put on the dock with Choksy serving damning questionaire
the controversy over the multi million dollar luxury vehicles purchase
by President Chandrika Kumaratunga stirring a hornet's nest in cabinet
the previous week, Finance Minister K.N. Choksy turned the heat on last
week by forwarding a questionnaire to the president.
questionnaire in the form of a note to cabinet by Choksy who is the
chairman of the cabinet sub committee appointed to probe the issue in
itself is an indictment on the president, who will now have to draft her
response with the utmost caution.
set a legal trap for the president in cabinet on the legality of the
purchases, not to mention queries on the unaccounted for vehicles, the
president will be leaving herself and former Treasury Secretary P.B.
Jayasundera wide open for impeachment and criminal charges if the right
answers are not forthcoming.
taken personal responsibility for the multi-million dollar purchases and
vehicles in her possession, and committed herself to a position in
writing to the cabinet, the legal eagle in Choksy has now opened a new
front as well, calling into question the purchase of 10 BMW motorcycles
in addition to the whereabouts of five Daewoo cars donated by the
his "note to cabinet" titled, "Vehicles purchased by the
Presidential Secretariat in 2000 and 2001," Minister Choksy states
thus - "Reference the note to cabinet dated 19 June, 2002 from Her
Excellency the President, the discussion thereon at the cabinet meeting
on 19th June 2002, and the request made by Her Excellency for
information to be submitted to her by the sub-committee so as to enable
her to furnish the registration numbers of the vehicles, I annex hereto
for information of the cabinet copy of letter dated 26th June 2002,
addressed to Her Excellency, stating the information available to the
cabinet sub-committee and requesting her observations thereon together
with the registration numbers of the vehicles."
his preliminary report, Minister Choksy says, while the president's list
shows the importation of only 25 Benz and BMW cars and 10 jeeps
aggregating 35 vehicles during the above two years, details before the
sub-committee obtained from the Customs and the local agents show a
total of 48 vehicles comprising Benz cars, BMW and Range Rover cars,
Land Rover Defenders and Nissan Patrol jeeps.
his damning report, cum questionnaire, Choksy states there is a
discrepancy of 13 vehicles between the information in the possession of
the cabinet sub-committee and the list provided by the president and
calls for Kumaratunga's observations on the 13 unaccounted for luxury
a question based on which reply, the president could also leave herself
open to abuse of power and corruption charges in terms of the existing
legislation, Choksy asks "Could you please also inform the cabinet
sub-committee whether or not tenders or quotations were called for prior
to the purchase orders being placed for the 48 vehicles and 10
motorcycles and whether cabinet approval was obtained for the
the answer is in the negative, Kumaratunga will undoubtedly be in hot
water especially with the government also considering removing the
immunity enjoyed by the executive presidency after securing the required
two third majority in parliament.
is in the knowledge of this fact that Kumaratunga has announced, the PA
will not support the conscience vote mooted by the UNF government.
that as it may, another intriguing query on the multi million dollar
purchases for which Kumaratunga has in writing taken full responsibility
relates to a company by the name of M/s R.R. Navigareim IM and Exp.
Choksy in his cabinet note from the president - "The cabinet sub
committee would also desire to be informed as to the identity of the
company named M/s R.R. Navigareim IM & Exp. Germany, the ownership
of the company and why this company was involved in the imports of the
vehicles by the Presidential Secretariat. This company has also been
named as the beneficiary in the applications for irrevocable letters of
credit made by the Presidential Secretariat."
unwritten message in that message is damning. Obviously this company has
made a huge commission on the deal and if the orders were placed without
following tender procedure or cabinet approval, then the president would
certainly be staring directly at an impeachment. (See box for full
the cabinet of ministers met on Wednesday, June 26, President
Kumaratunga did not broach this subject but simply said, "Mr.
Choksy, I got your note."
given the president's legendary delays when it comes to timing, Choksy
has urged her to submit her response at the earliest.
cabinet sub-committee will be thankful to Your Excellency for a very
early response...." Choksy has written.
knowing Choksy, given his legal acumen, the president will have to think
not twice but thrice before coming up with her answers for in these
seemingly innocent questions, there may well be a hidden minefield.
ball is now in President Kumaratunga's court and it remains to be seen
what answers she comes up with.
could well be a make or break case for Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumar-
atunga who in the PA's 1994
manifesto specifically frowned on the use of Benz and BMW cars.
Minister's report to cabinet
to the cabinet
purchased by the Presidential Secretariat in 2000 and 2001
the note to cabinet dated 19th June 2002 from Her Excellency the
President, the discussion thereon at the cabinet meeting on 19th
June, 2002, and the request made by Her Excellency for information
to be submitted to her by the Sub-Committee so as to enable her to
furnish the registration numbers of the vehicles, I annex hereto
information of the cabinet copy of letter dated 26th June, 2002,
addressed to Her Excellency stating the information available to
the Cabinet Sub-Committee and requesting her observations thereon
together with the registration numbers of the vehicles.
