Minister Rambukwella, including his brother.
further massive fraud seems to have been committed
through the of payment of $190,000 (over Rs. 20 million)
to a Korean company, Bohon Enterprises to which the
SLFEA did not it appears owe any money.
also appears that on Rambukwella’s behest over Rs. 3
million of SLFEA funds were diverted to print
promotional material for the Central Provincial Council
total value of the various frauds that are alleged to
have been committed amounts to over Rs.100 million and
further a profitable and functional state owned company
was reduced by these transactions to a state of
clear paper trail seems to lead through Mrs. Nanayakkara
to Rambukwella. Yet when contacted Nanayakkara denied
any responsibility for the mismanagement at the SLFEA
and further claimed that Rambukwella played no part in
the decisions taken at the company.
documents in the Leader’s possession suggest otherwise
and indicate that despite Nanayakkara’s denials there is
a case for the Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion
and Welfare to answer.
Unfortunately, Rambukwella is out of the country and was
not able to respond directly to the Leader’s Exposé.
Former employees file court case
The Sunday Leader has learned that on Thursday,
September 3 a court case was filed by 12 former
employees of the SLFEA regarding fraud,
mismanagement and mal practice at the company with
Rambukwella cited as the chief respondent.
Dispute over number of IDPs in
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
census carried out by the Vavuniya District Secretary’s
office in July has revealed that 10,000 displaced
persons who have entered the IDP camps in Vavuniya
during the final phase of the war between the security
forces and the LTTE were missing.
However, the police and the military have disputed the
figure of 10,000 saying it could be even higher or lower
than the stated amount due to the lack of accurate
report prepared by the Vavuniya District Secretary’s
office has been handed over to the Vavuniya DIG’s
senior official at the Vavuniya District Secretariat
told The Sunday Leader that the census was carried out
by the office along with the names registered by the
army. However, he said the initial figures were not
the census was carried out, we took the maximum number
of people in a camp and found there were many IDPs who
were missing from the camps,” he said, adding that the
number of missing IDPs does not include those who have
been released officially with the approval of the
official said that authorities in charge of the IDP
camps had not known the whereabouts of the missing
are told that an investigation is being held to
determine the whereabouts of the missing persons,” the
However, the official said that many IDPs have managed
to flee to India.
are currently between 248,000-250,000 IDPs in welfare
Vavuniya DIG Ravi Wijegunawardena said that he had not
received any census report highlighting missing IDPs.
However, he said the number of IDPs missing from the
camps could be even higher than 10,000, as there were no
accurate figures on the number of IDPs who initially
entered the camps.
Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara also
said there were no actual figures of the IDPs who
initially entered into camps.
“However, there may have been several IDPs who have
managed to flee the camps, as they cover a vast area and
security cannot be provided to cover the entire area,”
Tourism minister on an elimination
By Nirmala Kannangara
unexpected move which is likely to throw the country’s
tourism sector into turmoil, Convention Bureau Chairman
Prema Cooray and Ceylon Hotel School Chairman Cornel
Perera have been asked to step down with immediate
effect by Tourism Ministry Secretary George Michael.
Speculation is rife that Sri Lanka Tourism Development
Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Bernard Gunathilake too would
be removed within the next few days.
Ministry Secretary Michael on the orders of newly
appointed Tourism Minister Nandana Gunathilake issued
the removal order on Cooray and Perera.
Michael confirmed to The Sunday Leader that orders were
issued to the two officials to immediately step down
from their posts. He however refused to comment on the
speculation of the possible removal of SLTDA Chairman.
Tourism sources however criticised Minister Gunathilake
expressing their disappointment on the turn of events.
30 long years with the end of the war, there were plenty
of hope for a revival in the tourism industry but the
sudden decision to remove the two Chairmen who have done
a great deal of work towards the upliftment of the
industry will definitely have a negative impact on the
industry,” sources said.
emphasised that such actions done for petty political
gain would only result in the industry facing a further
Colombo Dockyard in Rs. 525
million customs dispute
By Faraz Shauketaly
Colombo Dockyard Ltd (CDL) is in a serious dispute with
Sri Lanka Customs, in an attempt to avoid payment of a
customs assessment of Rs. 525 million. The case has far
reaching consequences for the manner in which customs
collects revenue apart from duties — like TT / GST / NSL
and Stamp Duty.
