9th November, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 17

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SPOTLIGHT

A man on borrowed time

By Frederica Jansz

THE Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club has appealed three times to the Cricket Board for action to be initiated against Board President Thilanga Sumathipala.

The four page letter signed by Bloomfield President Upali Dharmadasa has questioned the "double standards" of the Cricket Board in meting out discipline to cricketer Kaushalya Lokuarachchi but avoiding doing so in the case of far more serious charges against Board President Thilanga Sumathipala.

Thilanga Sumathipala apart from being President, Sri Lanka Cricket is also unfortunately Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom, at which institution he continues to conduct his wheeler dealing.

A source at Bloomfield said that the Cricket Board "has been passing the buck" and avoiding tabling the letter in question.Last week, the Board had made a vague promise to table the explosive letter at its exco meeting on November 12.

Thilanga Sumathipala

Given the lack of integrity on the part of the entire executive committee members of the Cricket Board who have not had the spine to stand for what is right and just, it comes as no surprise that the Cricket Board will not play fair by even its own member clubs.

No call for investigation

Despite the damning and conclusive evidence against Thilanga Sumathipala, not a single member of the exco has had the guts to even call for a full scale and independent inquiry or to question Sumathipala as to why he used Cricket Board funds to take an underworld killer to the UK in 1999 and thereafter sanctioned that these monies be written off.

Sumathipala of course did so with the full blessings of Treasurer Trevor Rajaratnam and Secretary Mohan de Silva. It is to this level these men have trashed and pillaged the august offices of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Sumathipala however is a man on borrowed time. If there was one individual who would have clapped his hands in glee at President Chandrika Kumaratunga's antics last week it would have been him.

He has gleefully told confidants that the spotlight this week at least will not be focused on him but on the political crisis.Sumathipala of course less than 24 hours after he returned to the island last week claimed he had been "approached" by Mangala Samara-weera and asked to "cross sides."

According to Sumathipala he refused, but given his utter inability to speak the truth, one can only wonder.  Sumathipala's excesses in fraud have long been documented and this week The Sunday Leader will for the record place before its readers the conclusive evidence against Thilanga Sumathipala.

A breakdown of the mobile telephone bill used by Dhammika Amarasinghe while inside the Magazine prison has proved that Thilanga Sumathipala has been in touch with Dhammika repeatedly while the underworld kingpin sits in prison. Sumathipala's mobile phone number is 077 7765544.The Dialog mobile phone used by the underworld killer bears the number 077 6093568. The phone is registered under the name of one H.G. Priyankara of 101, Market Road, Dambulla.

Bada Mahinda in his second recorded statement to the CID has reiterated that the "Thilanga boss" he refers to in his confession to the Gangodawila Magistrate is Thilanga Sumathipala, Sri Lanka Telecom chairman and Sri Lanka Cricket president.

An FC voucher at the Cricket Board and referred to in the Jinadasa report has stated that under the classification of the then BCCSL president, a sum of Rs. 170,651.34 (sterling pounds 1,500) was utilised from the funds of the BCCSL in 1999 to purchase traveller's cheques for one Buddhika Priyashantha Godage.

Dhammika's passport application

In December 1997, underworld gang leader Dhammika Amarasinghe applied for a passport from the Immigration and Emigration Department. He made his application on December 28, 1997 by presenting an ID card bearing number 732161295V in the name of Buddhika Priyashantha Godage. Dhammika also gave a copy of Godage's birth certificate claiming it to be his own.

His application for this passport was certified by S. Palihawadana, Justice of the Peace at Jayanthipura in Battaramulla. Dhammika gave his address under the name of Buddhika Godage as residing at 431/1, Pitakotte, Kotte. Under the category of profession he stated that he is unemployed.

Another underworld figure, 'MA,' has told police in a statement that he dropped Dhammika at the VIP entrance of the Bandaranaike International airport in May 1999, where members of the Ministerial Security Division came out and met Dhammika and escorted him inside.

On the same flight

According to 'MA,' Dhammika had told him he was leaving for the UK to watch the cricket world cup.'M' has also stated that Thilanga Sumathipala was on the same flight as Dhammika.

The jointly signed letter by Assistant Treasurer, BCCSL, Lucien Merinnage in 1999 and BCCSL President Thilanga Sumathipala to the Hatton National Bank (HNB) to arrange for 1,500 sterling pounds to be released in travellers cheques to Buddhika Priyashantha Godage was co-signed on May 3, 1999 and addressed to the Manager, HNB, at Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo 1.

