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4th June, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 47

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Spotlight

Nivard’s quest for Central Bank Governorship stuck on gold trail

President Mahinda Rajapakse, Nivard, Quest International letter to Nivard referring to his acceptance of the Monaco trip, Fax to Anura Fernando from Cabraal Consulting Group and Office of Capital Reach Credit Ltd down Lake Crescent

By Sonali Samarasinghe

Shocking evidence has come to light of an elaborate scheme by the infamous Gold Quest players to spread their tentacles into every area of Sri Lanka’s economy through top Presidential Advisor Ajit Nivard Cabraal.

Gold Quest has been so sharp in its dealing with Sri Lanka that even at its international conference in Malaysia organised by one of its major companies

Quest International (QI) last month, the likes of Sri Lanka’s high Commissioner to Malaysia R. D. Cassie Chetty was seen legitimising the affair as an honoured guest. Some 100 youngsters from Colombo, Galle, Matara and Kandy were present as part of the huge networking conference which included about 1000 youth from around the world. That is even as a full fledged investigation was underway in Colombo by the Central Bank on their business practices.

Gold Quest and other like Multi Level marketing schemes have been under intense Central Bank investigation by a Special Investigations Unit with the Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando releasing a team of CID officers on secondment to the Central Bank, to help with the investigations.

Not only that, the Central Bank recently ran a series of advertisements in the media warning the public that the pyramid scheme was raising its ugly head again under different guises.

Economic tsunami

The illegal pyramid scheme originating in America has been described by American experts as a financial tsunami for developing nations and is rendered illegal under the Banking Amendment Act of 2005.

However the investigation, conducted by a special unit of the Central Bank may be under severe threat of being politically influenced, with Cabraal also sitting at an office in the same Central Bank Building as Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation.

Tryst in Monaco

Even moreso, as Cabraal, widely tipped to be appointed governor of the Central Bank by President Mahinda Rajapakse, as recently as last week, with impunity accepted an all expenses paid luxury invitation to Monaco by Quest International to attend the annual Grand Prix.

Not only that he even arranged for his sons to fly with him to the Formula One sporting event, asking for rooms for them on a sharing basis (see copy of fax sent to Anura Fernando).

However Cabraal was unable to attend at the last minute as the Oslo talks were being negotiated and he was compelled to stay in Colombo in case the peace talks hurriedly resumed.

That Nivard Cabraal is not playing a straight bat is evident given that despite documentary evidence to the contrary, he denied accepting the QI Monaco invitation, stating casually that he gets many invitations from various companies but he did not accept any invitation from QI. (Please see interview box and elsewhere on this page for copy of letter where he not only has accepted but has made preparations for his trip through Anura Fernando.

Meanwhile Cabraal also sold shares in a family company of which his wife is still a director to a front company of Gold Quest — Suntex International Holdings, thus making this a sordid jumble of conflicting interests and unethical business practice. Especially given his ambition to be governor, Central Bank and given that it is the Central bank that is investigating into the Gold Quest players.

Anura Fernando the link

The ambitious Nivard Cabraal’s link to Gold Quest is through a local man of dubious reputation called Anura Fernando. Fernando is also the local agent for Gold Quest. Fernando has already been questioned and his statement recorded by the Central Bank Investigations Unit in connection with Gold Quest. But more on Fernando later.

Anura meets Rajapakse

However, suffice it to say for the moment that it was Ajit Nivard Cabraal who was to take Anura Fernando –businessman, to meet President Mahinda Rajapakse during the presidential campaign last year to give the campaign a helping hand.

In fact when this writer asked Fernando whether he had also discussed Gold Quest when he met Rajapakse last year in the company of Nivard Cabraal to help with the campaign, Fernando did not deny the meeting but said he did not discuss Gold Quest. That we have on record.

"I knew Mahinda Rajapakse long before Gold Quest," he was to say. Funnily enough however while saying he knew Rajapakse long before Gold Quest, when confronted with the statement that he was in fact the agent for Gold Quest he said, "I’m not the agent for Gold Quest I don’t know what you are talking about." But more on that anon.

Monaco trip

Be that as it may Cabraal faxed the names of his family on April 2, 2006 to Anura Fernando to make the necessary visa arrangements for the Monaco trip. (See copy of fax sent by Cabraal Consulting Group elsewhere on this page).

Accepted invitation

On April 27, 2006 Cabraal received a formal update and programme review of the Grand Prix to be held May 25 –28 by Quest International – mind you a company currently under investigation by the Central Bank – addressed to him also at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. (See copy of letter elsewhere on this page).

