18th November 2001, Volume 8, Issue 18

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issuespic1.jpg (18064 bytes) The Dougles Devananda phenomenon

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

"Man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assured, His glassy essence , like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, As make the angels weep";

— William Shakespeare (Measure for measure)

Kathiravel Nythiananda Douglas Devananda’s tryst with destiny came when the founder leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party met with Ranjan Wijeratne then deputy defence minister under President Ranasinghe Premadasa at a posh Cinnamon Gardens bungalow nearly twelve years ago for a confidential discussion that lasted for nearly three hours. The meeting had been arranged by Sri Lankan intelligence officials. Accompanied only by his former deputy Nadarajah Atputharaja alias Ramesh, the ‘down but not yet out’ Devananda made an offer that the unconventionally dynamic Wijeratne could not refuse. Devananda was prepared to place at the government’s command the full cooperation and unstinted support of his newly formed organization in return for protection and support.

Path-breaking offer

The offer was path-breaking at that time as no Tamil militant organization had until then come forward to help the main ‘enemy’ directly. But Douglas like Barkis was willing! The Indian Army’s phased out withdrawal was at its tail end; the Varadarajapperumal led Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front’s North - Eastern Provincial administration was tottering on its last legs; the honeymoon phase of talks between the Premadasa regime and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was growing stale; full scale war erupting between the government and LTTE or the government and EPRLF or among all three was a distinct possibility. An offer of assistance by a Tamil militant outfit could be beneficial in a war scenario. It was advantageous to Colombo then to procure the dubious services of Devananda. Preliminary arrangements were made.

Within months the EPRLF administration was dismissed and thereafter war broke out between the government and the tigers. Douglas Devananda was in business. EPDP cadres scattered in several parts of India and Sri Lanka began to converge in Colombo. Devananda also went in for new recruits and dissidents from other groups. Soon he had more than three hundred cadres at his disposal. Apart from outright block grants of money by the state ,arrangements were also made to pay monthly allowances of 3000 rupees per cadre. The EPDP also engaged in propaganda for the state in both the print and electronic media. As war progressed the LTTE abandoned the Islands off the northern peninsula because they were ‘militarily unimportant’ in the words of former tiger political wing leader Yogi. This was Devananda’s opportunity. Douglas and his boys arrived with food and provisions by sea and set foot after many years in the North. The Islands were entrusted to the EPDP’s care by the government. That stranglehold remains to date and the EPDP has not looked back since.

The agreement arrived at with the government then was like manna from heaven to Devananda. It was only some weeks before that he had arrived in Colombo with two comrades from Chennai (then Madras). He was wearing rubber slippers and had only a knapsack carrying some clothes and documents. His political fortunes were at a low ebb. The offer to help the government was born through desperation. The bold gamble worked and then bloomed successfully after war broke out with the tigers. Devananda was criticised severely then for betraying the Tamil cause and openly collaborating with the enemy.

Splinter groups

Yet, as time went on other groups like the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam and the Razeek faction of the EPRLF also began to cooperate militarily with the government. Some groups claim now that they are no longer engaged in military assistance and that only break away elements from their groups are with the government now. Some of these splinter groups like the Mohan faction in Batticaloa for example have been absorbed into the armed forces and hold rank.

Unlike these groups who became totally subservient to the state and became part and parcel of the armed forces for remuneration Devananda maintained some form of independence from the start. In recent times his cadres do not engage in any joint exercises or military activities with the armed forces. It has been to Devananda’s credit that he did not let the EPDP deteriorate into a stark mercenary outfit devoid of political content alone. He aimed high and sought to establish a financial empire by exploiting the off shore Island’s restricted economies first. Thereafter he went after political power and got the EPDP ensconced in Parliament utilising his grip on the Islands. The last Parliamentary elections gave him further leverage when he helped Kumaratunga form a government. In return he obtained a cabinet portfolio that catered mainly to Tamil needs and interests. He is perhaps the most powerful ‘official’ Tamil today.

Devananda’s rise to power and office from obscure origins during the past decade provides a tragic insight into the fate of armed Tamil militancy. While one defiant and dominant strand in the form of the LTTE continues to struggle in a sacrificial and dedicated mode towards the goal of Tamil liberation, the likes of Devananda have become the very anti - thesis of this objective. After discarding the ideology of secession for practical reasons

Douglas Devananda did not let any inhibitions stand in his way as he pursued his objectives with single minded devotion.Devananda like Milton’s prince of darkness is a fallen angel. His family hailed originally from Chunnakam but later moved to Athiaddy in Jaffna town. The LTTE’s shadow cabinet minister for cultural affairs, the well known Tamil poet Puthuvai Rathinadurai was to refer derisively to Douglas later as the ‘Athiaddy Kuthiyan’ ( The hunk of Athiaddy). Devananda’s father Kathiravel was a white collar employee of the Petroleum corporation. The family like many others of the clan (ex - senator Nagalingam) were ardent supporters of the Lanka Sama Samaaja Party. Devananda’s paternal uncle was the well known trade unionist and activist K C Nythiananda. Devananda spent most of his childhood years with Nythiananda at 17 Frances Road in Colombo 6. The bachelor Nythiananda virtually adopted Devananda who studied at Colombo Hindu College then. Devananda was no academic bright light but learned rudimentary politics from his uncle. Devananda went on to include both Nythiananda’s name as well as his nom de guerre in the movement Douglas as parts of his official name later.