This is why Thilanga Sumathipala's credibility today lies in tatters. When first questioned on the statements made by Bada Mahinda to the CID where Mahinda had seriously implicated Sumathipala, the latter lied to this newspaper. When we contacted Sumathipala and asked him if he has had any relationship with the underworld figure Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Perera he said, "absolutely not."

Assassination attempts

Quizzed as to whether he planned and financed the assassination attempts on Editor, The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, Sumathi-pala strongly denied the charge saying, "I was one of the first to rush to Lasantha's house when it was shot at in 1998. We have been friends for many years and all this is the work of Gamini Abeyratne in an attempt to split the party." Sumathipala in fact never visited the home of Wickrematunge after the shooting.

Reading out the mobile phone number presently used by Dhammika Perera, we asked Sumathipala if he was familiar with the phone number.  He said he did not recognise the number at all."This is news to me. I cannot remember this particular number," he said.

A detailed breakdown of Dhammika's mobile phone bill has repeatedly displayed Sumathipala's personal mobile phone number.  This proves Sumathipala blatantly lied.

Subsequently, he told Wickrematunge he does not know an underworld leader by the name of Dhammika Amarasinghe. When confronted with the telephone bill he retracted his lie admitting he did have contact with Dhammika. Wickrematun-ge has made a statement to this effect to the CID.

Denial

At an executive committee meeting of the Cricket Board soon after the newspaper exposes, Thilanga Sumathipala told committee members that he has no idea who Buddhika Godage is; has no knowledge at all of such a payment released to Godage in 1999; and has not in any capacity authorised for such monies to be released to this individual from the Cricket Board.

Every statement to this effect we have proved Sumathipala lied following evidence of a voucher at the Cricket Board and other documentation, which proves Sumathipala authorised and sanctioned such payment.

When this newspaper published the letter co-signed by Sumathipala and Lucien Merinnage to HNB to release a sum of sterling pounds 1,500 to Buddhika Godage, Sumathipala told Cricket Board members no such letter exists.He went so far as to call for an audit query.

The bank has now handed over certified copies of this letter to the CID, which proves that Sumathipala lied in this instance too.

Sumathipala's further attempts at subterfuge he enacted when he tried to speak with Executive Director, Airport and Aviation Services Limited, Gamini Abeyratne requesting the latter to persuade Bada Mahinda not to state that the 'Thilanga boss' he refers to in his confession is Thilanga Sumathipala.

A breakdown of the phone bill of Secretary, Kandy Cricket Club, Janaka Pathirana who was used by Sumathipala to phone Abeyratne proves the calls made within minutes between Pathirana, Abeyratne and Thilanga Sumathipala.

And last but not least is evidence of the minutes of the March 28, 2001 executive committee meeting of the Cricket Board, which clearly states that the sum of sterling pounds 1,500 to 'Mr. Godage' be written off.

Merinnage admits signing letter

Meanwhile for the record it is important to remember at this juncture that Lucien Merinnage in his statement to the CID has admitted that the signature on a jointly signed letter with Thilanga Sumathipala to the HNB is his.The letter authorised the bank to release 1,500 sterling pounds in travellers cheques to Buddhika Priyashantha Godage.

Merinnage on Friday, October 17, had visited the offices of HNB and requested to be shown a copy of the letter. Upon seeing it, Merinnage had exclaimed, "My God, this does look like my signature."

On the letter, Merinnage has also hand written below the typed figure of 1,500 pounds in words "one thousand five hundred only."

Merinnage in his statement to the CID has said the signature on the incriminating letter does appear to be his.He has said that he would have signed the letter after being advised to do so by the Cricket Board President who in 1999 was Thilanga Sumathipala.

Following this evidence, a court order was secured and Bada Mahinda was taken out of the Welikada prison to identify the houses where offences had been committed by this underworld gang led by Dhammika. 

He thus identified a house at 40B, Kawdana Road, Dehiwela, which The Sunday Leader later proved is registered at the Dehiwela/Mount Lavinia Municipality as belonging to Thilanga Sumathipala and his wife, Samadara.

According to Bada Mahinda the underworld killers staked a hideout at this house after having murdered a fellow underworld gang leader, Baddegana Sanjeewa.

What is bewildering is that despite the mountain of evidence how Sumathipala continues to walk the streets hobnobbing with the high and mighty.

Mr. Attorney General the public glare is now on you!

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