suspect is CJ's crony
Ivan, Editor of the Ravaya newspaper has written to Speaker Joseph
Michael Perera on February 13, 2002, and made a formal complaint
against Chief Justice Sarath
Silva for aiding and abetting a murder suspect on a warrant evading
arrest.van says the CJ knowing very well that the suspect concerned is a
dangerous criminal, has allowed the suspect to be employed in an
institution connected to the judicial service, thereby creating an
opportunity for the suspect to associate with judges and influence
them and make inroads into the judiciary and the administration of
The firebrand editor of the Ravaya says he has made his complaint to Speaker Joseph Michael
Perera since parliament has the power to remove a judge from the higher
judiciary. The complaint against Sarath Nanda Silva is made on the basis
that parliament is the sole authority vested with power to initiate
proceedings through a majority of members of parliament. Therefore, Ivan
asserts he is bringing this matter to the notice of the speaker and
members of parliament in order that the members of the House may take
steps as provided under article 107 of the constitution to impeach the
holder of office of the chief justice of Sri Lanka.
An appalling relationship
The story that unravels in connection with a murder, the
relationship of the murder suspect and the chief justice is appalling.
The chief justice while being well aware that the person is an
underworld character in the country has got him employed in an
institution closely connected to the judicial service. Sarath N. Silva
is not only in close association with this person but also provides him
with the opportunity of coming into contact with judges thereby creating
a situation where the criminal is able to influence the judges.
The criminal concerned, while capitalising on his
association with the chief justice, develops his contacts with other
judges. The criminal having associated himself with several crimes, also
adopts ways and means to provide cover and assistance to other criminals
known to him.
Wanigarachchige Don Rohana Kumara who carries on in this
close association with the CJ is involved in a number of criminal and
The fourth child of nine brothers and sisters, Rohana
Kumara was born on March 24, 1962, in Meemana, Pokunuwita. He received
his education at the Sirimevan Vidyalaya, Pokunuwita up to Grade 9. He
married in 1987 and is a father of two children. He was employed at the
Ceylon Tobacco Co. Ltd., Hettiyawatta (Kotahena, Colombo 13) from 1983
to 1988 as a machine operator. He lost his employment in 1988. Since
then he has made a living by involving himself in nefarious activities.
He was indicted by the attorney general on a false insurance claim and
the case was heard before Justice P. Wijeratne at the Colombo high
In another case, the then Attorney General Sarath Silva,
before he came to know him, indicted this person before the high court
of Kandy (1218/97) for selling machinery and equipment worth 1.1 million
from a garment factory which had been requisitioned by the National
Development Bank. There was another case of attempted murder at the
Horana magistrate courts in addition to number of other cheating cases.
It is learnt that Rohana Kumara befriended Chief Justice
Sarath Nanda Silva through Attorneys Jayampathy Wickramaratne and Gaston
Jayakody who had a close association with the chief justice, the
president and her Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi. Wickramaratne has
in fact appeared as the lawyer for Rohana Kumara in several of his
cases. Rohana Kumara has been in-charge of preliminary renovations of
the official bungalow of the chief justice after he assumed duties as
the chief justice and decided to start a judges training institute at
his official bungalow.
After the repairs to the building to facilitate the
training programme for judges, Rohana Kumara assigned himself a separate
room with all facilities in the official bungalow of the chief justice,
and continued to live there. Rohana Kumara thereafter functioned as the
caretaker of the training institute for judges and was in charge of
supervising catering services provided at ceremonies and workshops held
at the institute.
He established himself as a confidant of the chief
justice and was able to maintain a favoured position within this
institute. He also made sure that he came into contact with judges of
courts all over the country who came there to attend seminars/workshops
etc and established close friendships with these judicial officers and
built up a reputation of personally knowing judges all over the country.
It was common knowledge among the employees of the supreme court that
one of the persons who could enter the chambers of the chief justice
without prior notice/permission was Rohana Kumara.
A person of influence
When some of the employees of the supreme court addressed
the chief justice as his lordship, they have got into the practice of
addressing Rohana Kumara as sir. There is evidence that the chief
justice is in the habit of handing over complaints received by him or
the judicial service commission against district judges and magistrates
to Rohana Kumara to find out the bona fides of such complaints. He has
used vehicles with the nametag judges institute on his vehicle. Due to
the close association of this person with the chief justice, he was
considered as a person who could influence the attorney general's
department and judges.
A complaint against the chief justice signed by 77
members of parliament with regard to the inappropriate and hideous
association between this criminal and the chief justice was part of the
impeachment motion which was presented in parliament on June 6, 2000.
Since the impeachment motion against the CJ was presented in parliament
last year, certain events have taken place. Rohana Kumara who was on an
open warrant was arrested by the Piliyandala police while in his hideout
at Kesbewa on December 29, 2001. He was wanted in connection with the
Malwatte murder case. He was the 4th accused in this case. A woman who
was the 3rd accused in the Malwatta murder case was with Rohana Kumara
in the same house at the time of his arrest.
At the time of his arrest, Rohana Kumara had requested
that he be allowed to speak to the chief justice. The officer-in-charge
of the police party, Sub Inspector Tennakoon, had refused permission.
Police records reveal that at this moment Lakshmi Kusumalatha, the 3rd
accused in the Malwatte murder case who was close by, had taken a
telephone call to the chief justice from her hand phone and informed the
chief justice that Rohana Kumara had been arrested.
When the sub inspector questioned Rohana Kumara at the
time of his arrest as to why he was evading arrest when there was an
open warrant, Rohana Kumara's reply was that he was in hiding
temporarily on the advice of the chief justice. Police investigations
have revealed that the vehicle used by Rohana Kumara when he was on an
open warrant belonged to the ministry of justice. There were three
framed photographs with the chief justice and Rohana Kumara hanging on
the walls of the house from where Rohana Kumara was arrested.
During this period he had spent about a week at Roshan
hotel, Kataragama in the early part of November with Lakshmi Kusumalatha,
and hosted a party at this hotel which had been attended by a
magistrate, divisional secretary, two officers-in-charge of police
stations (OIC Deniyaya, Sarath Perera, and OIC Kataragama, Athula Silva)
and some lawyers. The hotel bill amounting to Rs. 140,000/= was paid by
Rev. Ratmalane Siddhartha, the chief incumbent of the Vedihiti Kanda
In a separate incident, a murder was committed at the
botanical gardens, Peradeniya, on February 5, 2000, at about 10:00 a.m.
The person who ran the restaurant, Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon, was on the
verandah of his restaurant when a criminal who appeared before him shot
him at point blank range. An employee who came to the help of Wijekoon
was also shot and the criminal attempted but failed to shoot the wife of
Wijekoon, Claudia Mary Rees. The assassin along with his accomplice who
tried to flee from the scene was apprehended by the employees of the
The pistol used by the assassin for the assassination and
a mobile telephone (no: 077-794884) and another pistol in the possession
of the assassin were taken over at the time of the arrest. When
inquiries were made in respect of the bills pertaining to the mobile
telephone used by the assassin, it was revealed that frequent calls have
been made from telephone nos: 08-225801 and 077-768161. Telephone no:
08-225801 was owned by the 3rd accused in this murder case, Lakshmi
Kusumalatha which was installed in the room she was using at the Kings
Park Hotel owned by her. Telephone no: 077-768161 is the mobile number
of the telephone used by Rohana Kumara.
According to a copy of the bill for the period 21/02/15
to 14/03/2001 sent by Dialog Ltd., in respect of the mobile telephone
used by Rohana Kumara, he made several calls to the mobile telephone
used by the assassin Nupul Kumara. No calls have been given by Rohana
Kumara to the assassin after this, indicating he was in some place in
the botanical gardens witnessing the act of the assassination.
