Rajitha Off The Hook In Fishy Deals

by Camelia Nathaniel

Evidence has surfaced that a prominent minister and former fisheries minister had been engaged in bribery and corruption during his tenure at the fisheries ministry depriving the country of millions of rupees in tax revenue and depriving the fishing community of many opportunities.

Despite his tarnished track record, this minister jumped ship from the Rajapaksa camp and joined the Maithri-Ranil bandwagon in order to safeguard himself and avoid being taken to task over the corrupt activities he had been engaged in.

During his tenure, a Chinese firm which wanted to engage in fishing within Sri Lankan waters had approached the minister through its local arm Arugambay Fishery (Pvt) Ltd. Under the pretext of having further discussions on the matter, the then Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne visited China on two occasions at the expense of the Chinese company. He left Sri Lanka aboard a Sri Lankan Airlines flight on sixth June, 2013 and returned on June 12,2013.

As a result of this visit, the minister laid down conditions that the deal could go through only if the local company Arugambay Fishery (Pvt) Ltd, would be replaced by a company that would be created with his secretary Don Lalith Anuradha Seneviratne as the major shareholder. Subsequently Blue Ocean Fishery (Pvt) Ltd was registered under N/A 176433 with his secretary Don Lalith Anuradha Seneviratne holding 60 per cent of shares. Misusing his privileges as a minister, Rajitha Senaratane set up this company knowing full well that it was illegal and appointed his secretary as the major shareholder in a bid to hoodwink the people. In addition, Blue Ocean Fishery (Pvt) Ltd, imported eight ships worth Rs. 400 million, but to date there is no mention of the duty that was or was not paid to the country. To date the investment of Blue Ocean Fishery (Pvt) Ltd is around Rs. 1000 million and the investment of Anuradha Seneviratne would have to be around Rs. 600 million. How a minister’s secretary could invest such a colossal figure is still a mystery.

According to the agreement between Blue Ocean Fishery (Pvt) Ltd and the fisheries ministry, 10 per cent of the catch of the eight vessels should be sold to the fisheries ministry at $ 1 per kilo, before the rest can be exported.

The Chinese company was earlier granted permission to engage in fishing under the Sri Lankan flag beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Sri Lanka. The company had entered into an agreement with the Board of Investment to carry out fishing in international waters. According to an official of the Ministry of Investment Promotion, although the Dikovita Port was constructed as the biggest port in Asia, it was the minister’s son who got the contractors and handled the construction and the expenditure incurred for the construction of this port should be investigated separately.

However although the previous regime and Minister Senaratne claimed that this was the biggest port in Asia, the depth of it is just 5 metres.

Let alone accommodating large commercial vessels, even the Chinese trawlers could not be berthed there as it was not deep enough.Under the agreement, 90 per cent of the catch would be exported to China and 10 per cent given to the fisheries corporation at one dollar a kilo, the official said. The Chinese vessels were to be docked at the Dikovita fisheries harbour where the processing for exports would be carried out.

The operation was expected to generate  US$ 11 million (Rs. 1.3 billion)  in the first year. According to the official, the company started operations with four vessels and thereafter deployed 16 more 150 ft vessels.

However in spite of the profits made by this company, the minister had used his powers and obtained nine years of tax exemption for Blue Ocean Fishery (Pvt) Ltd. Moreover there is no declaration as to how this company obtained the funds to start up this investment.

This company has also not made any payment to the fisheries harbour corporation for the use of the Colombo or Dokovita harbours. Further, it is leant that in spite of a clause that has been inserted to the agreement with the cunning intention of obtaining tax concessions, that 10 per cent of the catch of these vessels will be sold to the Fisheries Corporation at $ 1 per kilo, this company had not supplied any fish to the fisheries corporation. This corrupt minister also used his powers in order to silence any official who dared to raise this issue.

According to the official, unsuitable appointments were made during the minister’s tenure further aggravating the situation at the fisheries corporation and contributed to its ruin.

According to fisheries ministry sources, During Senaratne’s tenure as the Minister of Fisheries, the younger brother of Rajitha Senaratne, Mahil Senaratne was appointed as the chairman of the fisheries corporation.

At the time Mahil Senaratne was appointed as chairman, he did not even own a house, but shortly after, he had constructed a luxury house in Nugegoda and also purchased a BMW motor vehicle. Workers claim that this was due to the fact that he was importing fish to the country at high commissions.

He was said to be receiving commissions from everything that was purchased for the fisheries corporation including the shopping bags that were used.

