The Sunday Leader

Is The Military Operating Within Legal Limits?

By Nirmala Kannangara

Light House Galley Navy restaurant Picture courtesy: www.exploresrilanka.lk, The Jetliner Picture courtesy: www.navy.lk, Army's holiday resort at Wadduwa Picture courtesy: www.panoramio.com, Eagle Golf Links Picture courtesy: www. defence.lk, Air Force Heli Tours Picture courtesy: www.salasalappu com, Navy Whale Watching tour Picture courtesy: www.navy.lk and Somawathiya National Park cleared for banana cultivation Picture courtesy: www.sinhale.wordpress.com

Questions are being raised about revenue from special projects undertaken by the Sri Lankan Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.
Many personnel from the three armed forces are involved in commercial businesses after the war.
According to the spokespersons of the three armed forces, all revenue goes to welfare funds which in turn are used for the welfare and rehabilitation of their forces’ personnel.
These ventures include the Eagles’ Golf Links at China Bay and the Marble Beach Air Force Resort, both in Trincomalee and Heli Tours – a commercial flight operator spearheaded by the Air Force, while the Navy operates the Jetliner nautical cruise, a whale watching cruise and the Light House Galley close to the Galle Face Green.
The Army runs an agricultural farm within the Somawathiya National Park together with the local agents of the US based Dole Food Company – Letsgrow (Pvt) Ltd. and a holiday Resort in Wadduwa. A proposed 20 room hotel project in Palatupana, Kirinda, Yala is under construction while plans have been drawn up for three more hotel projects in Pasikudah and Kalkudah in the Eastern province.
The question is, have the three armed forces followed guidelines when establishing these institutions?
When looking at the Light House Galley in Colombo, the answer is ‘No’. Although open to the general public as a restaurant for the past several months, it is yet to obtain a trade license to operate as an eating house.
Reliable sources from the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) speaking on condition of anonymity told The Sunday Leader that the Light House Galley has neither obtained the required trade license to operate as a restaurant nor allowed Food Inspectors to examine the restaurant’s kitchen.
“They claim that it is situated in a high security zone (HSZ) and they cannot allow Food Inspectors in. If so why have they opened it to the public?” the CMC sources questioned. If the public were allowed access to the Light House Galley, then Food Inspectors should be allowed to check their standards, they pointed out.
“We are helpless. This is Navy property and they assume they are above the law,” CMC sources said.
If the Navy has failed to obtain a trade license to operate the restaurant, the next question is whether they have obtained a liquor license. Navy personnel also have duty-free privileges on alcohol, so is it possible that they are selling duty-free liquor at a higher price in their restaurant?
Have they registered for VAT and do they pay corporate taxes?
These are the questions the Navy has to answer. Although the Navy Spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya promised to check with the Navy and revert, he failed to provide the necessary details at the time this newspaper went to print.
However, Commander Warnakulasuriya did say that the revenue obtained from both the Light House Galley and Whale watching tours is remitted to the special Navy welfare project fund.
“All this money is used for the housing projects of Navy personnel and also for the families of those Naval officers who sacrificed their lives in the war,” said Commander Warnakulasuriya.
According to him the revenue obtained from the Jetliner cruise goes into government coffers while service charges come towards the Navy welfare fund.
The money to pay the sailors’ salaries comes out of the Ministry of Defence budget, the Navy spokesman revealed.
Although profits from the whale watching tours go to the welfare fund, the spokesman did not reveal who footed the bill to maintain the cruiseship ‘Princess of Lanka’ which is used for the tour. In addition it remains unanswered whether the Navy pays corporate taxes and VAT for the tours, since they are a profitable venture, though the Warnakulasuriya said all finances were overseen by Navy internal auditors.
Meanwhile Air Force Spokesperson Group Captain Roshan Biyanwila said that the Eagle Golf Links and Marble Beach Air Force Resort were non-public recreation and hospitality ventures respectively, both fully owned by the Air Force. He added that the projects were funded by the Air Force Command Welfare Fund. The revenue from these ventures are used for the rehabilitation of Air Force personnel injured in the battlefield, as well as dependents of those personnel who had passed away, Group Captain Biyanwala said.
However, he added that it was the government that ran Heli Tours, while the Air Force only provided skilled pilots, and as such the income generated from the commercial flights went to Government coffers.
When asked who owns the properties of the Marble Beach Air Force resort and the Eagles’ Golf Links, Biyanwila said that the beach resort is on Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) land but the Golf Links is located on Air Force-owned land.
Biyanwila explained that the SLPA had abandoned the land in question during the height of the war, and it had been later occupied by the Air Force. After the war, it was decided to start a recreation centre to generate money for the welfare of injured personnel and the dependents of those who had died in the war. The Air Force is now in the process of transferring ownership of the land from the SLPA he said.
When asked whether the resort and golf club are VAT registered and whether they pay corporate taxes, Biyanwila said that they always abided by government regulations and had not violated them. He added that Air Force auditors were in place for the Navy enterprises; while Heli Tour’s finances were audited by the Auditor General’s department.
All attempts to contact Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority H. M. C. Nimalsiri to find out the name of the license holder operating Heli Tours (Pvt) Ltd.proved unsuccessful.
Meanwhile Army Spokesperson Brig. H. A. Nihal Hapuarachchi said that the income generated from the agricultural farm in Somawathiya goes to the army welfare fund, once again to provide funds for dependents’ of army personnel as well as for recreation facilities for the injured personnel.
When asked as to why they operate this project within the Somawathiya National Park destroying fauna and flora, the army spokesperson said the farm is not situated inside the Park but in the buffer zone.
Hapuarachchi said that the land was once owned by the NLDB, where they ran two farms before the war. When the Army gained control of the Eastern province in 2007, this land was used as a rehabilitation camp for former women LTTE cadres. After the war, the land was given to the Defence Ministry through a gazette notification, he added, though he could not provide any further detail about the gazette notification.
According to Brig. Hapuarachchi, 5,000 acres are to be developed while banana has been cultivated on 1,000 acres.
The army has not given the agricultural farm land to LetsGrow (Pvt) Ltd. Instead, the company lent their expertise in terms of cultivation, Hapuarachchi said.
When asked whether LetsGrow has funded this project, Brig. Hapuarachchi said that other than paying for the workers, the SLA has not sought any financial support from this company.
However when asked as to whether the Army has obtained the necessary approval from all relevant government agencies since this is more than a 50 acre development project, the army spokesperson said that he knew nothing more on the matter, and any further information had to be obtained from the Defence Ministry.
However Hapuarachchi also failed to say whether the Army maintains a VAT file and paid corporate taxes.
The three spokespersons however said that there were no restrictions for the Forces to engage in profitable businesses.
Although they claimed that all income goes to the respective welfare funds, it is a known secret that the Defence Ministry still asks the public for funds to build houses for the heroic soldiers.
What actually happens to the revenue these Forces earn from these profitable ventures and who benefits  are the million dollar questions.