This clearly shows that he has refrained from calling the
mobile phone as he came to know that the assassin, his accomplice, had
been taken into custody with his pistol and the mobile telephone. Rohana
Kumara had not called anyone over his mobile for nearly one hour from
the time of the assassination. It can be assumed that it would have
taken about one hour for the arrest of the assassin after he shot
Apprehending a criminal
While the assassin was on his heels, the gate keeper at
the main gate closed the gate and the assassin tried to escape by
jumping over the parapet wall while firing at the crowd chasing behind
him. However, the onlookers had been successful in beating up the
criminal and apprehending him. It is believed that Rohana Kumara was
watching the scene from a vantage point.
After the arrest of the assassins, the first call given
by Rohana Kumara was to Lakshmi Kusumalatha. Rohana Kumara then made the
following telephone calls. He phoned telephone no. 034-50084. This phone
is in the name of P.N. Perera of Panadura. It is not clear what
connection Rohana Kumara has with Perera. He then made two more calls to
Lakshmi Kusumalatha. He thereafter telephoned Nishan Muthukrishna,
coordinating secretary to the minister of justice on 077 365765. He also
telephoned the legal section of the foreign employment bureau and
Jayampathy Wickramaratne, PC, on 884315.
Rohana Kumara then phoned the official residence of the
chief justice on 695634, twice. He also called Pokunuwita where his wife
and children live and Lawyer Kingsley Ranawaka on mobile no. 077 355777.
Rohana Kumara had once again telephoned the CJ on 422124 on March 8,
Police investigations have found possible reasons for the
murder of Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon.
Some time back Ranjith Bandara was employed as a driver
in Switzerland and Lakshmi Kusumalatha was employed as a house maid in
Italy. They fell in love in 1987, and got married on October 25, 1999.
After returning to Sri Lanka they jointly started a hotel business
utilizing their funds. They purchased a land in extent of 01R-10P on Sri
Sangaraja Mawatha, Kandy and commenced the building of the present Kings
Park hotel, for which they obtained a loan of Rs. 33.8 million,
mortgaging the above land to the Bank of Ceylon.
Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon was the managing director of
Kings Park Hotel & Travels (Pvt) Ltd., and a member of the board of
directors, while his wife Lakshmi Kusumalatha was also a member of the
board of directors. As a result of disputes surfacing in their family
life, Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon, without obtaining a divorce from his
legal wife, got married to Claudia Mary Rees on May 8, 1995. Thereafter,
with political patronage he received from the PA government, he obtained
the management of the restaurant of the Peradeniya botanical gardens and
carried on business there while being a shareholder of the Kings Park
After the separation from his wife, while Ranjith Bandara
Wijekoon tried to keep the management powers of Kings Park Hotel,
Lakshmi Kusumalatha also tried to take control over the management,
resulting in animosity between the two which gave rise to a situation
where they were driven to seek legal remedy. Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon
was charged by the Kandy frauds bureau for bigamy before the Kandy
magistrate (Case No: 47036/96). He pleaded guilty to both charges. The
magistrate postponed sentence to June 24, 1996, to allow time to call
for record of previous convictions and finger-printing. He was released
on bail of Rs. 1000/=.
For reasons not known, the magistrate called the accused
to her chambers on July 29, 1996 which was a day prior to the calling
date and without obtaining record of previous convictions and
fingerprints was fined Rs. 1,500/= and released. The action of the
magistrate aroused suspicion in the mind of Lakshmi Kusumalatha, and she
was under the impression that the magistrate had been bribed by Ranjith
In the CJ's bad books
After Sarath Silva assumed office as the chief justice,
Kusumalatha came to know that the magistrate was in the CJ's bad books
and she got a court employee by the name of Malcolm Silva to write a
petition dated May 01, 1999 and sent it to the chief justice. The
conduct of the preliminary investigation with regard to this petition
was assigned to Rohana Kumara by the chief justice, and it is in the
course of these investigations that contact was made by Rohana Kumara
with Lakshmi Kusumalatha. Lakshmi Kusumalatha had connections with some
high-ranking officers of the police but not with the judiciary. Rohana
Kumara filled that vacuum.
It is possible that Rohana Kumara, as in other instances,
would have posed before her as a secretary or confidante of the chief
justice. In addition, he would have displayed his connections with
judges in Kandy before Kusumalatha. Rohana Kumara allegedly had close
connections with the Kandy High Court Judge, I.M. Abeyratne, Leon
Seneviratne, the present additional district judge, then Magistrate
Kandy, C.V. Rajapakse, one time Teldeniya Magistrate and presently one
of the Kandy Magistrates, and Additional Magistrate, Kandy, Pradeep
According to information gathered from employees of the
courts, it is revealed Rohana Kumara often came to meet these judges and
he participated in parties and often took part in picnics. There is no
doubt that in the eyes of Lakshmi Kusumalatha, Rohana Kumara, who had
close connections with the chief justice and judges who were hearing her
cases, was a saviour and a hero.
On the other hand, to Rohana Kumara, who was a notorious
character, Lakshmi Kusumalatha would have been a very useful contact as
she had sufficient means. She was of upper middle class position. She
was a pretty lady. She was going to be the sole owner of the Kings Park
Hotel after the demise of her husband. The special treatment Rohana
Kumara got from this lady, made him take her as his mistress and he
frequented her hotel.
Police believe that in order to settle the property
disputes between Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon and Lakshmi, they would have
thought that the short cut to the solution would be to kill not only
Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon but his new wife too. It would have been the
misguided expectation of Rohana Kumara that with his connections with
the judiciary, judges and some high ranking officers of the police, this
murder could be carried out without anybody getting into trouble.
But things did not happen the way they expected. Only
Ranjith Bandara Wijekoon could be eliminated. The attempt on Claudia
Rees was not successful. Though it was thought that the assassins could
get away from the scene of the murder without any difficulty, that too
did not materialise.
A reason to celebrate
S. Tissainayagam reporting from Muttharipputhurai
Murunkan is a measly, dismal-looking village now. It has
shrunk from what it was: the prosperous nerve centre of the Wanni in
the paddy transporting and whole-selling business, which was a
lucrative trade when times were good and commerce thrived.
Ironically, with the ceasefire in operation, Murunkan
looks more rundown and inconsequential than when military operations
were going on. When both the LTTE and government troops were at war,
there was an air of vigilance, suspicion and stealth among the
military and police manning the bunker lines and checkpoints, which,
however daunting, gave the area character.
But no longer. On Thursday, February 6, just a clutch of
policemen lounged by Murunkan junction where the Vavuniya -
Mannar road branches to Arippu. They were unarmed and stared with
undisguised consternation at the vast concourse of vehicles - vans,
lorries and tractor trailers laden with village folk - trundling down
the road to Muttharipputhurai.
"We feel cheated. When Interior Minister John
Amaratunga visited Vavuniya he promised that we would be given long
leave to go home. But it is three weeks now since he made the promise
but nothing has happened," grunted a police Non commissioned
officer, guarding Sector 10 on the Vavuniya - Mannar Road, who wished
to remain anonymous.
He said he was in Vavuniya for the past 10 years without
a break, braving the enemy, the torrid weather and hostile people.