The letter thanked Cabraal for confirming his participation at the Quest International (QI) F1 Monaco event stating QI was honoured to welcome and host him as one of their VIP guests.

Mendis asked to resign

While Cabraal was busy wheeler dealing on state time on the one hand while angling for the governor’s seat on the other, the present Governor of the Central Bank, Sunil Mendis was asked to resign by Mahinda Rajapakse.

An unheard of and unprecedented course of action considering the Central Bank Governor’s post is a sacred appointment protected by the constitution.

Many in the finance sector are nonplussed that Mendis was moved out to accommodate Cabraal for no good reason other than to fulfil a lifelong dream of Cabraal’s since his salad days as an accountant. Removal from a posting is conferred on Parliament unless the person voluntarily resigns. Mendis will vacate office by June 30. He obviously had no stomach to refuse a presidential request.

Gold Quest invisible but present

Gold Quest in the meantime has wormed its way into the Sri Lankan economy by an ingenious method of laundering. It has bought into the tea, leisure, banking and telecommunications industry as well. Though Gold Quest held an almost 20 percent share in National Development Bank (NDB) through its proxies, a Malaysian national Tagiah who held 9.9 % and another foreign account which held 10 %, these were sold at the beginning of this year. However the talk in the market is that the shares were sold and re bought by persons or companies with less obvious but as intense a connection with Gold Quest as the overt proxies.

The elaborate operation

In a nutshell the story is this. Gold Quest, under investigation by the central Bank was to enter Sri Lanka through the back door. Its overseas associate and front company, Suntex International Holdings Ltd – based in Hong Kong bought into a Sri Lankan credit and finance company Capital Reach Credit Ltd and also bought 50 percent stake of the local tea company Ferntea Pvt Ltd.

Suntex then used the resources of Ferntea to clear gold coins, wristwatches, numismatic products and other similar items on behalf of Suntex International. The local company for Gold Quest is Rhythm Collections Pvt Ltd. Ferntea would thus clear the items for the Gold Quest overseas associate Suntex and hand over the items to the local Gold Quest front company, Rhythm Collections Pvt Ltd, and voila! home and safe.

Journos taken on promotional tour

That Gold Quest will splash money to make more money is obvious. This year on March 22 and April 28 they escorted a number of Sinhala and English journalists to Honk Kong and Malaysia on a promotional junket tour. A source at the Central Bank said that 10 or 11 journalists had in fact gone and CID sources stated that these trips may also come under scrutiny.

Some of the journalists who went are Boolitha Pradeep Kumara from the Upali Group (Divaina and Island). Prasanna Sanjeewa Tennakoon of the Wijeya Group (Lankadeepa, Daily Mirror and Sunday Times), Geeth Prasanna Gunasekera from the Sumathi Group (Lakbima), Malinda Seneviratne of the State media and lately of the Arpico group.

Sunday Leader offered HK trip

Once the Gold Quest people were made aware of The Sunday Leader investigation which we commenced only last week, this writer was also offered an all expenses paid trip to Hong Kong last Thursday. The offer was politely but firmly declined with a comment that if The Sunday Leader needed to go to Hong Kong as part of the investigation it would pay its own way. However in the interests of right of reply see elsewhere on these pages for a comment by Gold Quest.

Evil cult

Incidentally, in some parts of the West and even in America and Australia, multi level marketing and such pyramid schemes are even considered evil cultism and not merely bad business practice. Be that as it may in Sri Lanka it is considered detrimental to the floundering economy and a scam aimed at rural youth from low income families who would easily get enticed into these schemes.

Infiltrated

Central Bank investigators speaking on grounds of anonymity told The Sunday Leader that infiltrations have been made to the deepest parts of Sri Lanka from Anuradhapura in the North Central Province to places like Karandeniya in the south.

The Central Bank prohibited the Pyramid scheme under the Banking Amendment Act of 2005 which came into effect on February 10, 2005. Top sources at the Central Bank told this newspaper the act was careful to describe the characteristics of these prohibited schemes rather than name them, as resourceful marketers would merely change the names of these schemes to gain legitimacy and avoid the effect of the Act.

A Central Bank source told this writer that those involved in the now widely known Pyramid scheme could easily take cover by re labeling the business and claiming they were internet vendors involved in internet marketing, network marketing or multi level marketing. The public must thus be extremely vigilant to study the characteristics of the business or scheme before being roped into it.

Name changes

A source at the investigations unit also confirmed to this writer that Gold Quest based in Hong Kong, goes under various other names and has different front companies that are currently also under investigation. They are Quest Net, QI or simply just Quest. So they are a cluster of companies.