21 Comments for “Is The Military Operating Within Legal Limits?”

  1. union

    I need to clear bushes in my land (almost 1200 squarefeet). I am thinking of appraoch Gothabaye to supply labour for it. Is it legal to do so?

  2. Dorothy

    Military and legal limits are never a question for the civilians in most countries that are led to believe that the battle fatigued soldiers what ever rank have to be compensated withe their kith and kin for the sacrifices they made by rallying round the powers to be who called out for soldiers as a patriotic duty . It is done with no questions asked even after so many years have lapsed after the World War two . Their clubs are funded ,prime property bought for their residential facilities and so it goes on . The Civilians can dip into it by dipping into the area to provide services etc . If the military wants to generate an income for their facilities by tourist projects that is to be commended for then they would not dip into the Government coffers .We are talking of a 30 year war with no actual war fronts ..

  3. captain milinda ratnayake

    the air force has been in total contravention to ICAO-international civil aviation organisation laws which govern all contracting states that military aircraft and personnel are used only in times of emergency to avoid human loss or damage to property.

    the sri lanka civil aviation authority has turned a blind eye to this under the incompetent stewardship of the director general mr H.M.C NIMALSIRI.

    air force involvement in civil aviation was started in the 70′s by the former air force commander paddy mendis.

    if this was possible then the royal air force in the UK and the US air force would operate flights and there wold be no commercial operations in effect.

    similarly the civil aviation is also in violation of the fair trading act which provides unfair advantage to the air force as it pay duty free rates for all consumables like fuel which plays almost 48% of operating aircraft cost.

    well what more can you expect in a banana republic!!!!!

  4. Cyrando

    The Helitours Operations is a totally illegal operation as per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines.
    The subsidised flights (with pilots and engineers paid with public money and equipment bought with public money) enable low ticket pricing and is destroying the Domestic Aviation Industry. The Director General of Civil Aviation knows it is illegal but is powerless as his boss -the Chairman of Civil Aviation is the ex-Air Force Commander.
    Some say that low ticket prices is a good thing, but we are still paying for it with higher taxes and fuel prices (when fuel prices are dropping in the rest of the world)
    There is no accountability for the money collected as it is an illegal way of converting Public money into non-Public funds administered by the Air Force (and Navy & Army) which is used for various unaccounted functions and sometimes filters into pockets as well.

  5. Dumnida Jayatileke

    Non one follows guidlines in this third world un clean corrupt country. Thugs and rogues run this devil’s country.