There were 10,000 of them stationed in the Vavuniya Division, most of
whom had served long stints and waiting for their turn to go home on
"The commanding officer of the area has managed to
work up a transfer, but we of the lower rungs remain," the NCO
continued. His colleagues agreed, nodding their heads dispiritedly,
their eyes still following the procession of vehicles moving past
"Tamil is our spirit"
The time was around 3.00 p.m. and the road was beginning
to fill with traffic and take on a festive air as never seen in the
area since ethnic war began to escalate in the early 1980s. A banner
slung across the Murunkan junction said what all the buzz was about:
Thamil engal uyir; avuyir Pirapakaran (Tamil is our spirit; that
spirit is Prabhakaran).
The Thamil engal uyir celebration was organised at
Muttharipputhurai. The ponguthamil elurchchi early last year served to
mobilise Tamils to agitate for the lifting of the proscription on the
LTTE and begin political negotiations. Its unexpected fallout was the
defeat of the EPDP at the last general election. The Thamil engal uyir
celebration this year was to celebrate Tamilness and its integral link
to the LTTE leader.
The road from Murunkan to Muttharipputhurai is around 20
kilometres long. But the tar and the carpet have long disappeared and
the road has deteriorated to an uneven dirt track that is interspersed
by puddles of water. The vehicles raise clouds of dust when travelling
on the dirt track and splash mud when negotiating the puddles.
Both sides of the road are mantled by thick foliage and
undergrowth. At one on point the road spans Aruvi Aaru (Malwattu Oya),
intimately connected with Sri Lanka's ancient history. The forest
hides a secret. Before the war began they were dotted by little
hamlets - Jeevanagar, Pariyarikandal, Aruvi Aaru, Silvathurai,
Alliranikottai and others. These
villages thrived on agriculture, though those closer to the sea
engaged in fishing. But today most of their residents are displaced
and only an isolated group of huts may be spied through the
What however transformed these scenes of desolation and
hopelessness were the people who had come out of their huts to the see
the cavalcade of vehicles with their babbling and effusive occupants.
Among those little clumps of humanity - men, women, children standing
dressed as trendily as they could afford - there remained life, a
freshness and an eager curiosity that war, deprivation and death had
Despite the state of the roads, there were decorations on
either side. Triangular flags of maroon and gold cloth lined almost
the entire way from Murunkan to the venue of the gala. They were
interspersed by gokkola
streamers and banners proclaiming, "Thamil engal uyir; avuyir
A relaxation of militarism
"The organisation of the event was decentralised. We
gave different tasks to the various voluntary and social service
organisations in the area. For instance the MPCS was contracted to
provide light and sound at the venue," said an official involved
in putting together the festival.
The entire venture, including the logistics to transport
the people from the 'cleared' areas and the overall co-ordination, was
undertaken by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members of parliament
and their respective party cadre.
The road from Murunkan leads to Alliranikottai that
fronts the ocean. It is flat land with sparser vegetation than in the
interior. The horizon is dominated by a tower that had once been used
as a lighthouse. Mutthuraripputhurai that is three kilometres
from Alliranikottai, was famous for its pearl fishery.
Alliranikottai boasts of a ruined fortress that was the Dutch
governor's residence during the pearl fishing season when the island
was under Dutch imperial power.
The commitment of the organisers of Thamil engal uyir;
avuyir Pirapakaran, was first seen at Alliranikottai. The entire three
kilometre distance from there to Mutthuraripputhurai was lined by red
and gold poles bedecked by garlands made of multicoloured polythene.
What was eye-catching, although the material used in making these
adornments was non-biodegradable, was the labour that had gone into
turning out something that was simple, yet wonderfully attractive.
The celebrations proper took place at the Roman Catholic
Mixed School, Muttharipputhurai. By 4.00 p.m. a considerable crowd had
already gathered there. Most of them were organisers, but it included
"We have a big problem with filling vacancies for
teachers in the Mannar Education Zone, " said B. S. Emilculas,
Assistant Director of Education, Mannar Zone, who was among those gathered
He said that most vacancies were for English teachers,
while there were also places in the science and mathematics streams as
well as in the primary section. He said though the provincial ministry
of education had been appraised of the problem, it had not been
Otherwise, the ceasefire had facilitated a relaxation of
militarism, which had been pervading the area during the past years.
Schools such as the Maha Vidyalayam at Vannamottai had been occupied
by the security forces, forcing students to study at Uyilankulam.
"But with the ceasefire, the principal, staff and students are
hoping to return to Vannamottai and make a new beginning."
Emilculas said. Similarly, the Sri Lanka army that was occupying St.
Anthony's Church premises in Thalaady had agreed to leave the area on
a directive ordering that places of religious worship had to be
vacated. Mass had not been said at St. Anthony's for the duration of
the military's occupation, but the place was now open to the public.
"A problem is simmering with the recruitment of
volunteer teachers for schools in the area. Though applications have
been called, interviews are yet to be held, causing restiveness among
the applicants," said K. Perimbathasan who is an assistant
director of education in the same zone.
By around 5.00 p.m. the celebrations proper began. The
formal opening was with the procession winding its way from
Alliranikottai to Mutthariputhurai. Standing at the entrance to the
Musali divisional secretariat office, the vanguard of the procession
seemed innocuous enough. There was the van with the loudspeaker
shouting instructions to the procession.
The van passed and behind it came the public. And they
came and they came and they came. Crowds poured into the venue even
past midnight. It is estimated that more than 20,000 persons attended
the Thamil engal uyir function. They spent the night there braving the
chill and getting drenched by the dew.
One reason for their late entrance was logistical. It
appears that nobody expected such a multitude to turn up, including
the organisers. The public transport system in Mannar, fragile at the
best of times, found it very difficult to cope with the demands made
"When I arrived at the Pesalai bus stand to come to
the function at about 2.00 p.m., there were about five bus loads of
people waiting for transport. I was lucky because I was able to get a
school bus, the others were not so fortunate," said Charles
Navaratnarajakulas from Pesalai.
Some people from places like Thaalvadu, Vengalaipaadu and
Mannar, realising that waiting for public transport was futile, came
to the venue in fishing boats.
As the crowd grew in size, problems of chanelling such a
large number towards the venue became a problem. Although at no time
did it appear that the multitude was beyond control, an expedient had
to be devised to make its entrance onto the grounds more orderly.
"Women and children first"
"Please pay attention. Since there is such a large
number of people waiting to enter the venue, women and children will
go first. Mothers with their children may start moving forward
now," the public address system announced.
Although it had to be repeated a few times, the ranks of
advancing humanity parted, allowing the women and children to enter
first. The males would follow later.
In southern Sri Lanka, controlling crowds by giving
preference to women and children is hardly heard of today. At least it
has not come to the attention of this writer. It is said that in the
good old days "women and children first" was a command in
passenger liners when tragedy compelled the captain to abandon ship.
But whether it is practised anywhere in the world in these modern
times, is debatable. But in the backwoods of Muttharipputhurai it
served as an admirable method of crowd control.
The deprivation and hardship suffered by the people of
the area have made them modify familiar institutions and put them into
innovative use. In a part of the country where the police does not
undertake any civilian functions but is seen as an agency of the state
tasked to oppress the
public, who looks after traffic control?
The job had been entrusted to the boy scouts.
"Whenever officials ask us to help out in a difficult situation
we so do," said Jayatharan Lambert of the 4th Rover Scouts,
He said there are five troops of rover scouts totalling
around 150 in the Mannar district. They compliment the approximately
400 scouts attached to the schools in the district. The scouts are
called upon to lend a hand in various ways at religious, cultural and
other events including giving first aid. Their upkeep is through the
monies collected from the public.
"We get involved during the annual Madhu feast day
when there are massive crowds coming to Mannar. There are also other
events where we offer our services," Lambert said.
The meeting itself was politically less pugnacious than
what many expected. In the front row by the stage were senior
officials both from the provincial council and central government.
