The Sunday Leader

Rajapaksa Style: Spending Public Funds For Image Building

by Nirmala Kannangara

It has now come to light as to how the former Rajapaksa regime that has been accused of lavishly spending tax payers’ money on extravagant image building programmes, has spent Rs.200,000 per minute for the opening ceremony of the Bellanwila walkway on September nine, 2014.

The Sunday Leader is in possession of the relevant documents. The Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) which comes under the purview of the Defence and Urban Development Ministry had met the entire cost for this ceremony and Rs.27.614 million had been paid only to Showtown Entertainment, owned by Bhathiya Jayakody of Bathiya Santhush fame for event management services.

It is alleged that on the directive of the then Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLLRDC had to offer the Event Management contract to Bathiya Jayakody without calling for quotations and had not obtained board approval.

“It is under the Weres Ganga development project this walkway and the cafeteria area was constructed adjoining the Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya by the SLLRDC. Although the SLLRDC built the walkway, it is the Urban Development Authority (UDA) which oversaw the work under the guidance of the then Defence Secretary. Since the then government was targeting an early presidential election and knowing this opening could be a good event for them to show how Mahinda Rajapaksa was ‘developing’ the country, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had wanted the opening ceremony to be an impressive event,” SLLRDC sources said on condition of anonymity.

Although some of the higher officials had wanted to call quotations to give the Event Management contract for a reasonable amount, on the directives of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the programme was entrusted to Bathiaya Jayakody.

Meanwhile, sources further said that although the government auditors after an audit query on this issue had wanted the SLLRDC to send their answers, proper answers had not been sent to the Auditor General’s Department.

Sources further accused the former Chairman of SLLRDC, Harshan de Silva, General Manager Srimathi Senadheera and Deputy General Manager (Drainage and Reclamation) S.T. Muthumala for this excessive spending knowing that the Corporation was running with bank loans.

“The SLLRDC became cash strapped institution under the previous regime as they withdrew money on many occasions under the guise of utilising the funds for development projects. The most recent instant where under the instructions of Rajapaksa was the initiative of the ‘Weeraketiya project’ to which the SLLRDC had to give Rs. 33 million. It was this same Chairman Harshan de Silva, General Manager Srimathi Senadheera and DGM S.T. Muthumala who released RS. 33 million for the Weeraketiya Project. Other than the management, no one else at SLLRDC knew what this Weeraketiya Project was. Some believed it was a land filling project in Weeraketiya while some thought that it was another project. Without any hesitation the then General Manager and the DGM who is still holding office to the annoyance of SLLRDC employees released the funds,” sources alleged.

According to sources, it was only later that the employees had come to know that the SLLRDC funds have been utilised to renovate the monuments of D.A. Rajapaksa and Dandina Samarasinghe Dissanayake (Mrs. D.A. Rajapaksa) which was allocated under the Weeraketiya project. These renovations had been carried out under the supervision of the UDA and this graveyard memorial consists with ponds, an underground museum, flower railings and a road network to reach the grave sites.

“The same way how the Rajapaksas obtained money for the Weeraketiya Project, he wanted Bathiya to manage the event without calling quotations from any other party and offered Rs. 27.614 million,” sources alleged.

According to reports, SLLRDC had paid Rs.11.954 million to Showtown Entertainment for the cultural events on the day of the opening ceremony on September 9, 2014 while the balance of Rs. 15.66 million on September 17, 2014.

It is learnt that for the opening dance including the main event and for the compeers in three languages a staggering Rs.13.845 million had been paid through invoice no: 1438 while for cultural events, sound and light system another Rs. 11.1 million had been  paid by invoice no: 1439. For the musical show that was followed after the opening ceremony, stage décor and advertising cost Rs.1.831 million had been paid by invoice no: 1440 and another Rs. 837,400 for marquees, VIP chairs, water pumps and special dresses by invoice no: 1441.

The report further states that out of the total event management cost of Rs.27.614 million, Rs.25.783 million had been paid only for the service and the events held between 5.30pm and 7.50 pm on September nine which indicates that SLLRDC had paid Showtown Entertainments a staggering Rs. 200,000 per minute.

“Because of the misuse of SLLRDC funds after being taken over by the Defence and Urban Development Ministry, this institution had to obtain a loan from the National Savings Bank for Rs. 14.5 billion which we have to pay Rs. 592.791 million once in every six months in 24 installments. The Bellanwila expenses and the Weeraketiya project expenses were all paid from this loan. If not for the fall of the Rajapaksa regime, we would have had to take another loan to pay for some other white elephant projects also,” sources alleged.

According to sources, SLLRDC has an event management section, it is puzzling as to why the former ministry secretary had specifically instructed the Chairman to give the contract to Showtown Entertainment without considering the charges.

“Those who are at SLLRDC can organise any event for a mere few lakhs of rupees. We have a doubt whether part of this Rs. 27.614 million had been gone to the pocket of one of these higher officials like how Channa Wijewardena and Upuli Panibaratha claim that they did not take Rs. 15 million for their dance presentations at the opening ceremony of the Hambantota harbor. Although a payment had been done for Rs. 15 million, Channa-Upuli Performing Arts Foundation had been paid only Rs. 6.8 million. It is now up to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate in to Frauds and Corruptions (PRECIFAC) and the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) to hold an inquiry,” sources added.

Although a message was left with General Manager SLLRDC, Srimathi Senadheera’s Personal Assistant to find out as to why the government procurement guidelines were not followed to select an event management organisation, Senadheera did not respond to the message till the paper went to press.

All attempts to contact Bathiya Jayakody for a comment failed. A message was sent to Jayakody seeking a comment but he did not respond to the message at the time the paper went to press.



2 Comments for “Rajapaksa Style: Spending Public Funds For Image Building”

  1. daggy

    wonder whether this Nirmala kannangara is reporting with her clothes on.

    This is now similar to when Rome was on Fire, Nero was playing his fiddle.
    There is enough burning issues in the Country nothing delivered YOUR thuppahi journalism instead of addressing the current issues you refer to some wayward thing.which is least important to the suffering masses right now.

    You can not promote Leader with this type of articles. You better retire of get a life elsewhere away from the leader.

  2. gamarala

    There is only one explanation – CORRUPTION.
    They believe that images of people can be whitewashed and that the public will swallow this.

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