Short-lived indulgence

The seventies was a period of political ferment for the Tamils. The old left, lost its lustre because of its unashamed cohabitation with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Leftist stalwarts like Nythiananda metamorphosed into Tamil nationalists. The 1977 violence led to Nythiananda and the well known human rights lawyer Kandasamy forming the Tamil refugee rehabilitation organization. The Tamil youth too were getting radicalised. Secession and armed struggle to achieve it was the credo of the youth. Devananda also was not immune to these currents. He joined the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students and thanks to his mentor, another erstwhile Trotskyite, Eliathamby Ratnasabapathy went to Lebanon and obtained military training with the Palestinians. After returning from the middle -east Devananda along with Pathmanabha and others broke away from the EROS and formed the General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) that was to be the forerunner of the EPRLF.

Devananda’s indulgence in pre - 1983 militancy was short-lived. He led a not so successful robbery of the Thirukkovil bank in the Amparai district but was caught by a Muslim civilian when fleeing at Akkaraipattu. Jailed at Welikade, Devananda like Panagoda Maheswaran and others fought tooth and nail to escape death at the hands of Sinhala convicts in July 1983. Transferred to Batticaloa Devananda played a crucial role in engineering the break out from within. Escaping to India he underwent Indian training also and then formed the military wing of the EPRLF the People’s Liberation Army. Douglas was the first PLA commander. The PLA’s military track record was not very impressive and its most ambitious project, the attack under Douglas’s command on the navy installation at Karainagar was a disaster. Douglas lost a cousin sister Shobha (the first woman cadre martyr in the struggle) as well as his second in command Sinnavan among other casualties in the abortive attempt.

Soon sharp differences arose between Devananda the military chief and Pathmanabha the political commissar of the EPRLF. The movement in practical terms was split vertically. The EPRLF politbureau removed Douglas from his post and appointed Gaffoor as military commander. This resulted in Devananda travelling in late 1986 to Madras to meet Pathmanabha and resolve matters. While Douglas was staying at Choolaimedhu in Chennai there arose an unsavoury incident where a mob was instigated by interested parties into attacking the EPRLF backed office the Eelam People’s Information Centre. Devananda fired at the mob and an Indian Tamil lawyer was killed. Douglas was arrested.

Meanwhile the LTTE began asserting itself against other groups. Earlier Devananda had established a non - confrontational relationship in Jaffna with former tiger Jaffna chief Kittu. But with Devananda’s departure from Jaffna the relationship soured and in December 1986 full scale hostilities between the EPRLF and LTTE flared up. The EPRLF in Jaffna was virtually annihilated and its military commander Gaffoor killed. Devananda was blamed indirectly for this debacle. One charge was that he had depleted the strength of the EPRLF in Jaffna by sending home all the cadres from the Wanni and Eastern province prior to his departure to India. Another was that all the mortars and RPG’s in the EPRLF arsenal had been ‘dumped’ or hidden by Devananda and his supporters. The third was that Devananda’s loyalists had not fought back and simply slipped away into hiding when the onslaught began. All these made the EPRLF a sitting duck, it was charged.

Permanent split

Under these circumstances the EPRLF split became permanent. After his release on bail Devananda’s faction and a PLOTE dissident faction led by Thangarajah alias Paranthan Rajan came together and formed the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front. The Indo - Lanka accord and its aftermath led to this front collapsing. To his credit Devananda took up a firm Tamil nationalist stance and condemned New Delhi for its ill advised venture. Devananda’s position on the Indo - Lanka accord was very much akin to that of the LTTE then. This assertion of Independence cost Devananda greatly as the pro-Indian Paranthan Rajan ingratiated himself with New Delhi at Devananda’s expense. A friendless Devananda and cadres were left to fend for their own.

This phase was perhaps the nadir of Devananda’s fortunes. He formed the Eelam People’s Democratic Party in Madras but found himself pathetically short of funds. The EPRLF had never been a source of unlimited funds but the situation now was pitiful. A desperate Devananda was compelled to engage in extortion and kidnapping of Sri Lankan Tamils in Madras to extract money. He was arrested on a kidnapping charge and tasted prison life again. This episode earned him the negative sobriquet ‘pillaipidikaran’ (kidnapper) among Tamil circles. After securing a temporary release from Prison Devananda jumped bail and returned to Sri Lanka where he soon dialogued with intelligence officials and struck a deal with Ranjan Wijeratne.

Life thereafter was on the ascendant for Douglas. Utilising the control he had over the off shore Islands Devananda began transporting sea food to Colombo. A lucrative trade in dried fish was established. The transport of goods to and from the Islands were another source of revenue. A system of taxation was also imposed. In addition, wealthy Tamils in Colombo were extorted into donating money too. All this earned Douglas a lot of money. He next moved into the Parliamentary arena fielding an Independent list of EPDP and UNP candidates in 1994. The captive voters of the off shore Islands ‘cast’ their votes overwhelmingly for Douglas. Since the bulk of Jaffna voters were under LTTE control and therefore did not vote the EPDP list with about 10,000 votes went on to gain nine seats.

Using this bloc as a political instrument Devananda began supporting Kumaratunga and extracting concessions in return. In 1998 the EPDP contested local authority elections in Jaffna and won 10 out of 17 including the three Pradeshiya Sabhas in the Islands. He was able to get quite close to Kumaratunga at the time of the presidential elections in 1999. While almost the entire Tamil community voted against Kumaratunga, Devananda and his minions supported her and what is more ‘managed’ to garner 50,000 plus votes for her in Jaffna under mysterious circumstances. Last year’s Parliamentary elections saw Devananda get 4 seats in Jaffna amid widespread charges of rigging. Again he came to the rescue of Kumaratunga and along with Rauff Hakim became Queen maker. In return he obtained a powerful portfolio comprising Northern rehabilitation and reconstruction, North - eastern Tamil affairs and Hindu Religion and Culture. Unlike Hakeem, Devananda has remained and continues to be loyal to Kumaratunga.