This included divisional secretaries, grama sevakas, departmental
heads and school principals, clad formally in silk vertis or saris as
they would at an official function.
"It is remarkable the way the organisers have given
the Thamil engal uyir celebrations a semi-official air with government
officers seated here as if for a state function," remarked an
While the presence of these government and local
government workers gave the event a semi-official touch, there was
another presence, also from the government, which was not so welcome
by the organisers. It was known that agents from the security forces
and police would mingle with the crowd and use the opportunity to take
pictures or gather other data useful to them. However, the organisers
did not seem to see it leading to a major breach in security.
A celebration of common identity
"Thamil engal uyir
shows that military oppressions have not broken the spirit of
Tamils," said N. Sivasakthi Anandan (TNA - Wanni District) in the
only politically significant speech that evening.
Though there was little overt political propaganda from
the stage, there was plenty in the leaflets that were distributed. In
essence the Thamil engal uyir; avuyir Pirapakaran put forward demands
for self-determination and a traditional homeland for the Tamils. It
called for the military and Sinhala settlers to leave the homelands of
the Tamils. What is more, it demanded the repeal of the PTA and
release of those detained without trial under its provisions. It asked
that the laws prohibiting fishing and imposing an economic ban on the
Tamil areas be withdrawn.
But what spoke more eloquently than public addresses and
the leaflets was the symbolism that went with the event. At times it
was subtle, at others not, but carried a potent message of what the
powers that be in the area felt and thought. The symbolism was
supplemented by the messages embedded in the song, dance and drama
that were to follow on the heels of the speeches. (See box)
The Thamil engal uyir; avuyir Pirapakaran festival was
the continuation of the ponguthamil eurchchi that was successfully
celebrated in many parts of the north-east. It was essentially a
proclamation of a common identity. But the celebration of a common
identity necessarily needs a root. That root is the struggle for
self-determination and a homeland, epitomised by Velupillai
Symbolic presence of Prabhakaran
What hit one between the eyes at the Thamil engal uyir;
avuyir Pirapakaran celebrations was the significant watering down of
sentiments associated with enmity. Though there was harking back to
the atrocities committed against the Tamils by depicting and referring
to suffering and loss, there was no overt demonisation of the Sinhala.
It might have been because of the ceasefire or because there are moves
to de-emphasise it as part of a different policy. Whatever it was, the
effort was deliberate and conscious.
Even the slogans did not cast any derogatory remarks on
the Sinhalese. Neither was there a blatant attempt at spitting venom
at the security forces, or even in caricaturing them. The idea seemed
to be to give vent to the suffering the Tamils have undergone through
song, dance and drama as part of a process of catharsis rather than
pour invective on the 'other.'
The second set of symbols (or a lack of them) is
associated with militarism. Firstly, there was not one armed or
uniformed fighter of the LTTE seen. There was a complete absence of
them. This produced a very agreeable effect among those from the
south. This lack of visible presence was supplemented in symbolism
associated with the festival. There were no illustrations of uniforms,
weapons or any other military hardware to be seen. The grimness of war
was of course depicted, but in stylised illustrations of death, injury
The presence of the LTTE was however portrayed in a
different way. All the streamers and flags that fluttered that evening
were red and gold, an unequivocal reminder of the Tigers. However,
there was no Tiger flag seen anywhere that made these associations
The third set of symbols is closely connected to the
second. Though there was an emphasis on the civil rather than the
military and a complete absence of armed Tiger fighters, the festival
celebrating Tamilness - Thamil engal uyir; avuyir Pirapakaran - traced
the spirit of Tamilness to one man - Velupillai Prabhakaran. It was as
if the individual bestrode the civil and the military worlds and in
that sense breathed life onto being Tamil. And whatever association
made between the event that was essentially civilian and the LTTE was
through the symbolic presence of Prabhakaran.
Illegal land grab in Kotte
By Frederica Jansz
Presidential Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi and former
Defence Secretary, Chandrananda de Silva, have allegedly joined forces
to illegally own a government land at Madiwela, Kotte, and construct a
building for commercial purposes, which monies will be diverted to a
bogus NGO they have formed.
Another party to the scheme is W. K. Kumarasiri,
Secretary, Ministry of Lands and Somapala de Silva, former Chairman
ICTAD who is also a member of this group.
Balapatabendi, de Silva and Kumarasiri have one factor in
common. They all hail from Rahula College, Matara.
The three old boys in order to secure the government
land, formed an organisation called the Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya.
The address of the organisation is 72/42, Edirisinghe
Road, Mirihana, Nugegoda, which we found is the private residence of
W. K. Kumarasiri who incidentally was the former government agent for
Colombo and is now secretary to the ministry of lands.
The organisation is completely non-functional. Two
telephone calls to the above address were answered by Kumarasiri's
relatives at home who said each time that he can be contacted at the
The paddy land in question is situated between Kimbulawa
junction and the Sri Jayawardenapura hospital at Madiwela, Kotte. The
paddy field in fact is approximately 100 meters away, as the crow
flies, from the palatial new President's Palace that is being
constructed at Madiwela, Kotte.
This land known as 'Divalakumbura' in 1983 was taken over
by the government and tabulated as such in a gazette notification
dated August 3, 1983. The land was taken when parliament was
constructed at Sri Jayawardenapura and kept as a protected marsh cum
paddy land for water drainage purposes.
The original owners to whom this land belonged, handed
down over the ages as ancestral property, were farmers who were left
with no option but to accept the government decision and a paltry
handout as compensation when the state insisted the land could be used
only for public purposes.
In fact, a huge circular area of land was acquired by the
government in this manner in 1983 for security reasons, in order to
protect the environs of the new houses of parliament.
On October 18, 1991, a fresh gazette notification once
more detailed that the extent of marsh and paddy land known as 'Divalakumbura'
at Madiwela, Kotte, was to be maintained as government land and used
for public purposes only.
The old boys from Rahula College were undeterred.
Balapatabendi and Chandrananda de Silva using the considerable powers
they wielded under the former political administration after the PA
came into power in 1994, ensured that this land was written to the
name of the bogus organisation they claim to be members of. Not only
have they committed a fraud in illegally taking over government land,
they have also cheated the original owners of this land. Balapatabendi
and Chandrananda de Silva meanwhile enlisted the support of two
stooges at the Urban Development Authority, namely, Nihal Fernando and
W. Rupasinghe, to help them construct at 'Divalakumbura' using funds
and building materials allocated for the presidential palace project.
Large amounts of waste and earth cleared from the area in
which the presidential palace is being built were dumped on this paddy
land and a base for the water logged area set. In November last year,
during the probationary period of the PA government, a foundation
stone was laid in preparation for the construction of a two storey
building on this land.
Subsequently, the land has been re-filled with huge
amounts of quarry dust and concrete materials carried over from the
area in which the presidential palace is being built.
The entire operation so far has been overlooked and paid
for by the UDA. A description of the plan drawn by the UDA states that
this is a 'Madiwela government project.' The lease, the UDA however
states, is in the name of the Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya.
Our investigation has found that the Ruhunu Sanskrutika
Mandiraya is a totally private organisation consisting of individuals
who served high posts in the PA government and who hail from the same
school down south.
The UDA meanwhile has allegedly allocated some eight
million rupees to help construct a 10 feet wide drain plus a culvert
across the roadway which will be 2.5 metres high and 1.5 metres wide.
The monies have been taken out of the special projects department at
the UDA, which is handling only the construction of the presidential
palace at Madiwela. Both the drain and the culvert are essential in
order to divert water that used to be retained on this land.