Lanka Customs had asked the Attorney General to launch
an appeal of a previous judgement, in the Supreme Court
asking the nation’s highest court to rule on what the
customs perceives as an ambiguous judgement delivered in
the Court of Appeal with far reaching consequences.
case stems from the sale of 21 vessels by Colombo
Dockyard Ltd. during a four-year period between 1997 and
2001. CDL had supplied 12 vessels to the Sri Lanka Navy
and nine vessels to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
Under the terms of sale, the sale price included the
customs duty and the various levies, which CDL would
then remit to Customs after delivery. In the case of
Sri Lanka Navy, the duty and levies were to be borne by
the Navy and payable to customs by CDL
Customs had launched an enquiry into these sales and
found that CDL had, in violation of the BOI agreement
signed by them, not processed customs documents at all
in respect of 15 of the vessels and in respect of the
balance six had submitted customs documents after the
vessels were delivered to the buyers. The amount in
question is a staggering Rs. 525 million.
move that has the customs investigators in a complete
muddle, the Attorney General, who was due to support
this application in the Supreme Court early next week,
has instructed his counsel to inform court that this
will not be supported as agreed. This attempt by the
Attorney General to attempt to settle this matter
without reference to the petitioners and the Customs
Investigating Officer, has drawn the wrath of the
customs unions. They say that with the President not
entirely happy with the level of revenue collection
emanating from customs, this is yet another attempt to
showcase customs in a poor light.
to institute action, they were confident that justice
and fairplay will ensure that Article 28 (D) of the
Constitution is not violated in any shape or form by
customs officers and investigators.
Greed preventing President from
implementing 17th Amendment – JVP
By Munza Mushtaq
President Mahinda Rajapakse has come under heavy flak
from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which has
alleged that sheer voracity of the President has led to
the non implementation of the 17th Amendment to the
Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath told The Sunday
Leader that it was obvious that the President did not
want to implement the legislation because it would mean
the pruning of his executive powers.
“Instead of trying to make the police, judiciary, public
service and elections establishments independent, the
President is politicising them,” he charged.
JVP frontliner also noted that it was impossible to hold
a free and fair election in the country due to the
non-implementation of this legislation.
Meanwhile, JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe addressing a
public rally last week declared that the country
immediately needed an independent election commission
and an independent police commission if the country is
to witness an election which will be both free and fair.
Amarasinghe emphasised that the setting up of both these
commissions was vital as a presidential election was
slated for next year. “The opposition has no faith in
the police because most of them are government henchmen,
so it’s imperative that these independent commissions
are appointed immediately,” he reportedly said.
execution of the 17th Amendment will result in the
establishment of independent commissions to administer
the police, judiciary, public service and elections.
Lasantha murder trial fixed for
Mt. Lavinia Magistrate on Thursday, September 3 released
the telephone data report of the
to the Mirihana Police for further investigation into
the murder of The Sunday Leader Editor-in-Chief Lasantha
Considering the request of the Mirihana Police to
record another statement from the alleged suspect in
custody, the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate released the
telephone data report to the Mirihana Police together
with Wickrematunge’s mobile phone. The Wickrematunge
murder trial will be taken up once again on September
17, at the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate’s Court.
Engineers cry foul against mega
LNG power plant
By Munza Mushtaq
country's first ever 1000 MW Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
fired power plant in Kerawalapitiya has run into fresh
controversy with the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers
Union (CEBEU) alleging that authorities have resorted to
unscrupulous methods in awarding the contract to the
Australian company with local affiliations.
placed sources attached to the union told The Sunday
Leader that the plant which was inaugurated in May this
year has been given the green light even without the
vital feasibility study which will ascertain whether the
power plant is a viable project for Sri Lanka or not.
CEB commenced the feasibility study around six months
back with Japanese assistance but Ministry of Power and
Energy and other highly placed government officials have
bypassed regulations and given the go-ahead for the
inauguration of the project even before the study has
a similar study was carried out around two to three
years ago, it was determined that a LNG plant of such a
magnitude was not viable for a country such as ours,
however, this time around even before the respective
study has been completed the plant has been inaugurated,
which means the plant has not followed the legal
requirements," sources emphasised.
Meanwhile, the union sources also highlighted that the
plant has not only bypassed general requirements but was
also in contravention to the new Electricity Act, which
was passed in parliament in March 2009.
UK denying visas to local students
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
students planning to return to their universities to
complete their degree programmes following the summer
vacation, and those seeking to receive fresh admission
to universities in the UK, are facing many difficulties
due to the rejection of their UK visa applications.
of these students would miss out on the first few
lessons of the new semester.
