The Sunday Leader

They Who Own Aircraft

By Nirmala Kannangara

A two-seater light aircraft that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Yoshitha Rajapaksa owned was found in a store at the Economic Center, Narahenpita a few days ago. Now questions have been raised why Rajapaksa wanted to dismantle the aircraft in a hurry after his father’s defeat two weeks ago.

Questions have also been raised as to why this dilapidated aircraft was hidden in a store at Narahenpita if the owner Yoshitha Rajapaksa had nothing to worry about of owning an aircraft.

“Storerooms at the Economic Center are meant to store consumer goods but not aircrafts. This is not a hanger (a large workshop or building for storing and maintaining aircrafts) but the Colombo’s Economic Center. We do not know when this aircraft was brought to this center but we are worried why the former government allocated a large space to store this aircraft when we have no proper facilities to store our goods,” Rupasinghe Nonis, a vendor at the Economic Center asked.

Nonis further said that it is up to the authorities to check as to who gave permission to Rajapaksa to store the light aircraft at the economic center and when this aircraft has brought to the location.

“We have to know who gave the permission, whose direction and when this was brought here. The Ministry of Co-operatives and Internal Trade should tell us why one of the storerooms was given to Rajapaksa to store his aircraft and to show us if they have charged a rental from the aircraft owner. The Ministry officials have to tell us the reason why they allowed one of the stores to use as a hangar,” Nonis said.

It was on a tip off to the police emergency unit, the aircraft was found at Narahenpita. According to Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana, the raid was carried out on information received to the police emergency unit last week.

“We were told that a small aircraft has been found at the economic center and some people were trying to remove it in a container belongs to a private TV channel. We are investigations this further,” the Police Spokesman said.

Meanwhile Managing Director Asian Aviation Center Nehara Jayathilake, the wife of veteran film director Chandran Rutnam, said that this aircraft was once owned by the Asian Aviation Center and was later gifted to Yoshitha Rajapaksa on January 11, 2013.

“This aircraft has been assembled by the late Ray Wijewardena more than 30 years ago and was given to us later. When we received it, it was not in a working condition but we used this as a mere educational exhibit. Few years ago Rajapaksa has seen this at an exhibition and has asked my husband whether it is in a working condition and when he said that it was only an exhibit, Rajapaksa has asked whether he can have it. This aircraft was not worth at all, my husband gifted it to him in 2013,” Jayathilake said.

According to her, Rajapaksa has asked for the aircraft to exhibit in his office.

“As this was dilapidated and valueless, it is good for us to give it to a person who can clean and maintain the aircraft rather than stored it in a hangar at our aviation center in Ratmalana. We transferred the ownership to Rajapaksa and informed it to the Civil Aviation Authority,” Jayathilake added.

Jayathilake further said that she obtained the approval from the Director General Civil Aviation Authority to transport the aircraft from Ratmalana to Narahenpita.

When asked as to which address she got the permission to deliver the aircraft, Jayathilake said that she got the permission to deliver the aircraft only to Narahenpita, not to a specific address.

“There was no necessity to give the address, only the location. Since Rajapaksa wanted to take it to Narahenpita, I got the approval to Narahenpita but not to a specific address. I don’t know where this was taken, whether to the economic center or any other place,” she claimed.

According to Jayathilake, when an aircraft is taken from a place it is registered to another place irrespective of its condition, it is a must to get the written approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.

“Apart from the Civil Aviation Authority approval, I wrote to the Ratmalana Airport and Aviation Services Limited to get their approval to remove the aircraft from the airport premises. We submitted all the details, even the vehicle registration number in which the aircraft was to be transported. Although there is a controversy about this aircraft this is how Yoshitha Rajapkasa owned it,” Jayathilake added.

When asked whether this aircraft has the Certificate of Registration and the Certificate of Airworthiness from the Civil Aviation Authority, Jayathilake said she was not aware of it as from the time they received the aircraft 25 years ago from Ray Wijewardena, it was not in flying condition – hence they did not obtain the said certificates.

“Ray Wijewardena may have obtained the licenses but we did not as it was lying in our hangar at Ratmalana with a sentimental value,” she said.

Jayathilake said that she got a call from an unknown person few days ago requesting to send some of their mechanics from the aviation school to dismantle the aircraft to which she asked the caller to contact their engineer to get the support.

When asked whether she knew who the caller was and if not what made her to send her staff to dismantle the aircraft and whether she checked with Rajapaksa about the authenticity of the call, Jayathilake said that she did not have any doubt about the caller as there is no necessity for anyone to give a nuisance call.

“Why should anyone give us nuisance calls? I was asked to send the mechanics to the Economic Center in Narahenpita and I sent the them to dismantle it. May be they wanted to dismantle it and take away to somewhere else,” Jayathilake added.

Meanwhile reliable sources from Sri Lanka Air Force on condition of anonymity said that although Asian Aviation Center claims to be the former owner of the controversial aircraft, the LTTE too owned similar aircrafts to drop bombs to a military camp in Mannar some years ago and even to carry out some attacks in Colombo too.