W. D. C. Rupasinghe, coordinating consultant for the
president's palace project, UDA, said, a strip of this particular land
was filled by the UDA on a special request made by members of the
Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya.
He said, the members of this organisation namely, K.
Balapatabendi and Chandrananda de Silva, had asked if waste substance
from the construction area of the presidential palace could be
discarded on the 'Divalakumbura' land and placed there in order to
fill a section of the land for construction purposes. The request,
Rupasinghe says, was initially made to the lands division of the UDA.
He admitted that the UDA had been aware that this organisation needed
approval from the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development
Corporation (SLLRDC) to fulfill such a purpose. He said however, that
he cannot be certain this organisation secured such approval. Despite
this, the UDA went ahead and complied with the request that came from
the top, namely, Kusumsiri Balapatabendi and Chandrananda de Silva.
Rupasinghe maintains that the right hand side of the area
from Kimbulawa junction upto the Sri Jayawardenapura hospital is not a
retention area and people he said, are allowed to fill this land and
build on it.
Why then this land was not returned to its original
owners who were paid a pittance as compensation by the government when
it was taken over in 1983 and 1991, Rupasinghe could not explain. What
was the justification to hand over this land to Presidential Secretary
K. Balapatabendi, Chandrananda de Silva and some of their cronies is a
question nobody seems able to answer, including the secretary to this
bogus NGO. (See box).
The details of security and flood drainage where this
particular land is concerned Rupasinghe said has been gone into by the
SLLRDC. He added that this area is now earmarked for development and
is not included in the flood detention area. He contradicted himself
however by saying that the Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya requires
permission from the SLLRDC to construct on this land as a section
close to the boundary needs to be retained as marshland for flood
Rupasinghe insisted that the UDA was having a problem in
finding space to dump waste materials from the area in which the
presidential palace is being built and as such, "We have obliged
certain private parties."
Rupasinghe had no idea what the Ruhunu Sanskrutika
Mandiraya actually does. Hazarding a guess he said, "It is
probably something to promote cultural activities."
The Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development
Corporation meanwhile have got wise to the scheme. On Wednesday,
February 13, 2002, the SLLRDC wrote to K. Balapatabendi and the UDA,
stating that no more construction work or landfill must take place on
this area of land until a box culvert and drain is constructed. The
letter states that it is of absolute priority to ensure that a proper
drainage system is in place, along the boundary of this land for the
free flow of water.
A bogus NGO
W. K. Kumarasiri, Secretary of the Ministry of Lands,
when contacted said the Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya is a
non-governmental organisation promoting cultural affairs in the
He said Kusumsiri Balapatabendi is President of this NGO
while Chandrananda de Silva and Somapala de Silva are Executive
Board Members. He admitted they are all old boys of Rahula
Kumarasiri denied that the UDA had helped fill a strip of
this land. He claimed that the land was filled, "Ourselves
with quarry dust soil."
Kumarasiri asserted that the UDA had dumped waste
material on this land which had to be removed as it was all peat
and not suitable for building purposes. He said they, (the
Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya) plan to build a cultural centre on
Asked how the Ruhunu Sanskrutika Mandiraya came to
acquire this land, Kumarasiri said, "I do not know. We made
an application to the UDA who thereafter leased it out to
cartel exploits Jaffna consumer ruthlessly
UNP in Jaffna was led by ('kerosene') Maheswaran, who during the
earlier UNP regime had made a fortune using his connections to smuggle
essential items to the LTTE controlled areas"
U. T. H. R. (J) bulletin no 28 of February, 01, 2002
United National Front government led by Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe has undertaken a series of steps to relieve the
economic hardship undergone by Tamil People of the north-eastern
provinces during the short period it has been in power. The chief
among them is the process set in motion to lift the economic embargo
imposed on regions controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam.Wickremesinghe when in the opposition had severely criticised
the ban saying that food and medicine should not be used as a weapon
is no denying that while the supply of essential items to Tamil areas
is primarily a humanitarian gesture, it has political connotations
too. Redressing a long standing grievance of the Tamil people will be
an effective confidence building measure. It would demonstrate that
present government will not deprive the Tamils of essential items and
food. The way to Tamil hearts and minds is through their stomachs, it
is felt. It is hoped that a conducive climate for direct dialogue with
the LTTE would be created through this approach.
while the problems of the Wanni Tamils are being systematically
addressed, the Tamils in Jaffna peninsula are becoming irritated at
the new government. There are a host of problems from the fishing ban
to the question of missing persons that demand attention from the new
regime today. Even though some of these issues were not caused by the
new government, it was elected to office in the hope that it would.
Although no significant breakthrough has been achieved on any of
these, the Jaffna people are not impatient as they know some time is
required to resolve these. There is however one issue that is causing
great concern and hardship to the people at large that needs urgent
attention. The longer this government delays tackling this issue the
greater the process of alienation between it and the Tamil people.
issue is none other than the shortage of essential goods in Jaffna and
consequent rise in prices. This is particularly felt in the sphere of
fuel and some food items like potatoes. The cost of living in Jaffna
is much higher than in the rest of the country due to security and
quantum control adopted and heavy costs of air and shipping freight
has led to a supply shortfall as per demand. Thus, prices rise. The
Jaffna people expected the cost of living to be reduced gradually
after the peace mandated UNF government took over. Instead the
opposite has happened.
in Jaffna, particularly fuel and potatoes are in short supply and also
that context the responsibility is on the UNP's solitary MP from
Jaffna district and Hindu Affairs Minister, Thiyagarajah Maheswaran to
alert his premier and government of this situation and urge immediate
steps to alleviate Jaffna's misery and suffering.
would also be natural for the Jaffna residents to inundate 'engadai
amaichar' (our minister) of this problem and seek remedial measures
through him, even if he is not the minister directly connected to this
problem. Particularly the fuel crisis. Yet, that is not happening.
Maheswaran is not being seen as taking any action on this account
while the people themselves are not approaching Maheswaran on this.
This is because Maheswaran is not seen as problem solving, but as
problem exploiting potential. Rightly or wrongly Maheswaran is
perceived as part and not solution to the problem. This situation is
contributing not only to Maheswaran's unpopularity but also by
extension to the UNP's.
is extensively felt in the fuel shortage sphere particularly 'Man
ennei' or kerosene. This public perception has led to a widespread
acceptance of the prefix 'Manennei' before his name. Maheswaran was
referred to derisively in alliterative style as 'Man Ennei Maheswaran'
by former Eelam People's Democratic Party parliamentarian Thavarajah.
That name caught on because of Maheswaran's 'historic' connections to
fuel business in Jaffna. The shortage and price hike in kerosene
during recent times and the popular belief that Maheswaran is
exploiting that situation to his commercial advantage has resulted in
the label 'Man ennei' Maheswaran gaining wide currency.
items like kerosene, petrol and diesel are only allowed in restricted
quantities to Jaffna, despite it being under army control. The
rationale is that, excessive quantities may be siphoned off to the
LTTE. Compounding the problem is the duration and costs involved in
transporting fuel by ship to the north. Thus the fuel prices in Jaffna
were much higher than in Colombo.
was always a chronic shortage that was offset by a blackmarket
thriving such sales. The problem however was not a grave one for
several years, as prices though high were nevertheless at manageable
levels. The lack of sustainable electricity in Jaffna had led to
greater dependency on kerosene for households. It is estimated that
1.3 million litres of kerosene is required every month for Jaffna. The
amounts coming in, though late at times were adequate to contain
prices from rising.
changed in October last year when the tigers attacked a fuel tanker
and naval gunboat off Point Pedro coast. It was said in official
circles that the fuel, particularly kerosene was meant for the Jaffna
public . The grapevine however buzzed that it was meant for the armed
forces. A tragic consequence of that incident was the creation of a
sudden and acute shortage of fuel particularly kerosene in Jaffna. The
buffer fuel stock in petroleum corporation storage facilities were
seized by the armed forces. It was also announced that no fuel would
be released from army stocks for security reasons. With Parliament
being dissolved and a fresh election scheduled in December a
conspicuous lethargy overwhelmed the bureaucracy. No effective measure
was taken to get down kerosene urgently to Jaffna.