They claim that having worked as a store keeper at Bata, Mahil Senaratne had no knowledge on how to run the fisheries corporation and as a result the institution was ruined.

The workers also claim that a former police officer Ruwan Lankeshwara was appointed as the managing director and he too joined the minister and his brother in destroying the fisheries corporation. Hundreds of thousands of rupees were also taken claiming that the money was for the minister’s bodhi poojas. Further the workers claim that during the period under Minister Rajitha, the staff of the fisheries department was set at 745, of which 600 were permanent employees. However the workers charge that Rajitha Senaratne and his group had recruited a further 700 workers on contract basis and this had put a huge strain on the institution. In addition these workers were obliged to agree and cater to all the demands of the management.The workers also charge that around 20 kilos of small fish had to be delivered to Minister Senaratne’s residence supposedly to feed the dogs and cats. There were no bills or payments for this. According to the regulations of the fisheries department all goods purchased should be done after calling for tenders. But in spite of these regulations, the minister and his group had purchased used furniture and utensils for the main office from a hotel in Beruwela and these items were subsequently discarded due to being unusable.  Part of these items have also ended up at the residence of the chairman, managing director and the trade union president, it is alleged.Meanwhile, the cleaning contract for the Peliyagoda Fish Market at the time was given to one of Senaratne’s friends, one Kabir from the Minuwangoda without following any tender procedure. The contract was granted at Rs. 1.5 million monthly and of this, around Rs. 500,000 was the minister’s commission.

In addition, the manufacturing of life jackets was also given to another friend of the minister. The workers also claimed that in addition to their wages, special allowances ranging from Rs. 5000 to 25,000 were paid as allowances to the management friends of the minister. Moreover while practically all ice machine plants were in a dilapidated state, these too were sold as scrap metal with commissions.

Further, former Chairman of the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation branch in the SLFP affiliated Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya, T.W. K. Dhammika who was accused of fraud of 2.8 million of NSS funds, imprisoned and later released on bail, was then reinstated by the minister without any proper investigation regarding the fraud.

While many crooks of the previous regime are being carted before commissions of inquiry and the bribery commission, those such as Rajitha Senaratne have cleverly switched allegiances and managed to avoid these investigations. According to the former president himself, Senaratne had made billions together with the Chinese and they too were unable to do anything about it because of their close relations with China. The JVP had filed a complaint at the Bribery Commission through the fisheries ministry regarding the misdeeds of Minister Senaratne, but since the minister has now switched sides and joined the Good Governance regime, so far no action has been taken. Voice Against Corruption (VOC) Convener and JVP North Central Provincial Councilor Wasantha Samarasinghe who was instrumental in filing this complaint said that as far as he knew no action was taken against the minister.

When contacted by The Sunday Leader Minister Rajitha Senaratne refuting these allegations said that although there had been a complaint that had been lodged against him at the Bribery commission, so far he had not been called for any investigation.

“This is done by Wimal Weerawansa’s people and although I heard about it, so far I have not been informed of any investigation that has been initiated.”

With regard to the allegations that then minister had engaged Chinese vessels illegally to fish in local waters he said it is not only the Chinese but Japanese vessels were also used. “If we had not met our target of 362 metric tons we would have lost our quota.”

“The EU is taking 52% while the other states only take 48%, but no one is talking about that,” said the minister.He further said that it was only a temporary measure and in order to meet the quota, we need to have larger vessels. Pointing to Thailand as an example the minister said that they had engaged around 100 foreign vessels, and we would need to consider that option in the future too. The minister also said that this is not being highlighted by the media and it was not something that could be understood by everyone.

“This is something to do with international affairs and ordinary people don’t understand this situation,” added minister Senaratne.

 

24 Comments for “Rajitha Off The Hook In Fishy Deals”

  1. max

    All these policoes are low clss thieves

  2. Ricky

    Granted, that everyone in Sri Lanka doesn’t understand international affairs; so does your actions as stated above make you mare savvy on international trade affairs or just a COMMON CROOK who has misused his powers to rob the nations wealth?

    CITIZENS for YAHAPALANAYA EXPECT ALL CROOKS TO BE BROUGHT TO BOOK, ELSE NEXT ELECTION WILL BE A DIFFERENT STORY.

  3. Kaputa

    I have heard of many types of Eels and Slippery Eels! What category does our Hon.Minister belong to is a Million Dollar question.Your guess is good as mine.
    “This is something to do with international affairs and ordinary people don’t understand this situation,”

  4. gamarala

    So, the Bribery Commission has found nothing wrong.
    SL should contact the Commission.