QI is ofcourse the company whose all expenses paid Monaco invite was accepted by aspiring Central Bank Governor and Secretary Ministry of Planning Ajit Nivard Cabraal.

Arrests made

Already young rural boys and girls have been arrested under the Banking Amendment Act of 2005. On December 15, 2005 a number of young Gold Quest recruits were arrested in Anuradhapura while as recently as April 25 this year another seven persons were arrested in Karandeniya . All these recruits are between 18-22 years of age.

The total number of arrests of young persons by the Central Bank in collaboration with the CID have now risen to 11. Cases have already been filed and investigators reveal that many other names have surfaced from the initial statements made by the arrested youth.

Lured by adventurism

What is pathetic is that about three of the youth arrested are A Level students and sitting for the exam this month. Our investigations revealed that the promoters were targeting young and gullible youth from the lower income groups and creating a sense of adventurism and mystique in order to lure them into the never ending world wide web of a money making scam that will ultimately leave you drained and alone.

No parents please

Central Bank Investigators told The Sunday Leader that the promoters discouraged the youth from bringing adults to the meetings as they asked too many questions while the youth are more spontaneous and would act immediately with little deliberation.

Also the rural youth are dazzled by promises of quick money and windfalls including the use of modern management techniques, promises of trips abroad and fancy cars by showing the before and after lives of those who had joined the scheme.

Blowing hot and cold

Investigative sources said that the usual method of these promoters was to first meet with 50 identified youth and filter down based on commitment, ability etc. to 25 and gradually to 10 and so on until they hone in on three people. These three they name as Cold, Warm and Hot. The Hot person is immediately recruited and is made a part of the scheme. Then it is the promoter’s task to make the warm person hot and the cold person warm and then hot for absorption into the inner circle.

Secret location

Meetings are held if possible every week at a secret location. For instance in Karandeniya the meeting was in a small house located in a semi rural area adjoining a nondescript shoe shop. However when you enter the house you are shocked that it is fully air-conditioned and has a posh interior not commensurate with its outer façade.

No strangers are allowed at these meetings. However if you are already in the inner circle you may invite a friend or someone you know well enough to ensurethe person is not a mole or part of a sting operation by investigators.

Cult

Central Bank sources told the newspaper that this is fast turning into a cult based on team work and intense bonding. They also said that in Anuradhapura and Karandeniya the promoters have been from Pannipititya in the Kottawa area

Cabraal connection

Now that we understand the workings of Pyramid marketing promoters let us look at the companies specifically involved in Gold Quest through massive subterfuge and surrepticious selling of shares. We promise you a roller coaster ride that will end at the feet of Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

How is Cabraal involved? What are these companies and who runs them? Let’s begin with the local company Rhythm Collections Pvt Ltd.

Rhythm Collections has its registered office at 209/10 4th Floor. Union Place, Colombo 2. Rhythm Collections is owned by Anura Fernando and his wife and therefore the directors are Nirmal Anura Fernando of No.8 Pelawatte Road Nugegoda and his wife Estalita Rozabelle Dolorus Fernando also of the same address. Rozabelle act as the secretary to the company while the auditors are AM Associates of Galle Road, Colombo 6.

Weeraman gets caught

Rhythm Collections had a show room at the Premier Pacific Pinnacle Building on Duplication Road. One Nalaka Weeraman was manning this showroom. On July 26, 2005 Weeraman, an employee of Rhythm Collections was arrested by the CID for violating exchange control regulations.

According to the CID and CB sources, he had sold some gold coins on behalf of Rhythm Collections and accepted foreign currency to the tune of approximately US $400. However Rhythm Collections was not licensed to transact in foreign currency.

Rhythm is the local agent for Gold Quest

CB sources confirmed to this newspaper that Rhythm Collections was engaged in the business of importing gold coins, wristwatches and other numismatics products as part of the marketing scheme of Gold Quest. The clearing agent for Rhythm Collections was Ferntea Pvt Ltd, which used its resources to have these items cleared through customs. The CID then questioned and recorded statements from those connected with Rhythm Collections including the two shareholders and directors — Anura Fernando and his wife. Ferntea persons were also questioned including Jayantha Fernando its chairman.

A case was accordingly filed B3559/05 at Mt. Lavinia Magistrate’s court under exchange control laws and in fact an interim order was made suspending Ferntea from clearing anymore goods until the conclusion of the investigation.

However sources close to Rhythm Collection say that the CID trapped Weeraman into transacting in foreign currency. Other sources told this newspaper Weeraman is out on bail and also now out of the country.