There are no illusions however about his loyalty being steadfast in the event that the UNP romps home to power. He and his lieutenants have been quite candid about the fact that they will switch loyalties if necessary. This has led to people ranging from the UNP’s Maheswaran to the TULF’s Anandasangari ranting and raving that they will not allow Devananda to join a UNP dispensation after the elections. But Devananda may have the last laugh here.

Devananda in his capacity as cabinet minister has been endowed with quite a lot of finances supposedly for rehabilitation and development of the Tamil areas. He has distributed much of these financial allocation to many different causes against the backdrop of hitherto unproven charges of corruption. Schools, temples, libraries, community centres etc are largely the beneficiaries of Devananda’s doles.

De-centralised authority

One condition for these handouts is that the applicants or more appropriately supplicants must present themselves personally at the former Sridhar theatre on Stanley Road Jaffna where Devananda holds court. Incidently, Devananda has transferred the power center of his ministry to Jaffna and is perhaps the first cabinet minister in Sri Lanka to effectively de-centralise functional authority. He stations himself in Jaffna for most of his time and has to a limited extent succeeded in being the first minister to go to the periphery instead of centralising everything.

Persons who are not prepared to present themselves personally before Devananda do not get any favours or grants from him no matter how deserving their case is. This for example was the plight of the St. Patrick’s College rector who wanted to retain his self-respect. Furthermore, all beneficiaries are required to place large advertisements in Jaffna newspapers praising the minister for his generosity in doling out government funds that are after all the tax payers money. There have also been a lot of minor construction projects and as a result many contracts to be distributed also. Furthermore, there is the employment factor. Although direct government jobs are scarce Devananda has introduced many ‘volunteer’ employment schemes ranging from Samurdhi to Health volunteers.

Devananda has also taken the changing social structure of Jaffna into account. The Vellala community that was at the apex of the caste-class structure still remains the single largest caste but it is no longer as numerous as it was. The pre - 1983 period saw the Vellalas comprise about 55% to 60 % of the total population. Migration to the South and abroad has resulted in this caste being reduced to around 35% to 40 % now. This has increased the percentage ratio of the other castes particularly the so called socially inferior castes. Most of these castes did not go abroad or migrate to the South but remained in Jaffna. In earlier times this five caste bloc known as ‘panchamar’ comprised about 25% to 30 % of Jaffna. Individually these castes are still numerically lower than the Vellalas but taken together may be about 40% to 45 % now. Since very few of these castes have gone abroad these families do not receive any foreign money and are dependent on employment locally. The fishing community deprived of full employment through various restrictions are also facing difficulties.

Caste based vote

Reports from Jaffna indicate that while the TULF and Tamil Congress cater to the so called upper castes the EPDP under Devananda has focussed on these so called lower castes and worked for their upliftment. The Tamil national alliance can make inroads into this caste based vote bank through the TELO and EPRLF only. Historically these castes have been pro - LSSP or pro - Communist and very seldom voted for the Congress Federal Party or later the TULF in bulk although representatives of these groupings have been active on their platforms. The initial stages of Tamil militancy also saw casteism existing with much of the so called lower castes going into the EPRLF, TELO and EROS as opposed to the LTTE or PLOTE. Subsequently, the LTTE developed into a giant organization that embraced all castes and now a large number of tiger cadres are from these castes. Thus the EPDP has been politically astute in focussing on this caste factor and has a vote bank here.

In addition to this vote bank and the genuine support it hopes to garner through doling out money for development and jobs etc there is also the captive vote bank in the Islands. The Pradeshiya divisions of Kayts, Velanai and Delft are under total EPDP control. The last election saw the electoral division of Kayts that comprises all three Pradeshiya Sabhas register a very high rate of voting. The EPDP got a five figure vote tally here. This was in stark contrast to other divisions where the party got only four figure amounts. The other parties fear that the EPDP may utilise the ‘Kayts card’ to the maximum in this poll. Also the EPDP by virtue of Devananda’s portfolio enjoys the full support of state patronage from the armed forces, police and bureaucracy. All these factors could be harnessed to ensure its victory. Moreover, reports from the North indicate that many types of election incentives from cash to gifts are being offered. Government funds are freely available and the EPDP is exploiting the situation to the maximum.

Electoral malpractices

The presence therefore of a genuine vote bank along with the captive votes of Kayts and the possibility of large scale vote tampering suggests that the EPDP could get anything from 2 to 7 seats in the Peninsula. Devananda is also doling out jobs and cash for development in the other Tamil areas too though not to the extent as in Jaffna. Given its intensive campaigning in the Wanni and Amparai it may get another two. The incremental votes of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Colombo may give it one national list seat too. The best case scenario for Devananda is that he may get up to ten depending of course on how free and fair the election is going to be particularly in the Peninsula.

The only way that Devananda’s electoral efforts can be thwarted is for the Tamil voters to realise the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. The composition of the Tamil national alliance and its political approach leaves much to be desired but nevertheless it is the better alternative in the long run. What Devananda has to offer at present is cash and gifts and jobs to tide over the immediate problems caused by the war.

A lasting remedy and solution can only be the end of the war. For that, meaningful talks with the LTTE is necessary. Such a possibility is virtually impossible as long as the Kumaratunga - Wickremanayake - Kadirgamar trio is in power. The Tamil national alliance in the North - East offers the Tamil people an opportunity to press for a speedy resolution of the war. It seeks a mandate to facilitate government - LTTE talks.

