Kelaniya: Mervyn’s Waterloo
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema - Photos by Thusitha Kumara
Public Relations and Public Affairs Minister Dr. Mervyn Silva’s fiefdom in Kelaniya has fallen apart. Friends have now turned foe with Silva’s trusted allies at the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha now becoming his enemies.
The so called descendent of King Dutugemunu, Silva’s dirty deals in his electorate Kelaniya have now come to haunt him with the governing party members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha threatening to expose everything with evidence.
Documents including letters and receipts issued by Silva in his campaign to collect monies through the Pibidena Kelaniya Development Fund as well as the Vishnu Devala maintained by him have now surfaced.
The Pibidena Kelaniya Fund has been initiated by Silva claiming to help the needy people in Kelaniya and to be used for infrastructure development projects in the area.
Be that as it may, the address for the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund is a bar owned by one of Silva’s lackeys.
The address for the Fund is Samanala Restaurant and Bar, No. 136, Sumito Building, Kandy Road, Kadawatha.
The Mathata Thitha programme of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not been applied to the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund.
The Sunday Leader is in possession of the letters sent by Silva’s Fund to businesses in the Kelaniya electorate requesting for money and receipts issued after collecting the monies.
The members in Kelaniya who are now waging war against Silva have in the past years carried out many contracts for the Minister.
Some of the key incidents the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members were involved in were the attack on the Sirasa Media Network office in Braybrooke Place in 2010 and the abduction of the Samurdhi officer who was tied to a tree by Silva last year.
Three members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha, Chathura Dhanushka, Sarathchandra Dias and Hasitha Madawala were identified from the video footage recovered from the MTV/MBC’s CCTV cameras during the attack and were arrested as well.
Nevertheless, the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members have now come out against Silva saying he and several of his supporters have been engaged in collecting monies from traders and businessmen in the Kelaniya area in a fraudulent manner.
Business establishments, especially restaurants, hotels and guesthouses in the Kelaniya area have been sent letters by the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund demanding for monies every month.
The letter signed by a person whose name does not appear in the document states that the respective business establishment has not made the monthly payments for a period of two months.
A letter sent to Onro Hotel at No. 366/A/3, New Road, Dalugama, Kelaniya on February 19, 2011 states that the organizations has failed to make the monthly payments due to the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund for the months of January and February 2011 and has demanded that the payments be made soon.
All these letters are sent from the Samanala Restaurant and Bar where the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund is located.
On January 31, 2011, then Labour Minister Silva issued a letter on his official letterhead to the businessmen in Kelaniya asking them to be present for a meeting attended by him on February 2, at 9.30 a.m. at the Samanala Restaurant and Bar in Kiribathgoda.
Again on June 20, 2011, the Manager (Finance) of the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund has written to the hotel saying the establishment has delayed the monthly payments and has demanded that monies be deposited in the Fund’s account by June 30, 2011 with arrears monies.
The letter states that the monies could be deposited in the Fund’s account bearing number 237 1001 30000 410 in the People’s Bank branch in Kiribathgoda.
Apart from the restaurants and hotels, Silva’s Pibidena Kelaniya Fund has also collected monies from the container companies in Kelaniya.
One of the container companies in Kelaniya, Repcon Container Depot (Pvt) Ltd., has paid up to Rs. 50,000 every month to the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund since 2009.
However, the receipts issued to the company states the Fund’s address as 3rd floor, Public Market Complex, Kiribathgoda.
The receipts have also been signed by Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha member and Secretary of the Pibidena Kelaniya Development Foundation, Melroy Perera and Treasurer, Lakshman Ashok Wijesinghe. The Fund has also collected monies from individuals too. A sum of Rs. 3,500 has been collected for each month from individuals.
Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha member and Secretary of the Fund, Melroy Perera claim that the monies deposited in the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund could be withdrawn only by Minister Silva, his supporters Sarath Edirisinghe alias Singapore Sarath and Lakshman Ashok Wijesinghe alias Sea Lion Raja.
“It is these three individuals who have the powers to withdraw monies from the Pibidena Kelaniya account,” he said, adding that as secretary he was only involved in issuing the receipts and depositing monies in the account.
Perera also claimed that he was not aware as to the exact amounts that were in the account.