Anura Fernando when contacted by this writer said there was no merit in the case as Ferntea imported some goods and Rhythm Collections distributed them on behalf of Ferntea and there was an exchange control investigation where the authorities thought there had been a double payment. He confirmed the case was going on in Mt Lavinia courts but claimed that products were released and that the suspension order was dissolved.

Ferntea LTD.

The directors of Ferntea as at 22/7/2005 are as follows:

(1) Kunaseelan Senathirajah appointed on September 29, 2005. He is also a director of Suntex International Holdings Ltd.

(2) Richard E. Zinkiewicz also managing director Gold Quest International Alternate Director John Challen a British Lawyer

(3) Deepak Korla Indian- manager Suntex International Holdings Limited from 26/09/2005, alternate director Joachim Kurt Steffen German – manager Suntex International Holdings Limited

(4) Pushpam Appalanaidu Malaysian – accountant, Suntex International Holdings Limited from 26/09/2005, alternate director Magandran S.Rajadurai also Malaysian –accountant, Suntex IHL

(5) Jakob Mayer no alternate director

(6) Jayantha S.Fernando alternate H.Joseph Chrishantha Perera

(7) V.J.L.C.Fernando

(8) Shyamica Marcele Fernando appointed wef 12/06/2000

(9) Nirmala Anura Fernando appointed from June 27, 2005 also company director Rhythm Collections Pvt Ltd

(10) Jakob Mayer

One can immediately detect a large presence of Suntex International Holdings Limited in Ferntea. This is because Suntex bought up a 50 percent stake of Ferntea as part of its expansion plan into the tea and leisure business. It is Ferntea that Gold Quest then used to clear their goods through Customs. Before we go any further remember a name. That is Richard E. Zinkiewicz who is also managing director Gold Quest International.

Anura Fernando is also the CEO of Ferntea by virtue of the fact that Suntex now owns 50 percent of its shares.

Suntex International Holdings Pvt Ltd

What is Suntex?

According to Anura Fernando himself in an interview with this writer (see box for full text) confirmed that Suntex has invested heavily in two local companies. One was Capital Reach Credit Ltd. The other was Ferntea. Extremely reliable sources confirm that Suntex is in fact the overseas associate company for Gold Quest. ‘However Anura Fernando denied that Suntex had anything to do with Gold Quest.

Zinkiewicz

This denial is easily discredited by documentary evidence and the turning up of Richard E. Zinkiewicz like a bad coin at every turn. That Gold Quest has in fact through Suntex in September 2005 crept into Ferntea and possessed its body is obvious.

As recently as June 26, 2005 Zinkiewicz himself gives an interview to the state run Daily News, business section as the managing director of Gold Quest International.

He is reported to have said that he would like to have a lengthy discussion with the Central Bank stating the company commenced operations in Sri Lanka in 1998. "We have made repeated requests to the Central Bank but still we have not got a chance to explain our position," he reportedly states. Not only that, he is quoted as saying that Gold Quest is determined to expand operations in Sri Lanka and has invested about US$ 20 million in various businesses in Sri Lanka including tea and telecommunications.

He further states during the interview, "we are selling high quality products and the members are paid commissions for the sales made by them. Our coin buyers automatically become Gold Quest members and in turn can sell the medallions for commissions."

Zinkiewicz also said the creation of Questnet as the QI group’s central distribution channel, GoldQuest is now focusing on building a powerful and universally appealing brand name for the 21st century.

Sources close to GoldQuest told The Sunday Leader they are now in the process of developing a local brand that would not involve foreign exchange.

Goldquest link to Suntex confirmed

Therefore the link to Gold Quest and Suntex is irrefutably confirmed.

Now let us look at the most interesting part of this saga. Anura Fernando has already confirmed to this newspaper that Suntex has invested in Capital Reach Credit Ltd. He also confirmed to this newspaper in an interview that he is a director of Capital Reach Credit as of today. He is a director by virtue of the fact that Suntex has invested in Capital Reach.

But we all know that Suntex is in fact Gold Quest. Therefore Capital Reach Credit has now also been possessed by the pyramid monster.

Cabraal’s family concern

Capital Reach Credit Pvt Ltd is also the family concern of Ajit Nivard Cabraal.