Choksy, P.C., M.P.
Sub-Committee on vehicles purchased by the Presidential
Secretariat in 2000/2002
write with the concurrence and on behalf of the above Cabinet Sub
Committee and consequent to the note to cabinet submitted by Your
Excellency on the 19th June, 2002.
list of vehicles annexed to Your Excellency's note does not state
the registration numbers of the vehicles. As agreed by yourself at
the cabinet discussion, please forward the registration numbers as
these are required for verification.
Cabinet Sub Committee also notes that Your Excellency's list shows
the importation of only 25 Benz and BMW cars and 10 jeeps,
aggregating 35 vehicles, during the above two years.
information with particulars obtained by the Cabinet Sub Committee
from the Director General of Customs and the local agents
establish that a total of 48 vehicles comprising Benz, BMW and
Range Rover cars, Land Rover Defenders and Nissan
Patrol jeeps were imported by the Presidential Secretariat
during the period from 01st January, 2000 to 01st January, 2001.
available to the Cabinet Sub Committee at the Treasury also
confirm that the Presidential Secretariat had during the said
period requested the Treasury in writing to issue letters of
credit to the Bank of Ceylon for the purchase of 48 vehicles,
which was done in order to enable the Bank of Ceylon to open the
requisite letters of credit. I annex for Your Excellency's
information photocopies of three letters received from the
Presidential Secretariat and photocopies of three letters written
by the Treasury to the Bank of Ceylon requesting the opening of
the letters of credit. A schedule of the 48 vehicles covered by
the letters of credit is also annexed, giving full particulars of
dates of importation of vehicles, chassis nos. etc.
an analysis of the list annexed to Your Excellency's note to the
cabinet, the first five vehicles shown therein have to be excluded
inasmuch as they are vehicles imported during the term of office
of President Jayewardene and President Premadasa and also used by
yourself prior to the bomb attack on 19th December, 1999. The
importation of the 48 vehicles referred to in the Presidential
Secretariat's aforesaid request to the Treasury were made from and
after 21st January, 2000, which was after the bomb attack as
indicated in the attached schedule. Accordingly, the list
submitted by Your Excellency accounts for only 35 out of the 48
vehicles imported during the years 2000 and 2001. The Cabinet Sub
Committee requests Your Excellency's observations on the balance
our inquires reveal that a quantity of 10 BMW motorcycles were
also imported by the Presidential Secretariat on the 10th August,
2000. I annex a list setting out the full particulars of same. The
Cabinet Sub Committee desires Your Excellency's information as to
in whose possession these motor cycles are.
you please also inform the Cabinet Sub Committee whether or not
tenders or quotations were called for prior to the purchase orders
being placed for the 48 vehicles and 10 motorcycles and whether
cabinet approval was obtained for the purchase.
Cabinet Sub Committee would also desire to be informed as to the
identity of the company named M/s. R.R. Navigareim IM & Exp.
Germany, the ownership of the company and why this company was
involved in the imports of the vehicles by the Presidential
Secretariat. This company has also been named as the beneficiary
in the applications for irrevocable letters of credit made by the
provisions granted by the Treasury for the import of vehicles for
the Presidential Secretariat was Rs. 63,586,290 in the year 2000.
However the total cost of the 48 vehicles to the government was in
the region of Rs. 2,469,699,262, inclusive of all levies. The
Cabinet Sub Committee is mindful of the fact that vehicles for the
use of the president are exempt from Customs and Excise duties,
but is unable to make a deduction on this score in the absence of
the information as to how many vehicles out of the total of 48 are
being used by Your Excellency.
shall also be thankful for information as to whether the requisite
cabinet/parliament approval was obtained for the excess
expenditure of approximately Rs. 2,406,112,972.
shortfall of 13 vehicles in the list submitted in Your
Excellency's note to the cabinet also requires particular
is also found that out of the 48 vehicles imported, 8 Mercedes
Benz cars have not been registered with the Commissioner of Motor
Traffic. Please inform why this was not done.
find annexed hereto a photocopy of a newspaper photograph and
report which shows that five Daewoo cars were donated to Your
Excellency at Temple Trees for state use by the manufacturer.
Please inform the Sub Committee the registration numbers of these
vehicles, and where they presently are. These five vehicles are
over and above the 48 vehicles referred to above.
Cabinet Sub-Committee will be thankful to Your Excellency for a
very early response to the matter referred to above in as much as
the Sub Committee has to submit its report to the cabinet of
ministers. I might add that the information sought is to enable
the Sub Committee to make a comprehensive and accurate report to
of Finance and Chairman of Cabinet Sub Committee