“I only deposited the monies, as the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund is a legal organization registered in the Pradeshiya Sabha,” he explained.
However, it is only the Minister and two of his supporters who have the mandate to withdraw monies.
It has also been revealed that monies are also collected from businessmen in Kelaniya for Silva’s Vishnu Devala.
Monies have been collected by the Uthpalawarna Vishnu Devala in Himbutuwelgoda, Dalugama, Kelaniya by another one of Silva’s allies called Ranjan Silva.
Receipts have been issued to the tune of Rs. 200,000 collected by the devala
According to the receipts that have been issued in November 2011 are for the development work of the second and third phases of the devala.
In another development, various persons have also collected monies from the weekly fair (sathi pola) in Kiribathgoda, which is under the purview of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha.
In fact monies amounting to Rs. 85,000 have been collected from some traders to sell 6 feet by 6 feet shop spaces in the Kiribathgoda pola.
Pieces of paper stating receipts have also been issued to the persons who have paid the monies.
Interestingly, while some person had scribbled on the space allocated for the recipient of the monies, an ID card number has not been stated at the space allocated for it.
The persons who have paid monies have not yet received deeds for the shop spaces as well.
When The Sunday Leader visited the Kiribathgoda pola located behind the main bust stand, several individuals who have paid monies and “purchased” the shops said they had not been given any deed of ownership.
“We paid a lot of money and the monies were collected by one of Minister Silva’s secretaries, but we have not been given a deed,” a shop owner said on conditions of anonymity.
He added that they were uncertain of what would happen in the future since the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha has claimed the sale of the shop spaces was illegal although the individuals have paid monies for it.
Even the small time traders have not been spared by Silva and his group in Kelaniya.
Small scraps of paper with numbers have also been issued to the small traders who sell goods at the pola.
While the Kelaniya Pradehsiya Sabha states that such traders have to pay Rs. 125 per day to carry out business in the pola premises, some persons have collected various amounts from the traders.
The monies collected range from Rs. 250 to Rs. 550 from a trader for each day they conduct business in the pola premises.
Only Silva and a handful of his lackeys know the accounts of monies collected in the Kelaniya area.
As pointed out by Perera, even he is unaware of the monies collected in the account although he is the secretary of the Fund.
It is this reason that the governing party members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha openly accused Silva of pilfering monies from the Pibidena Kelaniya Fund.
“There is no Pibidena Kelaniya, but it is Pibidena Park Road for Mervyn,” Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members told the media.
Silva has demolished his residence located at No. 296/7, Park Road, Colombo 5 and is in the process of building a new house.
The Sunday Leader learns that Silva and his family are currently residing in one of his friend’s houses in Mirihana, Nugegoda.
Members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha said earlier in the week that the laying of the foundation and constructing the basement alone has been estimated at Rs. 2.5 million.
“How can a government minister have such monies?” they questioned.
However, the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members headed by its chairman Prasanna Ranaweera met the SLFP Secretary and Minister Maithripala Sirisena, SLFP Treasurer and Minister, Dullas Alahapperuma and UPFA Secretary and Minister, Susil Premajayantha last week and handed them files containing proof of Silva’s illegal money collection activities in Kelaniya.
The governing party members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha also handed 12 official complaints against Silva to the SLFP disciplinary committee.
They now claim that a complaint would also be lodged with the Bribery Commission as well.
The clash between Silva and the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members commenced, following the abduction of one of Silva’s coordinating secretaries, Amal Rodrigo last month.
Rodrigo, The Sunday Leader learns had revealed details about the collection of monies in the Kelaniya area along with other illegal activities and has named the people involved with Silva.
The Kelaniya members have been agitated when Silva had not expressed much interest in safeguarding them when authorities have stared to crackdown on extortionists and those involved in illegal activities.
Realizing that they were going to be at the receiving end for Silva’s illegal activities, the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members decided to go public with details about Silva they had kept silent for years.
Many attempts by The Sunday Leader to contact Minister Silva for comment failed since he could not be contacted through his mobile phones or office number. Silva’s Media Secretary was also not available for comment. Silva on many previous occasions has been spared from any punishment by the SLFP leadership. However, the damning evidence that has surfaced this time around with regard to Silva’s activities would not make it easy for the party seniors as well as those in the government to ignore.