Consequent to the acquisition of majority stakes in Vanik Leasing Limited and Vanik Factors Limited by Capital Reach Holdings Limited (CRHL), also a family concern of Cabraal, the board of directors of CRHL decided to change the names of the two subsidiary companies to Capital Reach Leasing Limited (CRLL) and Capital Reach Credit Limited (CRCL) on July 14, 2005. Infact in July last year at a simple ceremony held at the company’s corporate office at No. 1, Lake Crescent, Colombo 2, new name plaques were unveiled by the Chairman of the Group, Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

The directors of Capital Reach Credit Pvt Ltd are as follows:

(1) Nivard Ajith Leslie Cabraal, 32/7, School Lane Nawala – director Cabraal Consulting Group Pvt Ltd.

Nivard Cabraal was to however resign on 26/11/2005 a week after Mahinda Rajapakse won the presidential election in order to take up plum government posts. Instead he appointed in his place his wife Roshini Sunethra Cabraal also a director at Cabraal Consulting Group Pvt Ltd.

(2) Dayananda Muthukumarana a director of Capital Reach Holdings ltd

(3) Mayurasiri Bandula Fernando also a director of Capital Reach Holdings ltd

(4) Kumarasetti Vithanage Kolitha Mahinda Kumara

(5) Chandana Kumarie Sarojinie Perera Angelis Mudalige, a director of Forbes Real Estate Pvt Ltd.

A large number of Capital Reach Credit Limited shares were issued to Capital Reach Holdings in January 2006 amounting to 2,100,000 shares at Rs. 15 each.

The shareholders as at the annual return date of October 10,2005 are Vanik, Sebrof, Forbes Capital Pvt Ltd. and Capital Reach Holdings. Capital Reach Holdings has about 5,100,000 shares as disclosed.

What is Capital Reach Holdings?

The subscribers are Nivard Ajith Leslie Cabraal, Dayananda Muthukumarana, and five others. The major shareholders of this company are the Cabraal family and Suntex International Ltd.(See box for details on allotment of shares)

Be that as it may, President Mahinda Rajapakse must be doubly careful in his appointment of a Central Bank governor. Rajapakse, not the brightest spark in economics must also be intensely selective of his economic advisors on whom he must totally rely, especially given his inexperience in the subject and ignorance in business matters a fact he even admitted to at a business forum prior to the presidential election.

He must also be careful given that he met Anura Fernando in the company of Nivard Cabraal during his presidential campaign and that Anura Fernando is inextricably linked to an illegal business practice currently being investigated by the Central Bank.

There is a fear that this investigation, like many other large scale investigations before, will reach the same fate. It is upto Rajapakse at least now in the interest of honesty and transparent governance to direct the Central Bank to conduct its investigations fearlessly who ever may be perhaps involved in the scam, if at all. All the public asks for is a full and fair investigation.

And in the overall circumstances, he would do well to think before appointing Cabraal as governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka whatever his political or personal IOUs maybe to the man.

Anura confirms connection to Capital Reach

Anura Fernando when confronted by many allegations of fraud and theft (see box on Who is he?) said he was hurt that the newspaper should be asking about such matters and making him out as a crook. He completely denied any of the charges leveled against him on those issues and also stated he had never served jail time in Bangkok or in Sri Lanka. He also said that he was a bonafide businessman involved in bringing foreign investors to Sri Lanka and was in the business of portfolio management. People are driven by jealousy in Sri Lanka and he was a victim , he said.

Below are excerpts of an interview

Q: Are you a director of Capital Reach Credit Ltd?

A: Yes I am .The people who bought into Capital Reach is Suntex which is a Hong Kong based company and it is by virtue of Suntex that I’ m a director.

Q: Suntex is the front company or associate company for GoldQuest?

A: Suntex has nothing to do with Gold Quest but it has invested in Capital Reach and Ferntea

Q: It has bought 50 percent of Ferntea shares?

A: Yes

Q: By virtue of that you are also CEO and director of Ferntea?

A: That is correct

Q: What is Rhythm Collection Pvt Ltd?

A: It is a local Sri Lankan company

Q:There is a case of exchange control fraud presently in courts?

A: There is no case. Ferntea imported products and we distributed on behalf of Ferntea and there was an exchange control investigation as they thought there had been a double payment for the same goods. But now it is sorted out.

Q:When you met Mahinda Rajapakse in the company of Ajit Nivard Cabraal during his presidential campaign didn’t you discuss Gold Quest?

A: I knew Mahinda Rajapakse long before GoldQuest. I was even in the UNP working committee

Q: When did Suntex buy into Capital Reach Credit?

A: I can’t quite recall but a few months ago when there was a private placement

Q: Who are the current directors?

A: Justin Meegoda, representative of Finco, Mayura Fernando....

Q:Are there any foreign directors?

A: No

Q: How many shares does Suntex own?