  5. This was all the Wealth of the People, But during the past regime and also this, This is all “JARTHI ARLE” by the Ministers and Appachi’S Family

    • dilky

      How come “Appachchi family” comes here ? This is about a minister in your Yahapalana gov that you appointed . remove your glasses bro !

    • Nandi Faiz

      Sorbita Thero & his Yahapalana movement has been completely hoodwinked by Hansaya & Elephant combination. All the socalled independent commissions have become yet another his majestys service. Prez is completely trapped within the imperialists & western powers.He is happy to exist & brush shouders with G8 leaders while country is auctioned to raise money for daily expenses.What a mockery while CB governor is raising his sons capital at the expense of the country where daily bond scams is order of the day!
      Armed forces seemed so unhappy that verbal exchanges between the high ups & govt ministers & Governors are becoming too frequent.
      Country is in far worse position in its whole histroy.

  6. What ever said and done he is a clever dentist . not only removing human teeth,than specialized on removing or braking government teeth too .that is why I said smartness.doing such big deals and still he behaves like a clean pollitician. it’s like a highly corrupt criminal before getting caught to join the police to investigate.no matter what ever party, must not keep any politicians like this in present government its bad for the good governance .keeping people like this like [horage ammagen pena ahanawa vageyi].if the government has to be clear and good has to clear all this corrupt eliments.that will be a blessing for government and the country to have a good future . budhu saranyi.

  7. rohan polwatte

    This guy took bribes to offer contracts when he was the minister for SEC & Housing development ministry. He should be investigated and penalized with the rest of the rogues.

  8. daggy

    So the Good Governance President Sirisena is all bunkum harbouring a thief.

  9. jay

    This man was called by the BRIBERY Dept before he left for his surgery to Singapore,BUT DID NOT RESPOND,WHY???
    YAHAPALANA-YAKO?

  10. Andi

    It is useless printing it ,if editor of Sunday Leader can not prove it . Why no one take this accusation infront of FCID?

  11. Jayasingha

    Mr; President and PM please inquire into these allegations as you do for those against MR and his relatives. Your fight against corruption should be genuine without exemptions for persons in the present govt:.

  12. Dentist Rajitha is biggest tribal maker for previous Government …But he cannot escape from the this accusation question is why investigation so late. Some year’s ago he was sentence for the bad medicine import …However Minister Rajitha Senarathna is talking very sweet but working very unfear .

  13. Noor Nizam

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa told this to the electronic media and the print media in the run-up to the 2015 Presidential elections. It is much appreciated that the Sunday Leader journalist Camelia Nathaniel has all the “guts” to bring out the whole story out of this “two faced” deceptive politician. During the time he was with Mahinda government and was making many trips to Norway, I had a feeling that there is something surprising, because Mahinda government was vehemently opposed to some of the actions (international moves) taken by the Norwegian government and also the involvement of the Norwegian diplomats dabbling in our local affairs and politics. But come the presidential elections and the pre-election activities, it is now revealed that Rajitha Seneratne’s visits to Norway was to facilitate the R2R Regime change project by the international community who were opposed to Mahinda (UPFA) ruling Sri Lanka. Rajitha’s son, now an MP of the UNP had clearly explained the CONSPIRACY to the media lately. HE. President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremasinghe should be vigilant about this father and son political conspirators, because if they will pursue corruption charges on the frauds and corruptions reported above, he may try to topple (CHANGE) the Yahapalana government too.
    Noor Nizam. Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher, SLFP Stalwart and Convener – The Muslim Voice.

  14. Gamini Dullewe

    True colors of founders of JADApalanaya ……….

  15. Aba

    HE IS BY FAR THE CLEANEST MAN AMONGST THE YAHAPALANA MINISTERS AND HIGHUPS1

  16. Ken

    We can now see whether Yahapalanaya is only a name board or not. It is now obvious that both Rajitha and Pacha Ranawaka jumped ship only to save their skins. This is excellent journalism and please also investigate about Panama papers and the connection to the ministers of who are named in there.

  17. Wise Donkey

    If really we want to call this good governance we want the minister taken in for questioning right now! No way out.

  18. Srilankan

    This is what they called good government or yaha palanaya

  19. This type of characters should be expelled from politics in Sri Lanka for the sake of poor people. He must be taken to the FCID as all the facts and figures are there to prove corruptions he has committed. People who have casted their valuable votes to send this culprit to Parliament should take the responsibility.