Given a situation where the power equation in official terms favours the EPDP and the vast opportunities available to rig elections the Tamil national alliance faces overwhelming odds despite the popular wave in its favour. The only way that electoral gerrymandering can be overcome is for large numbers of Tamils to vote early and overwhelmingly for the party of their choice. It may be prudent on the part of the LTTE to reappraise its position and enable people living in areas under their control to exercise their franchise. The tigers could perceive the election as a mini-referendum for the right of self-determination instead of as an extension of Sri Lankan Parliamentary politics. It may also help the Alliance to defeat the EPDP which from a tiger viewpoint may be the greater danger.

Whatever the outcome of the poll and whatever the electoral malpractices Devananda knows that in the final analysis only victory counts. The overall political culture of the country has deteriorated to such great depths that people of Devananda’s ilk are confident as ever. As long as he wins a sizeable bloc of seats and as long as parliamentary configurations are shaky, Douglas hopes to do business. The man who claimed to be ‘Thamby’ to Premadasa and ‘Machang’ to Ranil moved on to the Blue saree pota. He is now in the PA camp of Chandrika’s but openly says he would shift allegiance to the UNP if necessary. The run up to 1994 polls saw Kumaratunga accuse the UNP of conspiring to assassinate her through the EPDP. Now Ranil Wickremasinghe is charging the PA of the same thing. One can only hope that history does not repeat itself as a tragical farce again.


On the highway of corruption

By Frederica Jansz 

The Sunday Leader has found that the fundamental rights of at least three international bidders has been violated as a result of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga interfering with the award of a tender to construct an expressway from Colombo to Katunayake.

A mega project, which has been estimated at a cost of Rs. 10 billion has been handed over to a bidder who was disqualified during the initial tender evaluation stage on the basis that the company failed to score a required 50% out of 100 marks for technical and management aspects. Daewoo-Keangnam-Korea-Joint Venture despite having failed to comply with requirements of the tender were later on the insistence of President Chandrika Kumaratunga awarded the multi billion rupee tender.

This was after the company was given the opportunity to re-price their tender (despite its original bid being more expensive than two other bidders) and readjust their technical proposals, design, management aspects and tender prices. The middleman who clinched the deal for Daewoo-Keangnam-Korea was none other than the president’s close friend, Ronnie Peiris.

In fact, Mr. Noh, who headed Keangnam in Colombo proudly sported a photograph on the wall of his office situated at the Singer Mega building at Welikada, Rajagiriya, of Ronnie Peiris being introduced to Noh by none other than the Head of State of Sri Lanka.Subsequent investigations by The Sunday Leader revealed that the Keangnam had remitted large sums of money in the name of Blue Class Internation Inc which is a company based in Bahamas owned by Ronnie Peiris Be that as it may, today, we will detail in our investigation how Kumaratunga once more has interfered in a key bid for a national project that would thus benefit her trusted friend and has forced a tender worth billions of rupees to be awarded to a company that was disqualified at the evaluation stage.

Trusted confidante

In order to make sure that she would face no opposition from the Cabinet Appointed Tender Board (CATB) Kumaratunga replaced Daya Liyanage, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury as Chairman of the original CATB and appointed her trusted confidante, Treasury Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundera instead. Meanwhile, the Road Development Authority has been granted a Performance Bond of Rs. 282,569,524.15/- (two hundred and eighty two million five hundred and sixty nine thousand five hundred and twenty four and cents fifteen) by the Peoples Bank on a request made by Daewoo -Keangnam Korea Joint Venture who will serve as contractors to this project. The bank guarantee was secured in compliance with the contractor’s obligations in accordance with the said contract to furnish the RDA with an irrevocable bank guarantee.

The Peoples Bank Corporate Branch at Colombo 1, has further promised a financial obligation of USD 9,252,760.07/- (United States Dollars nine million two hundred and fifty two thousand seven hundred and sixty and cents seven) to Daewoo-Keangnam - Korea.

In 1998, the government decided to construct an expressway from Colombo to Katunayake. The plan is to build a 110 kilometer per hour four lane divided expressway of about 25 kilometers, with access control and provision of a toll bridge or user fee levying facilities. Four interchanges, several overpasses and underpasses to carry existing roads and footpaths across the Expressway Corridor and User Levying Fee facilities are to be provided. This proposal was initially mooted by the former Minister of Highways, A. H. M. Fowzie who in a cabinet memorandum on June 26, 1998 detailed the necessity for the expressway due to the existing Colombo-Katunayake road being heavily congested.

The minister at the time noted that the existing road is important as it connects to Sri Lanka’s single international airport and to the Katunayake Investment Promotion Zone as well as to the city of Colombo and the Colombo Port. By 1999, out of fourteen international bidders and eight contracting contractors who had been pre qualified to bid for the construction of the CKE, four bidders submitted bids on September 7, 1999, to implement the project on a Design, Build and Transfer (DB & T) scheme or Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) scheme.

The implementing agency the RDA, concluded pre-qualification of bidders as directed by the CATB and the eight most experienced international contractors were selected by the Technical Evaluation Committee and concurred by the CATB.

Tender documents were issued to the eight successfully pre-qualified bidders in April 1999. Thereafter the bidders were directed to carry out all investigations, data collection, and overall design of the project with their own funds.

Four prospective bidders submitted their technical and financial proposals to the CATB on the closing date of September 7, 1999. The proposals were opened at 2 p.m. on September 7, 1999 by the CATB, chaired at the time by Daya Liyanage, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the presence of members of the CATB, TEC, senior officials from the RDA, Chairman of BOI and representatives of the bidders.