“The LTTE used similar aircrafts to drop bombs to the gas turbine plant at Kelanitissa power station in Colombo and for the army headquarters in Mannar. We do not know whether these aircrafts were destroyed during the war or whether they were taken into forces custody. Now, since there is a new government under a new President, why cannot the defence authorities investigate whether this aircraft is from Asian Aviation Center or whether it was one of the LTTE air-crafts?” sources alleged.

However, Director General and Chief Executive Officer Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka H.M.C. Nimalsiri told The Sunday Leader that he has to go through the details of this aircraft before making any comment.

“To my knowledge this aircraft has flown six years ago and its license has not been renewed. It is a must to have the Certificate of Registration and Certificate of Airworthiness and to renew them annually. It is also surprised as to why this aircraft was parked in a storeroom as generally they have to be stored in an airport. I have to check the details. Please call me on Friday, I will furnish all the details,” Nimalsiri said.

When asked why permissions are not given to import remote control toy aircrafts without the Defence Ministry approval when the authorities has allowed private parties to own aircrafts without licenses, Civil Aviation Director General said that during and after the war there were strict regulations of using remote control toy aircrafts as well.

“We lifted this ban three years ago. During and soon after the war we did not allow anyone to own these remote control toy aircrafts as it was a threat to the national security. Such toy aircrafts carry cameras and we had to ban them here. But we lifted the ban three years ago,” Nimalsiri added.

 

Ownership of the yard

When this newspaper contacted Director General Civil Aviation Authority H.M.C. Nimalsiri on Wednesday, he said that to remove an aircraft to a particular location it is compulsory to mention in the request form the address of the new location. However when the newspaper contacted him on Friday to find out the address, Nimalsiri said that it is a yard owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa.

When asked what the legality of giving permission to an unknown place owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa and whether it was because he was the son of the then President, contradicting his earlier stance, the Director General said, “Yoshitha Rajapaksa does not own many yards in Narahenpita. So my officials have approved the request without considering the address. That he is the son of the then President, my officials have not considered. However I have to investigate why they failed to get the delivery address,” Nimalsiri said.

According to him, this aircraft has been first registered with the Civil Aviation Authority on September 17, 1988 and has been renewed the license annually. The license has expired on September 16, 1999.

“This has been registered under Dr Ray Wijewardena and it was Chandran Rutnam who requested to send the aircraft to Narahenpita for an exhibition held on July 11, 2013. Although the owner has to inform the Civil Aviation Authority where the aircraft is, after July 11, 2013 we were not informed the location until we saw this on TV last week,” Nimalsiri said.

 

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We did not know what was in the storeroom

- Manager Economic Center Narahenpita

According to Lasantha – Manager Economic Center Narahenpita, it was only when the police came they became to know that an aircraft and a large bus with modern equipment capable of telecasting live TV coverage have been parked inside the store.

“This store has been rented out to Modern Distributors but I am not aware of any further. Please contact the Additional Secretary Co-operatives and Internal Trade Ministry for further details,” Lasantha said.

When contacted Additional Secretary Co-operatives and Internal Trade Ministry D. Jeewanadan, he said that the store has been rented out to G.P.S. Distributors and the leasing agreement has been signed by Nishantha Ranatunge. “We were not told as to what they were going to store in it. Although these storerooms are not for parking vehicles there is no provision that the leaser cannot park vehicles in them,” the Additional Secretary said.

6 Comments for “They Who Own Aircraft”

  1. George

    A storm in a tea cup. Don’t waste time on these piddling things. The comments of the anonymous spokesperson from the Air Force are the stupidest that I have seen. This is an ultralight aircraft which can barely carry two persons let alone bombs. The Air Force couldn’t locate the LTTE aircraft which were far more powerful Zlin aircraft. There are bigger things to go after. Don’t waste time on this minor issue.

  2. Cren

    There is no doubt that the blood hounds(LTTE) used this type on all bombing spree vital targets to distory the economy and demoralize the forces to achieve their stinking elaam. Something suspicious in statement’s given. Had someone had a hand in supplying LTTE these light aircrafts through cinema and drama is the missing jigsaw passel. Investigations over to you maybe the retired general or former airforce commander may some idea on the model .

    • Issy

      Cren:

      Are you on crack? Why make up stories? This article talks about an aircraft that does not have an air worthiness certificate, meaning, unless it is an imbecile like you, no pilot will fly it. Now given Rajapakshas have raped the country blind, I am surprised that this news paper is spending this amount of time chasing this story when they could be researching stories about all the governmental abuse and corruption MR was involved in. What about Swiss bank accounts, Lambos that were airlifted outside the country prior to elections etc? MR’s sons talk like they were new born innocents!! Track that down Leader and do some real journalism!!!

    • tomsam

      Please dont blame the LTTE for all what the SL govts,including pakse thugs did for minority Eelam Tamils.
      Their actions were the reaction to the genocidal moves by successive then sinking,stinking lankan govts,culminating in pakses.
      It was nothing nothing but a simple cause and effect reaction.
      Now SL has become an International concern, human rights to GENOCIDE.
      It’s up to the present regime to right the 60 plus years of hoodwinking the world.
      The ball is in Maithri’s court.

  3. Lucky for Yoshita that his father was defeated. If not he would have done a Sanjay Gandhi in this plane!

  4. Weera

    Totally unimportant non issue

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