  20. Hora-Polis

    Dear Editor: Why haven’t you investigated how Rs 177 million was siphoned from the fisheries ministry funds to carryout a fictitious Feasibility study for Gurunagar, Silawathura, and Gandara. The said work was given to Power Asia (a newly formed company about few months before the award of the work, and didnt have any experience on carrying out engineering feasibility studies and designs for fish harbors) at a colossal sum of Rs 177 million. Not a single feasibility consultancy was awarded at this kind of a sum in the history. The real value of the work could be less than Rs 10 million. Anyone can even now investigate this. This has happened during MR regime, but some of the payments were made during Yahapalanaya, under severe pressure from RS. The Project Director appointed under Yahapalanaya (now, secretary, Ministry of Transport) has refused to make any further payment, but under duress he also had to recommend payments upto Rs 100 million. Still, so called Power Asia (which is linked to CS) has not given up claiming balance Rs 77 Million from poor man’s tax money. Fisheries Ministry, under duress now sought help of Moratuwa University to give their opinion of the work carriedout by the Power Asia. The Power Asia is linked to CS. This is DAY TIME ROBBERY of poor man’s money. please investigate. There is an internal Audit inquiry also on the matter.

  21. Camaliea —is she a journalist right? But most of it in this article is not true , inaccurate , no facts, basically full of accusations only .
    No. 1. She said Maheel didn’t own a house. She said Maheel built a house with fisheries Corp. money. Poor journalism. It was his fathers house who was the medical practitioner at the general hospital. He built this huge house , in 1967. Maheel is the youngest in the family. What kind of a lie is this? All misleading false accusations. Mahinda, and basil were frequent visitors at that time. Why don’t you ask them about that. They know maheels house, located in 22, rajitha pelawatte rd, nugegoda. Maheels parents named this house “Rajitha” , when he was studying at peradeniya. Ask Mahinda and basil, they know rajithas family history very well. Ask Mahinda or Basil , If you want to get the right information. Rajithas father bought a brand new Austin Cambridge car in 1957, when he was practicing at Dhrga town. At that time, in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)a very few people(only the wealthiest ) owned a car. Rajithas mother came from a high class wealthy family (her father, one of the wealthiest landlords in kaluthara district ,Martin samarasinghe, sinhagiri walawwa, nahinna , dodangoda.). Rajithas two sisters living in the USA , since 1985 , and brothers in law are, one is a chaired professor , and the other one is at world bank. I am telling these things, Camellia, because your article has full of lies and character assassination . Before you write an article you should get the facts right.
    And lie no 2. Maheel is not a store keeper at Bata. Maheel used to be a manager (I think he is one of the directors too)at Bata company. Before that he worked at Hayley’s . ( as an executive ) he has more than 25-30 years of experience as a manager. Much more experience than the previous government air Lanka CEO. He never being worked as a store keeper in his life . In fact , there is no store keeper position at Bata shoe company. A big Lie. Character assassination . Where did you get those information. Is it in your lmagination or going out of your mind or some other reason, that we don’t know. And Maheel doesn’t have a BMW. That’s a completely lie. Why are you doing this? Can we trust this person as a journalist. What is this ?
    And she said this worker said this , and that worker said this. What? Name the person please. You mention other Individuals names, why can’t name this and that workers name? We need facts. And names. Intelligent people won’t believe those accusation without names and facts. You can , I can name ships which were belong to the fisheries Corp. . Ok, At that time poor Mahinda cannot do any thing about corruption at fisheries Corp. , because rajitha is so powerful. OMG. Do you want us to believe that? I would say hahaha..
    And I want to mention one thing. Read this carefully Camilia, Very important. When Rajitha switched the sides with maithree, you know the situation ,situation in srilanka. Mahinda was very popular at that time. Nobody had a slightest idea , that maithree would win. Or Mahinda could be defeated. Did you? Honestly? I am asking you Camelia? Because you said in your article , that Rajitha switched tsides to get away from the corruption charges. Another accusation, and a lie. Pretty good journalism.
    Anyway rajitha new that if they were defeated , his life would be in danger or life in prison . The family members were crying , and ask him to change the decision . Because they thought, that Mahinda would be the definite winner (everybody in sl thought that) and after all, remember , SF……… And (API marila ipadune nene) . It happend very recently.
    After reading this article, one thing came to my mind. WHO TOOK THE BRIBE?

  22. Aba

    Hon Minister is too shrewd and cunning not to be caught or to be taken up by anybody or any entity to take action against him, now that he is a key person in the Yahapalana govt.

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