No bidder had offered a BOT proposal. All four proposals were on the basis of Design, Build and Transfer.

The four short listed bidders were Dredging International Belgium in partnership with China Guangxi Corporation Joint Venture, China Yunnan Machinery Import and Export Corporation together with China Shanghai Urban Construction, Daewoo-Keangnam Joint Venture South Korea and Bec Freres S.A/Scetauroute S.A/Van Oord ACZ BV/ICC Joint Venture — France. Dredging International/China Guangxi offered the lowest tender price of Rs. 9, 273,503,904/-. China Yunnan Machinery offered a proposed price of Rs. 10, 537,406,767/-

A difference of 4 billion rupees

Daewoo-Keangnam offered Rs. 11, 597,998,506/- and Bec Freres offered a price of Rs. 13, 289,164,972/-. The proposals were short listed in the financial order with Daewoo-Keangnam having made the second highest offer next to Bec Freres which had quoted the highest bid of over rupees 13 billion.

The lowest offer came from the joint venture corporation of Dredging International Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation. In fact, The Sunday Leader found that Dredging International from Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation whose design consultants drew the proposed plans for the expressway are from highly reputed American and Singaporean international and design consultancy groups operating in more than 80 countries.

The difference between the lowest bidder namely, Dredging International/ China Guangxi and the highest bidder which was Bec Freres was as much as rupees 4 billion. The difference between the joint venture company of Dredging International and China Guangxi and the second highest bidder which was the joint venture company of Daewoo-Keangnam - South Korea, was as much as over rupees 2 billion. The bidders were required to submit a bid bond valid for 210 days from the date of the tender opening, which was September 7, 1999 for an amount of USD one million.

Bec Freres, had submitted the required bid bond valid for only 182 days which was an immediate violation of the tender requirements and cause for disqualification from the tender process.

Daewoo-Keangnam submitted a finance scheme consisting of a loan package from Hatton National Bank for USD 40 million, Asia Capital Ltd (Sri Lanka) for USD 35 million and EXIM Bank of Korea for USD 30 million.

How local banks like Hatton National Bank and Asia Capital could provide a loan facility amounting to USD 75 million to a foreign contractor is puzzling given that local contractors are not granted loan facilities for more than rupees five million. After several evaluations carried out by TEC and the CATB it was decided that Dredging International - Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation ranked second best on technical and mechanical aspects while, more importantly, the joint venture company had offered the lowest tender price which was Rs 4 billion less than the only other technically qualifying bid by Bec Freres. Therefore, TEC and the CATB recommended that this award be given to the joint venture corporation of Dredging International - Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation - China. The other two tenderers, namely, the joint venture corporation of Yunan Machinery Import and Export and Shanghai Urban Construction Group and Daewoo -Keangnam - Korea were also disqualified by both TEC and CATB on the basis that they had scored less than 50% which was the minimum requirement on the tender document to qualify for the said project.

Bids rejected

Thus, their bids were rejected by TEC and the CATB who decided they could not be considered for further evaluation or negotiations. However, on February 1, 2000, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, in her capacity as Finance Minister, submitted a cabinet memorandum stating inter alia, "I am of the view that, CATB should be authorised to invite from all four tenderers who maintained their commitment through valid bid bonds a fresh tender price on the basis that the entire project will be funded by the government." In doing so, Kumaratunga stated, that the CATB should also get further clarifications on technical aspects in order to re-ensure the technical capacity of each tenderer.

"Tenderers should be given 30 days to submit the final tender price together with additional information required for further verification of technical aspects," she wrote in this instance. The reason the president gave for stating that the entire project estimated to cost Rs. 10 billion would be now funded by the government was on the basis that she had observed that this project had been evaluated on criteria that the successful tenderers would have to raise funds for the project and complete on a turnkey basis.

Kumaratunga noted that this might lead to a considerable delay in the implementation of this project as "private developers may take time to raise the required funds from lending agencies and institutions." Kumaratunga added that the developer may also seek government guarantees for the loan which would serve as a deterrent to the project. The president thereafter ordered the removal of Daya Liyanage as Chairman of the CATB and appointed Dr. P. B. Jayasundera in his place. Meanwhile, D. P. Mallawaratchie, Director, Research and Development at the Road Development Authority who also served as Chairman of the Technical Evaluation Committee for this project, on March 23, 2000 wrote a strongly worded letter to Dr. P.B. Jayasundera stating his dismay at the president's directive. Mr. Mallawaratchie observed that once the bids have been opened all bidders know the other's tender prices, discounts, grants and to a certain extent the financial and technical capacities.

100 marks given

Therefore, he wrote in his letter to Jayasundera, "calling for re-adjusted bids after opening the original tenders, is a direct violation of tender procedure." He further noted that another decision to change the total marks for evaluation criteria from 100 to 75 is also a violation on the rights of those bidders who had already qualified and been given 100 marks.

Under this situation, Mallawaratchie noted that "the bidders have certain rights to seek legal redress against the Government of Sri Lanka."

The evaluation marks for the bids had been reduced to 75, after Kumaratunga decided the government would fund the entire project and as such the required 25 marks for the financial package was no longer necessary.

Mallawaratchie added, "it is incorrect for the CATB or the cabinet to resort to such changes in the provisions of the tender document, as this stage." He asserted that as per the provisions of the tender document, such changes could have been made through an agenda prior to 28 days before the closing date for submittal of the said tender.

Mallawaratchie pointed out that only six days earlier on March 17, 2000 TEC recommended to the CATB to consider that the joint venture company of Dredging International of Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation had qualified and was ranked as the highest tenderer who had passed with 100 marks all the requirements mentioned in the tender document.