Services Colombo Consultant Preethika Silva told The
Sunday Leader that visa applications forwarded by
students who were in Sri Lanka during the summer
vacations, as well as new students, have been rejected.
reason for this mass rejection of UK visa applicants has
been attributed to the ‘fast changing criteria’ the UK
Border Agency uses in granting visas.
said the rejection of visa applications was mainly due
to the Point Based System introduced by the Border
Agency, where visas are approved according to points
received by the applicants.
rules and regulations keep changing so fast that the
students cannot cope with it,” she said. She explained
that the problem faced by the students concerns the
question on the maintenance fund where students are
required to show they possess sufficient funds for the
completion of the course. Meeting this requirement adds
10 points to the visa application.
student seeking admission to a university in London is
required to show the availability of 800 pounds for a
period of nine months in his/her account under the
maintenance fund question.
noted that although the required amount is 800 pounds,
certain questions in the visa application form on funds
available to the applicant has made it important for the
applicants to show all the funds in their possession.
“If the applicant has not given the entire funds
available, the Chennai officer rejects the application
form,” she said.
visa applications have so far been rejected on the basis
of insufficient fund availability.
Therefore, any student applying for a visa needs to have
between Rs. 8-13 million in his/her account. Previously,
students were required to show funds amounting to one
year’s course fees in their bank account, in addition to
Students returning within four months are required to
show a two-month maintenance fund (800 pounds per month
for a university in London and 600 pounds per month for
a university out of
have now asked all students to write down their entire
funds to prevent any confusion,” Silva said.
asked if many students have been refused visas to the
UK, Silva said that there were quite a few, and that
they would even miss out on the first part of their
semester if the applications are not processed fast.
said that when a visa is rejected it takes time for the
applicant to re-apply. However, delays are possible
because of the backlog created by new applications,
which are processed along with re-applications. British
High Commission Spokesperson Dominic Williams was not
available for comment.
Cooking his way to Matara’s rest
By Raisa Wickrematunge
one of the major cities in the south, is often touted as
a tourist destination. Apart from being the terminus of
the southern railway line, it is home to temples built
by ancient kings, as well as being a bustling centre of
industry. Of course, there’s also the beachfront for
vacationers to enjoy.
has fallen under Dutch and Portugese rule in the past.
As a result, the area is rich in history, with foreign
rulers incorporating their own architectural styles into
the buildings. The city boasts two forts reflecting
this: the Star Fort and the Matara Fort. Nestled within
the larger Matara Fort is much of “old Matara.”
of culture, it drew many sightseers, some of whom, no
doubt, made sure to stay at the Matara Rest House. This
rest house is unique in that it is built on the old site
of an elephant stable. Part of the stables has been
preserved on the premises, which overlook the beach.
This idyllic getaway has now become the centre of heated
August 27, it was reported that President Mahinda
Rajapakse had taken steps to lease out the rest house
building. The lease was to be at a price of Rs. 88,000 a
month, for 33 years. The lucky recipient? A man named
Sarath Kandambi, who allegedly cooked for the Rajapakses
and the Medamulana Walawwa, the President’s ancestral
Matara Rest House building is owned by the Urban
Development Authority (UDA). However, the land on which
the rest house stands belongs to the Matara Municipal
company named UDA Rest House Limited allegedly
transferred the building and land to Kandambi. After
that, chaos ensued. Matara Mayor Upul Nishantha
intervened and refused to let anyone enter the premises,
saying the transfer had been an illegal transaction.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the President and the
Working Director of the Lowland Development Board,
Dishan Gunasekara, demanded that the key to the rest
house premises be handed over to Kandambi.
Kandambi himself said the agreement was not for
ownership but simply for management of the rest house.
He said the UDA had taken over management in 1982.
Kandambi confirmed that the lease agreement meant he had
to pay the UDA Rs. 80,000 per month. In addition,
Kandambi said he was not the President’s cook, but had
catered at some events held by the President.
Mayor Upul Nishantha agreed that the Urban Development
Authority only acquired the management of the rest
house, not the land, in the1980s. The land belonged to
the Municipal Council, he asserted. Nishantha claimed
that the 2004 tsunami had destroyed the rest house,
after which the UDA didn’t do anything to restore it.
Matara Municipal Council had decided to call for tenders
from the public for the rest house, according to
Nishantha. However, Nishantha said that before this
could be carried out the UDA had signed an agreement
with Kandambi. He added that the UDA had not contacted
the MMC about this agreement, as they should have done.
10 days ago, Nishantha said he received a call from some
officers saying someone was using heavy equipment at the
rest house, and was “demolishing and repairing” the
premises. “We didn’t know who this person was who was
carrying out work on our land,” Nishantha said.