December fuel prices had risen to very high levels in Jaffna. The
imposition of the economic embargo for the first time by the Premadasa
-Wijeratne UNP government in 1990, had led to the enterprising Jaffna
people developing a 'vegetable oil' as an alternative. This oil
required a certain amount of kerosene or petrol to be mixed with it
for maximum utilisation. This was the staple fuel in the days of LTTE
control. After 1996, the manufacture of vegetable oil had decreased as
more regular fuel was becoming available. Last year's crisis saw even
the price of vegetable oil escalating to over 60 rupees per litre.
is usual in times like these profit motivated traders got to work.
While the petroleum corporation moved slowly on the matter of leasing
tanker ships and transporting fuel in bulk, traders acted individually
and collectively in transporting fuels in barrels to Jaffna. These
were only in limited quantities and also incurred high insurance
costs. The fuel thus brought in, helped alleviate the problem to some
extent but at tremendous financial burden to the people. Unscrupulous
blackmarketeers manipulated the prices. This was also not enough to
meet full needs of the people. The current rupee prices per litre
according to a Jaffna resident are, petrol Rs. 125 - 140 , kerosene Rs.
75 - 85 and diesel Rs. 70 - 80. The officially allowed prices before
this crisis in Jaffna were Rs 78 for petrol, Rs 24 for kerosene and Rs
38 for diesel. If Jaffna prices even during the best of times were so
high in comparison with the rest of the country, the current prices
are massively cruel. If the inadequacy of kerosene supplies continues
to perpetuate the shortage crisis in Jaffna, faulty distribution
schemes have compounded it further. The petrol and diesel brought this
year though not enough, have helped ease the burden considerably.
Likewise, the limited quantity of kerosene (estimated at 400, 000
litres) that came in this year for civilian use though woefully
inadequate, could have eased the problems of the people, had a more
equitable system been implemented. This, however was not done. The
cause for this was political interference and the alleged culprit T.
kerosene crisis became acute for two reasons. Firstly, it was not
distributed widely through the cooperative societies. Secondly, the
civilian authorities failed to impose a regulatory rationing system
that would have enabled the people at large to receive kerosene
equitably. Instead what happened was that through political influence
the kerosene was given to registered agents in the private sector and
not the cooperative societies while the district administrators were
forbidden to introduce a rationing system. This was due to
Maheswaran's political clout it is stated. As the leading Tamil daily,
'Virakesari' observed on February 3, "Minister Maheswaran's
political interference resulted in agents receiving continued supplies
of kerosene while the people receive nothing". Thus, fuel in
general and kerosene in particular was being sold through the private
sector at very high prices.
kerosene crisis compelled consumer protection committees seek legal
redress as a desperate resort. Jaffna district Judge T. Wiknarajah
responded sympathetically to the consumer council plea and ordered
that private sector traders be prevented from selling kerosene. He
ordered that kerosene be sold through the cooperative societies on a
ration system basis. He also ordered that private sector traders
should sell fuel at the official price and instructed price control
authorities to take action against anyone selling above that level.
The action by Judge Wiknarajah came as a welcome relief and was hailed
by the suffering Jaffna public.
euphoria was not to last. A scheming business class aided by corrupt
public servants and abetted by political elements saw to it that no
effective follow up action was taken in terms of the judicial ruling.
The private sector traders have signs that no fuel or kerosene is
available, but a rapacious and clandestine black market has sprung up
selling the stuff at astronomical prices. Sadly kerosene prices have
nearly doubled after the ruling. It is estimated that blackmarket
traders are now making five times the profit they could have made by
sticking to legal norms. Authorities are kept in check from not
controlling this menace through the time tested carrot and stick
method. The 'carrot' being bribes and the 'stick', political clout.
Jaffna today is in the grip of a vicious cartel of traders who
dominate the distribution and manipulate the sale of goods into the
peninsula. The security situation prevents traffic by road and goods
can be brought in only through sea and to some extent air.
delay involved prevents credit being given to any trader by the
wholesalers in Colombo as the process involved takes several weeks
thus tying up capital. The two private shipping lines that transport
goods also charge very high prices. Thus the small trader is unable to
compete in this set up. This has created a cartel of big time traders
who buy and transport the goods in bulk, hold a virtual monopoly. T.
Maheswaran himself, was a trader until he took to full time politics.
It is widely rumoured in Jaffna that about 1000 barrels of the fuel
that came in to Jaffna belong to circles close to Maheswaran.
family owns Mahalakshmi stores in Jaffna town. His rise in business
has been through the modus operandi of supplying items in shortage
because of the war. An impartial probe of his antecedents would reveal
that he fits the description 'profiteer through war' appropriately. He
became known as 'Manennei' Maheswaran, because he allegedly made his
money through selling smuggled kerosene in Jaffna during the Premadasa
regime. What is happening now is that Maheswaran along with a group of
traders many of them hailing from Karainagar, comprise the cartel that
controls Jaffna prices now. Maheswaran has lent his political weight
in a big way to this group. Maheswaran himself is not engaged in
business directly as he is now a minister. Yet his family, kinsfolk
and associates are. Some of them are allegedly Maheswaran's 'Benamies'
or fronts who own and operate businesses 'legally' on behalf of the
has been implicated in a number of shady business operations in
the past. Even now, some of his professedly public oriented proposals
are seen as one more profit making venture. His plans for extra
Colombo -Jaffna air services and a ferry service from Talaimannar to
Kurikattuvaan in Pungudutheevu etc are highly suspect in this regard.
On the other hand, it is alleged that large quantities of food items
are being transported to Jaffna on his behalf and sold at high profit.
The extent of his wealth and that of his family and kinsfolk is not
known but it is obvious that a probe of assets would reveal
interesting disclosures. The Tamil weekly 'Thinamurasu' of January,
27-February, 2, charged that in January, seven lorry loads of potatoes
and 1000 bags of sugar were transported on the 'pride of south'
vessel. Another five lorry loads of potatoes were sent to Jaffna on
the 'Ruhunupura'. The paper alleges that all these were for Maheswaran
and that the sacks in question now lying in the Jaffna warehouse 'Ambika'
have the sign 'ML' (Mahalakshmi). It points out that potatoes and
sugar sell in Colombo is at the retail price of Rs 40 and 30 rupees
per kilo respectively.
Jaffna they are sold at 200 Rs and 50 rupees per kilo respectively.