Mallawaratchi together with the other members of TEC therefore recommended that the CATB invite this joint venture for negotiations.

He noted that the other two tenderers, Daewoo-Keangnam and Yunnan Machinery Import and Export in partnership with Shanghai Urban Construction group were considered to be non-responsive according to the provisions of the tender document, as they did not score more than 50% for technical and management aspects.

Calling fresh bids

A note for discussion was thus addressed to the Attorney General seeking his advice on legal matters that may now arise as a result of the President’s decision to re call fresh bids from the four short listed tenderers.

Dr. P. B. Jayasundera however was determined to follow the dictates of the president.

He argued that since Kumaratunga had decided and received cabinet approval that the government would fund this entire project, all four tenderers should be given an opportunity to re-submit their bids for the contract of the project.

Meanwhile, the country managers for both Dredging International - Belgium and China Guangxi Corporation - P.R. China were furious.

Already informed that they ranked the highest among the four short listed bids they were astounded to be told that the government had decided to re negotiate the proposals.

Writing to the then Minister for Transport, A. H. M. Fowzie, on May 5, 2000, they reiterated their strong protest to the presidential directive as once the original bids were opened on September 7, 1999, all the bidders they noted are aware of the other's price, discounts, conditions and even the design/methodology etc.

Therefore, they pointed out that to direct all four tenderers to improve on original proposals and to re-price after opening the original tender is a direct violation of any local or international tender procedure and it also violated the tender procedure laid down in the tender document.

They also noted with surprise that two non-responsive bidders, namely, Daewoo-Keangnam JV And Yunnan Machinery Corporation/Shanghi Urban Construction Corporation JV too had been directed to improve on their original proposals and re-price their tenders, "which has resulted in open door policy to rejected tenderers to compete once again with the responsive tenderers by re-adjusting their technical proposals, design, management aspects and tender prices.

The joint venture company angrily noted that the government's decision to fund the entire project was also self seeking as the financial package offered by all four tenderers were originally considered and accepted as per the tender as a direct loan to the government by the lending institutions introduced by the respective tenderers.

The bidder cannot bear the risk

Under this situation, the bidder does not bear any risk since the total repayment of the loan borrowed by the government is to be borne by the government including interest, fees, insurance etc.

The fact of the matter is that in perusing the rankings given by both CATB and TEC it is very clear that the joint venture corporation of Dredging International and China Guangxi were ranked as number 1 on all evaluations done, irrespective of whether the project is funded by the government of Sri Lanka or not.

It is clearly stated in the tender documents that the highest ranked bidder will be called for negotiations. On the technical evaluation bidders Daewoo /Keangnam and Yunnan Machinery/Shanghai were regarded as non-responsive bidders and are rejected on the technical evaluation because their design failed. It is not stated anywhere in the tender about re-pricing or to call non-responsive bidders to re-price their tenders. Surely, non-responsive bidders should be regarded as bidders who did not comply with the employer’s requirements, conditions and design criteria?

The president’s argument as to why the government should fund this project does not hold water. There is no bill item in the tender schedule to insert any considerations for the financial package and the bidders are directed to price the job cost, overheads and profits only to the respective bill items. The financial package details are to be provided by the bidders on a separate volume of the tender documents.

If any bidder had included interest, fees etc for the financial package offered in the tender price they could be rejected as the tender price should include only the construction cost of the Colombo - Katunayake Expressway. Therefore, calling for re-pricing even based on the government funding the entire project does not arise.

In fact, the president's arbitrary decision only allows for speculation that she deliberately used this simplistic argument merely to get the tender reopened and renegotiated thereby lending a favoured party a second chance.

Afraid to take the government on

Meanwhile, despite D. P. Mallawaratchie's dismay when the president demanded that the bids be re-called and prices re-negotiated, the TEC Chairman on July 31, 2000, recommended together with the other members of TEC that the CATB negotiate the contract for the implementation of the Colombo - Katunayake Expressway on a Design, Build and Transfer basis with Daewoo - Keangnam Joint Venture.

In his final report, Mallawaratchi asserts that both TEC and the CATB had "substantially improved the tender submissions of Daewoo-Keangnam and amended the company's original price of Rs. 11, 597,998,506/- to be reduced to a fixed lump sum of Rs. 10, 901,135,085.

All this for a corporation that was initially disqualified from the original tender opened in September 1999. Even when the bids were reconsidered and renegotiated for the second time, Daewoo Corporation which holds 70% of the shares of the joint venture was unable to provide the latest audited financial statements of the company for 1999. This was a reflection of the company's dire financial position, which was a direct result of the bankruptcy of Daewoo, its parent company in Korea.

This joint venture also did not conform to tender requirements and name a suitable dredging company for the project. The services of a dredging company was sought after the award was made and ‘Boscallis’ - which local representative is the Access Group were contracted.

The other bidders have considered legal action against the shocking violation of correct tender procedure in this instance.

They have however refrained from doing so as they plan on continuing to bid for other government tenders in this country and are afraid they will be victimised if they take the government on.

Ousted for being law abiders 

As far back as November 24, 1999 the Ambassador for China in Colombo Zhang Yun wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga stating he had the honour to recommend to her that China Guangxi Corporation together with Dredging International Ltd formed a joint venture and submitted a tender for the captioned CKE project.

He noted that the tender price from this joint venture was the lowest in comparison to four other bids short-listed.