A: About 20 percent, I think Vanik owns about 30 percent

Q: For how much did you buy it?

A: We bought it on par. Rs. 15. I can’t remember the total figure


Allotment of shares — Capital Reach Holdings LTD


Jayantha too busy to talk

The Sunday Leader contacted Christopher Jayantha Shane Fernando who is the current chairman of Ferntea. However Jayantha Fernando said he was at a meeting and too busy to talk but would be able to speak about the matter on Monday.


What is Gold Quest

According to a report from Pyramid Scheme Alert President Robert L. FitzPatrick Gold Quest claims to be an ordinary multilevel marketing programme of the types that are operating openly in the USA and other countries. Its business model is a classic MLM program in which each new investor recruits others in an "endless chain." Little actual retail selling occurs. Each "distributor" is also the "customer."

Gold Quest markets gold coins and Jewellery. Each person pays money and then receives cash or inventory after recruiting at least 10 new people in a "binary" system with five new recruits on each "side." Each new investor is offered the same "business opportunity" forever.


GoldQuest says its multilevel marketing is legitimate

In a press release issued in Hong Kong on May 30,2006 GoldQuest International Ltd (GQ) said that it operates on an internationally accepted legitimate multi-level network market model that encourages citizens to join their business plan within the boundaries of the law. "We successfully and legitimately operate in over 100 countries globally, and take great care in abiding by the laws of every country in which we have a presence."

"In the last two years, the business plan of the QI Group has been criticised by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, especially after the enactment of Section 83(c) of the Banking Act, amendment No 2 of 2005. We have examined the contents of the aforesaid amendment to the Banking Act and are confident that our business plan clearly does not fall within the purview of the aforesaid amendment to the Banking Act."

The QI group has invested in the Colombo Stock Exchange and also made other investments in Sri Lanka. The company is eager to make further significant investments in Sri Lanka…..

John Challen, Legal Counsel


Nivard denies involvement with Gold Quest

Q: Do you have any connection, relationship, contact or any dealings with the Gold Quest people?

A : Not me directly. But I think what has happened is that various companies come to talk to me. What is this about?

Q: You are tipped to be the next Central Bank governor and it is the Central Bank that is conducting investigations against this Pyramid scheme and has already published advertisements warning against it.

A: As far as I am concerned anything I do will be above board . If I take office of any nature I will ensure and do the right thing.

Q: What is your connection with Anura Fernando?

A: I know him very well.

Q: We learn that President Rajapakse met the Gold Quest people together with you and Anura Fernando before the presidential election. Is there any truth to this?

A: No they didn’t meet me

Q: Anura Fernando is on record that he met Rajapakse with you

A: I don’t know about that, no no I know whom I meet with, he never met with me.

Q: Isn’t Capital Reach Credit Limited a family concern?

A: I’m a minute shareholder. I have a few shares. My wife is a director

Q: Anura Fernando is also a director of Capital Reach Credit?

A: Yes. But there are many shareholders — MAS Holdings, Readywear, Renuka Hotels, Suntex so many companies and industries.

Q: Did you accept an invitation by Quest International, a part of Gold Quest for an all expenses trip to Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand prix?

A: I get a lot of invitations. Various people invite me to various things. I don’t know I only accept what I want

Q: Did you accept the QI invitation?

A: No I didn’t accept.

Q: What about Capital Reach Holdings Ltd ,the parent company of Capital Reach Credit and Capital Reach Leasing?

A: I don’t have any shares in CR Credit and CR Leasing but I have less that two percent in Capital Reach Holdings. There are other shareholders with substantial shares.


Who is he? What does he do?

Who is this Anura Fernando. He is the nephew of the late B.J. Fernando President’s Counsel. Certainly he is a man charming in aspect but mention his name to many in Colombo or some business people in Fort and they will shudder. More than that, even some businessmen in Bangkok will go weak at the knees. Fernando did porridge for almost three months in Bangkok for defrauding a gem merchant of some US$ 350,000. He is said to have been arrested at border control. It is also alleged that he has defrauded another top politico based in the UK of some 45,000 sterling pounds. He was also arrested at the Bangkok airport about 18 months ago for defrauding Reliance Thai Co. Ltd. owned by an Indian national Syed Abdul Cader.

When confronted with these matters Fernando vehemently denied these charges to The Sunday Leader.

UNP MP Lakshman Seneviratne in fact somewhere between 2001 – 2002 was defrauded of Rs. 3 million by Fernando. Seneviratne made a CID complaint and Fernando was arrested. However the matter was then settled before reaching court with Fernando transferring his mother in law’s Nikaweratiya property in Seneviratne’s name. Only later did Seneviratne find that it was no settlement at all as the property was already mortgaged to Pramuka Bank and had no clear title.