  6. SENSE

    ALL THESE PROJECTS ARE ‘IMPROVEMENTS’ TO WHAT WE ALWAYS POSSESSED BUT NEVER USED SO THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO HARM IN DIRECTING A SOLDIER / AIRMAN OR NAVY PERSON WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN BATTLE CONDITIONED TO NEW METHODS OF LIVING. WHY ARE WE CRINGING ABOUT THIS ??!!

    TO HAVE THESE MATTERS DONE ACCORDING TO THE LAWS OF THE COUNTRY IS ANOTHER MATTER THAT NEEDS THE ATTENTION OF THOSE IN AUTHORITY, NO DOUBT !

  7. Lanka Kolla

    The revenue should go back the citizens of the country. Tax payers are paying for all the direct and indirect expenses, the assets are owned by the sri lakans.

  8. Dilshan

    So CMC health inspectors have checked all the eating houses in colombo and found everything is clean and all that is left is this place run by the NAVY???

    come on people, give us a break.!!

    • Roshan

      Good one friend!! CMC this is the entity where the workers just appear to sign on every morning and appear again at 4 pm to sign off!! Funny

  9. Even though this is a profitable venture that makes profit if all income goes to a welfare fund for war heros that seems to be a nonprofit organization. So, don’t need to pay tax. But Navy should let the Health Inspectors to do their duty without any barrier. All eating places in Colombo is very clean and hygenic thanks to Health Inspectors :))

    • SO SINCE IT IS AN ACCEPTED FACT THAT THE ARMED FORCES DO A BETTER JOB THAN THE LOTUS EATERS OF THIS COUNTRY WHY NOT HAND OVER POWER TO THEM TO GOVERN THE COUNTRY TOO WHICH WILL BE GOOD FOR ALL.NO MORE MPS, MINISTERS COMMISSION AGENTS ETC

    • jayadev

      Please see AR FR all funds that bring in income should be credited to consolidated fund and all expenses must be voted by parliament

      ASK Treasury or PB . To earn an income is all right but should be credited to
      consolidated fund

  10. daya weerasinghe

    Its the Law of the jungel…..in this 3rd world banana republick ruled by a Family elected by a nation of ignorant uneducated idiots with a distructtive indifernce !

    • paul

      “nation of ignorant uneducated idiots”.

      Unfortunately this is how a democracy works: Each individual has one vote irrespective of whether they are knowledgeable, educated and clever or not. If this is not OK, then steps need to taken to change the constitution to limit voting rights to persons with set minimum qualifications…We can start with English educated graduates and by excluding rural folks and paddy farmers.

  11. Gunasiri Bandara

    All these projects are illegal according to the establishment code of Sri Lanka. Funds collected from Army projects have become the personal property of Seva vanitha President ( Mrs Jayasooriya). Millions are generated by using the labour of soldiers. Their wages are pocketed out from the treasury. Money is still being deucted from soldiers against their consent (5000 – 10000) in the name seva vanitha projects. This is alltogether illegal arbitary and action against the rule of law.

  12. paul

    “However Hapuarachchi also failed to say whether the Army maintains a VAT file and paid corporate taxes.”

    Does it matter whether the money is in your left pocket or the right ?

  13. paul

    Let us try and see through this apparent anomaly:
    Forces have more than 50,000 men and women who need to fed and paid salaries when the brutal war which went on throughout Sirimavo, JRJ, RP, DBW, Chandrika’s leaderships has ended unless they are sent to invade a neighboring country…
    This being the case, it is better to make use of their skills for productive nation building work rather than to keep them idly by while spending more money to fatten contractors pockets..

  14. Obviously, about 90 percent of the members of the legislative assembly in Sri Lanka(SL) are a bunch of greedy and egoistic lot. They play to the media and the media play with them.

    They have proved to be a useless and hopeless legal clan.

    Though there was a problem of colonialsm arising out of grabbing Tamil Eelam(TE) as a colony by SL in 1972, the legislature wrongly called it an “ethnic problem” for the past 40 years.

    They were chasing after a mirage and therefore a solution could not be found.

    The politicos did not have the wisdom to solve this problem without war, murder, genocide and waste of financial resources.

    Together, foolishly, the lawmakers of SL, bristly spent massive amounts to carry out a war against the people of TE.

    Consequently, the Sri Lankan Ruppee has reached its all time low now.

    This is perhaps the begining of the end of SL and the begining of TE.

    The people of TE, inside and in exile, now have a strong intellectual and ideological grounding by the grace of God. And this is making them a tough customer for those who support the colonisation and empire building of the coloniser SL in TE.

  15. union

    What about the revenue earned from the informal venture formed by military with the blessing Rajapaksa family? Some of these informal ventures are Extortion from Tamil businessmen, ransome collection, suppling girls from war zone to rest of Sri Lanka and running brothels in Anuradhapura..

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