In addition, the joint venture company had offered a competitive financial package to finance the project, of which they had secured 85 million US dollars from China Exim Bank, and 20 million dollars from ABN AMRO Bank supported by the Belgium Export Credit Agency.

The corporation has also provided an extra financial package from the London market as a further option for the Sri Lanka government.

He notes that China Guangxi Corporation is a large state owned enterprise established with the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Corporation of P.R . China and has earned rich experiences in the international engineering market.

The company has constructed and implemented several high class expressway projects in the coastal area of Guangxi and Guangdong Province, he says, asserting that in the event the company wins the award it will give a new impetus to the development of economic corporation between China and Sri Lanka.

Once again, a development project that could have been handled by a more capable and proven corporation was ousted for simply bidding and following laid down tender procedure professionally.


Pre-poll battles intensify

by Frederica Jansz 

Beginning last Sunday, supporters of election candidates became significantly more violent. The intensity of the present campaign has once more been marred by ugly and shocking incidents of election related violence.

A news item on the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation on Tuesday November 13, said that these incidents are being exaggerated by certain media organisations to bring discredit to the government. The news item further said, "only over 400 incidents of polls violence had so far been reported to the police elections secretariat."

Contrary to this news item, by Tuesday (November 13) last week, the police elections secretariat had recorded 629 incidents of pre poll violence as supporters of varying political parties used guns, cudgels and stones to attack supporters and candidates of rival political parties.

In fact, last Tuesday the police elections secretariat had received 67 complaints of election violence within a period of only 24 hours from Monday, November 12.

On Sunday, November 11, too there was a record number of incidents. The police election secretariat received 51 complaints of election violence over a 24 hour period from Sunday to Monday November 12.

The situation was getting so bad that Inspector General of Police, Lucky Kodituwakku last Monday (November 12) instructed all officers-in-charge of police stations throughout the entire island to tighten security in their areas and prevent any further occurrence of election violence.

Top cops said the I.G.P.’s order came in the wake of increasing incidence of election violence. The order however appears to not have any mitigatory effect.

As the week progressed, violent incidents in connection with election campaigns increased — so much so that one more person was killed and many others wounded as the hustings intensified.

Last Sunday, (November 11) at around 8.30 a.m. an armed gang opened fire at the residence of Sajith Premadasa, UNP candidate for Hambantota and son of former President R. Premadasa.

Sajith’s wife Jalani, narrowly missed death as she had been standing near the front gate of their home together with some party activists attempting to proceed to an election meeting when the gang had arrived and opened fire.

Former first lady, Hema Premadasa had also been inside the house at the time of shooting. Sajith had not been at home at the time.

Sajith Premadasa later told reporters that over 55 UNP offices in the Hambantota district have so far been attacked or burned by gun-toting gangs roaming the district.

Later that night, a hand grenade was thrown at the ruling People’s Alliance office at Habaraduwa in the Galle district at around 10 p.m. The PA’s district organiser and some others had been inside the office at the time and are reported to have suffered burn wounds.

Meanwhile, on the same day violence erupted in the central province. Three supporters of the United National Party in the Kandy district were reported to have sustained serious injuries also on Sunday when a gang of armed youth attacked the men with clubs and other heavy weapons. UNP candidate for Kandy, Sriyani Daniel, said later the injured men were her supporters and that the attackers were supporters of the ruling People’s Alliance. The Maravila police too had rushed last Sunday to quell a dispute between PA and UNP supporters at Nattandiya.

A dispute had allegedly broken out between the two groups who had been campaigning in the same area at the same time. The cops were compelled to use tear gas in order to disperse the angry mobs and enforce a dusk to dawn police curfew in Nattandiya. Separately, also on Sunday, November 11, at Talathu Oya in the central province a group of UNP supporters were attacked while travelling in a convoy of vehicles to Kandy to attend an election meeting. The UNP supporters claim they were attacked by thugs of the ruling People’s Alliance.

The Wennappuwa provincial council member for the ruling People’s Alliance complained to police last Sunday that he had been assaulted by a group of UNP supporters.

In Vavuniya, supporters of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and an independent group clashed last Sunday, and left three people seriously injured. All three persons were later warded at the Vavuniya hospital.

The OIC in charge of the Ragala police said that last Sunday at around 9.45 p.m. about 40 PA supporters had attacked the UNP office in Ragala. The office was reduced to shambles and several vehicles including a van used by the UNP for campaign work was damaged.

The next day, Monday November 12, a clash occurred between Arumugam Thondaman, former minister and the leader of Ceylon Worker’s Congress and the PA Candidate for Pussellawa, S. Rajaratnam. Thondaman resigned from the government two months ago and has promised support to the United National Front.

Thondaman says the incident had occurred while he was travelling late night at Pussellawa in the central province. Three of Thondaman’s supporters travelling in one of the vehicles received gunshot injuries, police said. Thondaman has alleged that the attackers had first stoned his convoy of vehicles before opening fire. S. Rajaratnam, the PA candidate alleges that Thondaman’s supporters had thrown the first stone and attacked his supporters who thereafter retaliated in kind.

Following this incident, S. A. Kandasamy, General Secretary for the National Democratic Party appealed to all factions in the upcountry and islandwide to maintain decorum and conduct their political campaigns peacefully. In the meantime, an election rally of the UNP held on Monday evening at Matale came under attack and the stage had been set on fire by some persons, suspected to be supporters of the ruling People’s Alliance. The police said three persons were wounded in the violence.

By this time, UNP supporters in the Hambantota district launched a hunger strike against a number of death threats which they claimed had been received by UNP candidates contesting in the district. Arasatnam Sasitharan, a UNP candidate for Batticaloa, was admitted to hospital after he was assaulted by a ruling party candidate and his armed bodyguards in the morning around 1.30 a.m. on Tuesday November 13.