Anura Fernando however denied these charges vehemently.

But Fernando is said to have started early. In his salad days he is charged with an involvement with forged currency while his political networking skills have never been in doubt. A man with many irons in the fire and many friends in high places he was even in the working committee of the United National Party having been appointed by Ranil Wickremesinghe for his services to the party in the form of brokering a deal with the DUNF and bringing them back into the fold.

In fact the man was extremely close to the late Gamini Dissanayake who sent him to receive some campaign funds on his behalf from India. However Dissanayake too was allegedly played out receiving only a fraction of the funds and Fernando was persona non grata after that. Thus Anura Fernando likeable as he is, is feared in business and political circles.And he is the point man of Gold Quest in Sri Lanka.


The growing cult in Sri Lanka

A young boy glances back like a frightened deer to make sure he is alone before he makes his way along a rural path somewhere in Karandeniya near Ambalangoda. He finally reaches his location. A lower middle class house of nondescript aspect innocently standing next to a small shoe shop. As he reaches the door he does not knock. He reaches into his trouser pocket for a mobile phone. He dials. Seconds later the door creaks open and as he enters, it shuts quickly behind him.

He has told nobody of where he is going. It is a secret meeting. He brings no strangers. He is still new. But he is comforted, for as he walks in to the surprising air conditioned sophistication of the house from the heat outside, he is immediately made welcome and enveloped into a group that could perhaps for a time become his life and almost certainly his ultimate ruin. This boy is in the jaws of another promotional pyramid scheme meeting.


Curtain closes on Colombo’s spectacle

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

There is no denying the political significance of Colombo. As the economic capital, securing victory of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is a matter of political pride to the contenders for office. 

Never has the CMC election been fought with such intensity that even after the announcement of results, melodrama continues. The intrigue involving the CMC election ranged from alleged abductions to wheeler dealing for two full weeks. And finally the men who occupy the seats of mayor and deputy, though temporarily, might even qualify for medals for their bravery displayed in managing to stay on.

Spectacles Group Leader A.K.M.S. Rajendran along with former municipal councillor Sham Nawaz leaving the Kotahena police station last Friday

If not the results, the many spectacles that followed the results would be remembered for a long time. Also at long last, the UNP can heave a sigh of relief that their efforts to capture city power have not proved futile. The party on Thursday (1) overcame the final obstacle when the two names they wished for were gazetted by the Elections’ Commissioner.

But just before that, there was heartbreak for the UNP once more when Independent Group 3 Leader, A. K. M. S. Rajendran was allegedly abducted by government goons in a bid to change the submitted names for the post of city father and deputy.

Following the rejection of UNP’s nomination papers for the council that has always been their’s, an agreement was reached by the UNP with a contesting independent group. Suddenly, Rajendran began grabbing headlines since his temporary political elevation. He first reached an agreement with the UNP.

UNP campaign

The UNP was to campaign for specific members and when elected, they would be sworn in and later step down to facilitate the UNP members.

Well mapped out the strategy may have been, but things always do not run according to plan as in this case.

Thrust into the temporary limelight, Rajendran soon realised that his promise to accommodate the UNP also meant having to deal with a host of threats from government quarters. Agitated by the government’s obvious interest to win over Rajendran and his group that secured victory, the UNP next moved the man to Galadhari Hotel, a " safe haven" until the elected members names were gazetted.

Originally, the UNP came to an agreement with Rajendran to send a list of 23 names to the Elections Commissioner. Uvais Mohomad Imithiyaz and U. Chandraratne were named as mayor elect and deputy mayor elect in this list. UNP candidate Sirisena Cooray was to be appointed advisor to the mayor until the resignations were effected.

The first set of names was submitted to the Colombo Returning Officer, Mahinda Deshapriya through Attorney-at-Law Farman Cassim. But it had a short life span.

Rajendran under serious pressure by a group of UNP politicians altered the first list of names.

And between the submission of these two lists, Rajendran also went missing — on his own — according to family sources as pressure mounted. He began receiving telephone calls from various politicians offering support, money and other perks, according to his family members. Finally he left home.

Replace names

Since then it has been a complete drama. It is learned that UNP Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran and disgruntled former deputy mayor of Colombo, Azath Sally backed by Thilanga Sumathipala began pressurising Rajendran to replace the two names with that of two other candidates. Sumathipala himself has denied involvement but has told confidants that Sally and Maheswaran visited him at home to thank him for supporting them at the election and in the course of the conversation mentioned they got a letter from Rajendran changing the two names. He also implicated two other UNP MPs , one of whom was from the Kalutara District.