Accordingly, the Mayor speedily rushed to the site with
some police officers.
person said he had permission from the UDA, specifically
from a company named UDA Rest House Ltd. We have never
heard of this company. Moreover, the UDA did not tell us
anything about Kandambi,” Nishantha said.
Enraged by what he considered an illegal act, Nishantha
then told the people to “get out,” and threatened legal
action. Since then, Nishantha confirmed that the rest
house has remained closed. He added that the MMC was
going to advertise the public tender in the newspapers,
and said they would choose the best offer, and this
person would get ownership of the coveted rest house.
Nishantha said he was not averse to the idea of Kandambi
getting ownership, provided he made the best offer.
Until then, no one would be allowed access to the Matara
Rest House, Nishantha said.
Nishantha said that, to his knowledge, Kandambi was
maintaining restaurants in Matara. He knew little else
about him. He said Kandambi was not Rajapakse’s personal
cook, and he heard from sources that Kandambi had never
been a cook for the President.
Meanwhile Dishan Gunasekara, a relative of the President
who, according to an earlier news report, threatened to
forcibly enter the premises unless the key was handed
over, said he was not connected with the fracas over the
rest house in any way. “I am not involved,” Gunasekara
for the time being, the rest house goes ownerless. Which
of the parties will prevail, the UDA or the MMC? Who is
in the right? Will a prolonged legal battle commence as
the premises lie unused? Will Kandambi finally get the
keys to the rest house? Only time will tell.
thing, however, is clear. Kandambi must be a consummate
cook — a cordon-bleu chef of the highest order. Perhaps
Kandambi charmed the President by producing
mouthwatering crab curry at an event. Perhaps his
achcharu or his kotthu rotti put everyone else’s to
shame. Certainly he must have done something right, if,
indeed, the President is keen for him to manage the
Matara Rest House.
Remember the saying: “The best way to a man’s heart is
through his stomach.”
By R. Wijewardene
In his response to the outcry over
the sentence passed on journalist J.S Tissainayagam
Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa
was reported last week as having claimed that
"discussing, criticizing and commenting on the judgments
delivered by a court of law are sub judice and can be
considered as Contempt of Court."
Understood verbatim this suggests
that even talking about the sentence given to J. S.
Tissainayagam ‘discussing’ can be considered Contempt of
Yapa’s statement is patently and
flagrantly false and seems to represent a deliberate
attempt to intimidate the media and the general public.
In no country on earth including Sri Lanka is it
contempt of court to discuss a verdict.
Contempt of Court is a serious charge
and conviction on contempt charges carries a mandatory
jail sentence as was discovered by S.B. Dissanayake. By
claiming that discussing or commenting on a verdict
constitutes contempt of court Yapa is threatening the
media and public with jail should they so much as
mention the verdict given to Tissainayagam or in fact
any other verdict ever delivered.
Fortunately according to leading
lawyers Yapa’s statement is little more than bullying
" He has not understood the meaning
of sub judice," claimed Upul Jayasuriya, Attorney-At-Law
and President of the Colombo Law Society. Explaining
Jayasuriya said sub judice is meant only in cases that
are under consideration; cases that are currently being
heard where a verdict is pending.
Sub judice does not apply once a
verdict has been passed as obviously the case is no
longer under consideration. At this point the media or
anyone else is free to comment on the verdict.
According to Presidents Counsel
Srinath Perera; "A bona fide analysis and comments upon
a judgment are permitted without casting any aspersion
on the judge or the court which delivered such a
Therefore analysis and comment on a
judgment is permitted so long as these comments do not
cast aspersions – essentially defame the judges and the
court responsible for the verdict.
Again discussion comment and even
criticism of a judgment is permitted-and all that
journalists and the public need be mindful of is that
they do not in their criticism defame the judges or the
Despite their essentially nonsensical
nature Yapa’s comments raise a serious point.
Contempt of Court can be interpreted
extremely broadly – and in Sri Lanka unlike India there
are no clear statutes governing its interpretation.
The late Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar
raised this issue prior to his assassination and called
for clear parameters regarding the interpretation of
contempt of court to be defined.
However this initiative seems to have
has fallen by the wayside. Yapa’s comments however make
a strong case for the need for more clarity regarding
what does and what does not constitute contempt of
court. What is certain however is regardless of Mr.
Yapa’s opinion both the media and the general public are
free to discuss, comment on , and or even within reason
criticize any judgment made by by any court - Sri Lanka
in 2009 is not Orwell’s 1984 - at least not yet.