According to Tamil journalists, Sasitharan alleged that Rajan Mylvaganam, a People’s Alliance candidate for Batticaloa had assaulted his wife as well. He said that Mylvaganam’s bodyguards had threatened him at gunpoint. He said that he called the police for help but they were too sleepy to be bothered and had told him to lodge a complaint in the morning about the incident.

The police elections secretariat on Wednesday, November 14, said that 70 incidents of election related violence had been reported during a 24 hour period ending at 6 a.m. Wednesday. On Wednesday evening between 7 and 7.30 p.m. another incident of election related violence took place in Negombo.

At a UNP election rally patronised by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and organised by UNP candidate Joseph Michael Perera, at least 10 persons were injured when a car believed to be carrying supporters of the ruling People’s Alliance had suddenly driven into a crowd of about 1,500 persons who were marching towards the main Negombo town where the meeting was being held.

Shots had been fired from the car into the air creating a mass stampede while 35-year-old Nuwan Somachandra was killed when the vehicle ran over him. Olitha Premathiratne, UNP candidate for Katana, had rallied the crowd, and forming a procession they had just begun to march towards the venue of the UNP led meeting when a car had blocked their path.

Repeated requests for it to move failed and suddenly the vehicle revved and drove straight into the crowd. The police had taken the vehicle into custody. The driver later surrendered and was released on a surety bail of Rs. 10,000.

After the death of Somachandra however, the police will now treat the charge as one of murder. On the same day, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, PA candidate for Katana alleged that five of his supporters had been assaulted and injured in a firearm attack at around 1.30 a.m. in the Kochchikade area. Fernandopulle has charged that supporters of the UNP candidate for Gampaha, Edward Gunasekera, had fired at his loyalists.

The five wounded persons have all been admitted to the Colombo and Negombo national hospitals with gun shot injuries. Once more, trouble erupted in Matara with supporters of UNP candidate Sagala Ratnayake. Following the incident at Akuressa where eight of Ratanayake’s supporters were seriously wounded when attacked by security personnel of Minister Mangala Samaraweera, last Wednesday, Ratnayake’s supporters this time clashed with the UNP district organiser for Banagala, Morawaka in the Matara district.

Ratnayake’s security personnel were allegedly forced to fire into the air in order to control the fight. The row apparently erupted over a dispute whereby Atapattu the UNP’s area organiser believed he had been unfairly sidelined and denied nomination over Sagala Ratnayake.

Also on Wednesday, November 14, two supporters of Sajith Premadasa, UNP candidate for Hambantota were admitted with assault wounds to the Hambantota national hospital. Two party offices of Sajith Premadasa’s in the Hambantota district were also attacked. The UNP party office off Tangalle also came under attack on the same day while a vehicle parked outside the office was left badly damaged.

In a trend that is becoming increasingly dangerous, the police say that election violence is on the rise daily. Since the general election was announced in October this year, the police had received 755 complaints of election related violence by Thursday, November 15, 2001. Already four persons have been killed as a result. During a twenty four-hour period that ended Thursday morning, 51 complaints had been lodged with the police throughout the country. Of them the UNP has lodged 395 followed by the ruling People’s Alliance who had made 243 complaints. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna had lodged 30 complaints while Sri Lanka Muslim Congress had made 25, police sources said.

The most violent incidents have been reported from Chilaw numbering 88 cases while Anuradhapura is a close second with as many as 82 cases being recorded by the end of last week. 

LTTE too enters the election fray

The LTTE too have allegedly entered the election fray and last week abducted candidates contesting the December 5, poll in the east.

PA candidate for Ampara M.M. Anjan, together with one of his supporters were kidnapped last Monday night at Kalmunai while travelling on his motorcycle.

A. M. Rakeep, contesting as an independent candidate for Digamadulla, was also abducted allegedly by the rebels while travelling in his vehicle with two of his supporters.

The terrorists are reported to have
also taken his vehicle.

MSD personnel ordered to appear in courtThree members belonging to the Ministerial Security Division of Mangala Samaraweera have been ordered to be present in court on November 28, in connection with the shooting of eight youth at Akuressa this month.

As a result of the attack, all eight youth who are activists of the UNP were warded with serious gunshot and other wounds at the Karapitiya and Matara hospital.

The incident cost 19-year old Kasun Madushantha the loss of one eye while this young boy has undergone at least two operations to remove bullet particles from his body.

Three other youth who had been with Kasun also suffered gunshot injuries while another three had been brutally assaulted.

One youth suffered severe knee injuries after having been hit repeatedly with the butt of a gun.

All eight youth were assaulted and shot at by personnel of the Ministerial Security Division assigned to protect Mangala Samaraweera.

Bail application on Nov. 20

The Gampaha Magistrate, on Thursday, November 15, extended the remand order on Deputy Minister Reggie Ranatunga till November 20. Ranatunga did not show up at the magistrate’s court on the 15th, claiming ill health.

He remains under police custody at a private Hospital in Colombo 7. Reggie Ranatunga is wanted in connection with the murder of Lionel Rodrigo, a supporter of the UNP who was seriously assaulted at Minuwangoda allegedly by Reggie Ranatunga and some of his supporters. Rodrigo died later of fatal wounds to his head.

Ranatunga is now trying to maintain to court that he was not present at the murder scene at Minuwangoda.

Ranjith de Silva, Gampaha High Court Judge put off for November 20, the bail application submitted to the court last Thursday on behalf of Reggie Ranatunga.

 

 

 

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