This indicates the extent of profits made by the Jaffna carte at the
expense of the average Jaffna resident. What should be of particular
concern to 'Mr. Clean' Ranil Wickremesinghe is the phenomenon of
rising prices in Jaffna after the UNP's rising star in Jaffna,
Maheswaran was re-elected and became a minister to boot. Apart from
fuel almost every item brought from Colombo has had massive price
beleaguered Jaffna that looked to a new government for relief is faced
with rocketing prices and shortages taking the cost of living level to
astronomical heights. The only government man from Jaffna is perceived
as part and parcel of this problem. A troubled people are constrained
from appealing to this government as a government minister is regarded
as a ruthless economic exploiter. It is also well known that strong
segments of the business community in Jaffna supported Maheswaran's
candidature and that he is beholden more to them than the common
Rehabilitation Minister Jayalath Jayewardene visited Jaffna during
Thai Pongal time, extra care was taken to prevent the popular minister
meeting forthright citizens representatives who could have informed
him of the cartels ruthless hold and rapacious exploitation of the
people. Instead Jayewardene's agenda was manipulated and dominated by
Jaffna traders recently reincarnated as UNP stalwarts. The famous
'Thai Pongal' celebration enjoyed by the minister that was screened on
national TV was not conducted by a community organization of the
people. It was undertaken by a prominent Tamil businessman. Also
Jayalath Jayewardene reportedly enjoyed the hospitality of another big
time trader. Jayewardene is immensely popular among Tamils because of
his humanitarian approach to their problems. It would indeed be a
tragedy if he fritters away that support by associating with inhumane
exploiters of their own brethren.
once flourishing cooperative movement is being systematically
throttled. It may not entirely be an accident that former MP
Sivamaharajah and ex-Municipal Commissioner C. V. K. Sivagnanam failed
to get elected to parliament on the Tamil national alliance ticket.
Both men have strong links to the cooperative movement and would not
have allowed the blackmarketeers to run rings around that sector. It
is possible that vested interests could have deliberately prevented
their victory to ward off this threat. The MPs elected from Jaffna on
the TNA ticket do not seem to have any responsibility or commitment in
this respect. Many MPs also maintain links with the powerful traders.
the new government came to power artificial shortages and
consequential price rises have become the order of the day in Jaffna.
The flourishing growth of the blackmarket in Jaffna will no doubt be a
serious blackmarket on Wickremesinghe's government. It would equally
be a blemish for the LTTE too. The Jaffna public has been made aware
by the traders that the Tigers have imposed a heavy tax of 15% percent
on all the items transported from Colombo. They say that the LTTE
checks the manifest of all vessels and know what exactly is being
transported. Therefore they cannot hide anything from the Tigers and
have to pay up. So they have no choice but to raise the prices in
order to pay the taxes, is the version.
argument however has two flaws. One is that despite this so called
LTTE tax the traders can easily make a profit without increasing the
prices. Secondly, the price increases in Jaffna are not commensurate
with the alleged tax increase. The new prices suggest profits of
enormous scale going far beyond that surcharge. It is the poor Jaffna
consumer who is being made to bear the cost of increased prices. The
traders are only making more money because of the LTTE tax.
the same time the LTTE too is duty bound to act more responsibly
towards the well being of the Tamil people. Recent developments have
arguably made the Tigers the acknowledged 'sole representatives' of
the Tamil people. Today the Tamil people back the Tiger demand for
de-proscription because they feel that the premier Tamil
politico-military organisation should not be regarded as illegal in
negotiations. An organisation enjoying such support from a persecuted
people owes them something tangible. At the very least, it must ensure
that rapacious traders do not exploit them ruthlessly on the grounds
that the Tigers have taxed them.
is indeed tragic that the ordinary people of Jaffna are being
subjected to such rapacious exploitation by their ethnic brethren. The
role of Maheswaran in this sordid saga is reprehensible because he is
an elected representative of the Jaffna people. It is callously
cynical for him to profiteer out of their misery, as alleged. This
however does not absolve others too of blame. Blaming the Sinhala
'oppressor' for all Tamil ills has become a practice in recent times.
In this case who is to blame?
Concessions and concerns
After The Sunday Leader
exposed the interest concessions allowed on settlement of
facilities to President Chandrika Kumaratunga's close friend and
confidante, businessman Ronnie Peiris, the Bank of Ceylon issued a
press release on December 4, 2001 after Peiris himself authorised the
release of information to protect the good name of the Bank of Ceylon.
Subsequently, General Manager, Bank of Ceylon, A.
Sarath de Silva sent a letter dated
February 8, 2002, to the Editor of The Sunday Leader
seeking to amplify matters further to you and your reading
We publish below the letter of Bank of Ceylon General
Manager A. Sarath de Silva and our response to de Silva’s letter, in
the public interest.
Settlement of facilities by Mr. Ronnie Peiris and
We write with reference to the several articles that have
been published in your newspaper in regard to the interest concessions
allowed on settlement of facilities granted to Mr. R.S. Peiris and
related entities at our London Branch.
As you are aware, banks cannot respond to media reports
or third party queries relating to its customers since banks are bound
by the Secrecy Provisions in the Banking Act and in the case of Bank
of Ceylon, by the Bank of Ceylon Ordinance as well.
However, in this instance, the customer concerned had
authorised us to release information to protect the good name of the
Bank of Ceylon following which the Bank issued a press release on 4th
In view of the several articles that have been published
despite the press release referred to above, we are constrained to
amplify matters further to you and your reading public.
1. Prior to Mr. Ken Balendra assuming duties as
Director/Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon, the Management and the Board,
after protracted negotiations with Mr. Ronnie Peiris, agreed on a
rescheduling of the debt which included the waiver of 75% of the
accrued interest (which included a penal component as well) and the
repayment of the balance capital over a period of three years provided
an up-front payment of the balance interest and 20% of the capital was
made by 30th November, 2000.
2. The basis of the settlement envisaged above was
prudent, legitimate and within the regulatory frame-work of the Bank
in view of the fact that:
a. There was an element of risk, expense and
further delay involved in the realisation of the debt in
U.K. from the sale of the collateral.
b. One of the companies under the umbrella of the
borrowers was in liquidation.
c. The customer was making counter claims on the
Bank on alleged lapses which could have resulted in expensive
litigation in the U.K.
3. After Mr. Balendra assumed office on 1st December
2000, in the backdrop of the customer not keeping to his part of the
agreement referred to above, the Management did even better by
realising on 30th July, 2001 a full and final settlement which
included the payment of the entirety of the capital outstanding plus
25% of the normal interest accrued without rescheduling the repayment
of 80% of the capital over a 3 year period as agreed to earlier and
thereby running the further risk of default by Mr. Peiris. In this
process the funds collected earlier than originally envisaged were
available to the Bank for its day to day banking activities.
4. As you are aware, negotiated settlements of this
nature are not uncommon in banking practice and also in trading
business and in this instance it was in the best interest of the Bank
to ensure the immediate recovery of the capital lent together with 25%
of the normal accrued interest.
We shall be grateful if this letter is given adequate
publicity in your newspaper.
A. Sarath de Silva
BoC: Questions that
13th February 2002
Mr. A. Sarath de Silva
Bank of Ceylon
4, Bank of Ceylon Mawatha
We refer to your letter dated 8. 2. 2002 addressed to the
Editor, The Sunday Leader under
the caption - Settlement of facilities by Mr. Ronnie Peiris and
related entities, stating that your Bank will be grateful, if your
letter is given adequate publicity in our newspaper. In conformity
with our normal journalistic practice and ethics, we are pleased to
give your letter equal publicity in our newspaper; of course with our
responses thereto, in the public interest.
Significantly, we have noted that your customer
concerned, i.e. Mr. Ronnie Peiris, has authorised your Bank to release
information to protect the good name of your Bank, and hence, that you
are not bound by any secrecy provisions in the Banking Act and the
Bank of Ceylon Ordinance.
Accordingly, your release of information to the public
ought to have been a full disclosure of all relevant and pertinent
facts and not parts thereof, moreso particularly in the context of
public concern that has already been raised in this regard, lest your
public statement, being only parts, be lawfully interpreted to be a
false statement, which undisputedly would blemish the good name of
your Bank, which you have sought to protect.
Therefore, we pose the following questions and trust that
you would promptly afford your answers to the same to be published, so
that the totality of the facts would be disclosed to the public in the
1. Your letter dated 25. 5. 2001 addressed to Mr. R.S.
Peiris bears the caption - Credit Facilities granted to Mr. R.S.
Peiris and Mrs. R. Peiris and Glen Express Travel Pvt. Limited.
(published in full in The Sunday Leader
of 7.10.2001). Accordingly, would it be correct that Credit
Facilities and/or Loans had been granted by your Bank jointly and/or
severally to these persons?
What were the Credit Facilities and/or Loans granted to
the aforesaid persons jointly and/or severally, and what were the
security and/or collateral given to your Bank in respect thereof ?
For what purposes were such Credit Facilities and/or
Loans granted to the aforesaid persons and what were the sources of
the re-payment of such Credit Facilities and/or Loans ?
abovementioned Credit Facilities
and/or Loans include a
Loan of about UK
Pounds 650,000, and if so, to whom was it granted ?
What was the security and/or collateral and the value of
such collateral for such considerable Loan granted ?
2. When did the aforesaid persons open Bank Accounts with
the London Branch of the Bank of Ceylon ?
When were the abovementioned Credit Facilities and/or
Loans afforded to the aforesaid persons?
In the context of your reference to banking practice,
does your Bank afford such Credit Facilities and/or Loans to
customers, who have recently opened Bank Accounts?
Does not your Bank, as is the normal banking practice,
require having had a banking relationship with customers for a
requisite period of time, prior to granting Credit Facilities and/or
Or, is it that a walk-in customer could open bank
accounts with your Bank and promptly obtain such considerable Credit
Facilities and/or Loans?
Also, as is the normal banking practice, who were the
parties who signed and introduced the aforesaid persons as the
customers to the London Branch of your Bank?
Were they also customers of the London Branch of your
3. Were the abovementioned Credit Facilities and/or Loans
granted to the aforesaid persons to pay-off their debts due to the
State Bank of India in London?
Were the Credit Facilities and/or Loans of the aforesaid
persons at the State Bank of India in London in default and/or
If so, in such circumstances, is it the normal banking
practice of your Bank to give Credit Facilities and/or Loans to
persons to pay their owings to other Banks, moreso, if such owings had
been overdue and/or in default ?
4. Prior to having approved the abovementioned Credit
Facilities and/or Loans to the aforesaid persons, were any Bank and/or
Credit references obtained, as is the normal banking practice?
If not, why?
If yes, from whom were such credit references obtained?
5. What were the sources of income and/or earnings of the
aforesaid persons to have repaid such Credit Facilities and/or Loans
to have justified granting them the abovementioned Credit Facilities
Is it not the normal banking practice to have evaluated
such relevant factors, vital to substantiate the re-payment abilities
of prospective borrowers?
Does your Bank make any exception to the above normal
Who were the Chairman, the Directors and General Manager
of the Bank of Ceylon at the time the abovementioned Credit Facilities
and/or Loans were granted to the aforesaid persons?
6. In Paragraph (2)(b) of your said Letter dated 8.2.2002
you state that - one of the companies under the umbrella of the
borrower was in liquidation. Is this Company Glen Express Travel (Pvt)
Ltd., referred to in your aforesaid Letter dated 25.5.2001?
Were the annual profits of Glen Express Travels (Pvt)
Ltd. of UK referred to in your aforesaid letter dated 25.5.2001, UK
Pounds 1755, UK Pounds 175 and UK Pounds 2065 for the years 1993, 1994
and 1995 respectively? If not, what were the profits?
When did this company go into liquidation and when did
your Bank carry out credit evaluation granting Credit Facilities
and/or Loans to the said company ? What was the quantum of such Credit
Facilities and/or Loans?
How is it that your Bank did not anticipate the
liquidation of such company in your Bank's credit evaluation?
In your aforesaid letter dated 25. 5. 2001 did you not
refer to the appropriation of funds available in Suspense Accounts
Creditors amounting to UK Pounds 250,488?
Is it not the duty, obligation and the responsibility of
your Bank to have identified sources of such funds in conformity with
international banking practice and conventions signed?
7. Why is it that having had collateral as referred to in
paragraph (2)(a) of your said letter dated 8.2.2002, that you did not
seek to enforce the sale of such collateral?
Could not such enforcement have been concluded
expeditiously in the UK?
Was legal opinion obtained in such regard in UK, prior to
your Bank making such decision in that regard? If so, from whom was
such legal opinion obtained?
Is it the normal practice of your Bank to consider risk,
expense and delay in enforcement of the sale of collateral?
9. What were the counter-claims made by the aforesaid
persons against the Bank referred to in paragraph (2) (c) in your said
letter dated 8.2.2002
Were the said claims legally made? If so, when and
Was legal opinion obtained in such regard in UK, prior to
your Bank making decision? If so, from whom was such legal opinion
Is it the normal practice of your Bank to settle with a
default customers, every time counter-claims are made for alleged
lapses on the part of your Bank?
10. Is it
not the normal banking practice to consider interest concessions
and/or interest waivers, where borrowers have got into genuine
difficulties for reasons beyond their control and are unable to repay?
Is it the normal banking practice to grant interest
concessions and/or interest waivers, in this instance as much as 75%,
where the borrower/s are able to repay, and in addition, as you have
admitted, the Bank having had enforceable collateral by way of
Do you not admit that in this instance, the borrower/s
has had ability to repay the total outstanding as a lump sum and was
therefore not a borrower/s who ought have been entitled to such
interest concessions and/or interest waivers ?
Other than the Loans obtained and interests paid thereon,
what is the value of the total business given by the aforesaid persons
to the London Branch of your Bank and over which period?
11. Was it not the duty, obligation and responsibility of
your Bank to have ascertained the source of funds of such sudden
substantial repayment ability of a borrower/s in default in the
context of international norms and banking practice and conventions,
particularly in relation to the money laundering, where Sri Lanka is a
signatory to international conventions in that regard, moreso
particularly your branch being in London and thereby also being
subject to the banking practices and requirements in the United
Did your Bank carry out such due diligence ? If not, why?
If yes, what was the source of funds of such sudden lump sum
12. Who were the Chairman, Directors and General Manager
of the Bank of Ceylon at the time that the aforesaid once and for all
lump sum payment was accepted?
in paragraph (1) of your said Letter dated 8.2.2002 you state - Prior
to Mr. Ken Balendra assuming duties as Director/Chairman of the Bank
of Ceylon, the Management and the Board after protracted negotiations
with Mr. Ronnie Peiris agreed on a re-scheduling of debt which
included the waiver of 75% of the accrued interest. At paragraph 3 of
your same said Letter dated 8.2.2002 you state that, Mr. Ken Balendra
assuming office on 1st December 2000..
Your aforesaid letter to Mr. R.S. Peiris restructuring
and rescheduling the
aforesaid debts, which said letter was published in full in The Sunday
Leader of 7.10.2001, had
been dated 25.5.2001 i.e. nearly 6 months after Mr. Ken Balendra
assumed office as the Chairman/Director of Bank of Ceylon on
1.12.2000. Are your statements themselves not patently contradictory?
We trust that in the public interest, you would promptly
respond to the foregoing, now that you have been authorised by the
customer concerned, to release information, moreso particularly, as a
State Bank, you and your Board of Directors would be accountable and
responsible to the public of this country.
As your are aware, in terms of the Bribery Act, the Bank
of Ceylon is a Scheduled Institution. Section 70 of the Bribery Act
was amended by Act No. 20 of 1994 to define corruption, inter-alia, to
include the causing of loss to the government and/or the conferring of
a benefit favour or advantage to any person.
THE SUNDAY LEADER