An angry Sirisena Cooray, learning of this, wanted Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to discipline the two who were going against the party decision. Azath Sally, when questioned denied involvement and knowledge, while Maheswaran was simply told to toe the party line and to bring Rajendran for a meeting with Wickremesinghe.

When questioned by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Rajendran claimed that he feared for his life as all kinds of people were making various demands on him. He however assured that he had written to the Elections Commissioner formally withdrawing the second list of names and promised to work for Cooray.

Not to gazette

Rajendran had also called Colombo Returning Officer, Mahinda Deshapriya and requested him not to gazette any of the names submitted until he is further informed. This had angered Deshapriya who had allegedly scolded Rajendran for changing names from time to time.

While Rajendran’s actions have been mind boggling indeed, Deshapriya also has gone well beyond the ambit of a public servant by choosing to lambast the Independent Group 3 leader whereas his duty simply lay in accepting the submitted names and getting them gazetted.

On May 25 morning, Rajendran met the Elections Commissioner accompanied by Attorneys Cassim and Sujeewa Senasinghe. Deshapriya was not in his seat and the list of names — this being the third — was handed over to Deshapriya’s secretary. She first refused to accept it but later relented. An angry Deshapriya then called Rajendran and scolded him for handing over the letter in his absence. (See Box 1)

Attorney-at-Law, Sujeewa Senasinghe then questioned Deshapriya as to why he was behaving in an abominable manner whereas his duty as a public servant was something different.

It has been alleged by the two accompanying lawyers that Deshapriya used abusive language. He may have had good enough reason to feel angry when Rajendran continued to change the submitted names, yet, there is no justification as a public servant for shouting at candidates. Moreso when he has already been accused of bias for disqualifying the UNP list initially. The conversation, or the monologue that had taken place is explanatory enough.

For the next few days until the names were gazetted, Rajendran shifted to his brother Manoharan’s home at 174, Jampettah Street, Colombo 13. His telephone number was changed and his whereabouts were kept a secret. But Rajendran’s peace was short-lived. On Wednesday night (31), the UNP plunged into further crisis when Rajendran went missing once again. 

But there was a further twist this time. Unlike the previous instance, this time Rajendran had been abducted by an unknown gang that arrived on the night of May 31.

Complaint lodged

R. Susila, Rajendran’s wife the next day (1), lodged a complaint at the Kotahena police to this effect. Susila in her complaint stated that her husband was under enormous pressure following the election and that she feared for his life. Further, she said that the previous night some people have come and taken him and that she had no idea where he had been taken.

Soon afterwards, Attorney at Law, Farman Cassim wrote to Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake informing him that the wife of his client, A. K. M. S. Rajendran had made a complaint to the Kotahena police on the same day stating that he had been taken away from his residence on May 31 night and that he had not been seen thereafter.

The letter further said that Mrs. Rajendran was of the belief that her husband was being held in custody against his will by unknown persons.

That same evening (1), it was learned that Rajendran, despite his disappearance had once again sent in two new names for the two top posts. This time, the names were of a Tamil and a Sinhalese.

By then decisions had been made. Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake had refused to accept the third list of names. Already, the second list containing the name of Imithiyaz and Chandraratne had been sent to the Government Printer for the purpose of gazetting. And that ended the name fiasco.

Abduction saga

In the meantime, Kotahena police claimed that according to unverified reports a government politician and a notorious drug dealer have been involved in the abduction saga. They further said investigations were being conducted.

Interestingly enough, the UPFA MP whose name has been linked to the abduction had called Sirisena Cooray and pleaded his innocence. 

This week should hopefully end the drama that surrounds the CMC. At the end of the entire episode, one question begs an answer though. Rajendran may be a humble man, confused and incapable of handling the sudden political pressure and his own importance in this given moment. But what right would any politician or a goon derive, and from what source, to shamelessly attempt to influence and go further, to the extent of abduction merely to capture political power?

Deshapriya’s tirade

English transcription of the conversation between Colombo Returning Officer Mahinda Deshapriya and lawyers of Independent Group 3 Leader Rajendran

Deshapriya : You can’t make such personal requests. All of you are lying here. You told me (inaudible)

Second voice: We have no objection. You will see.

Deshapriya: All of you are lying through your teeth. Just a minute. Didn’t you tell me—

It could be Mr. Mohommed, Mr. Fowzie or Siritunga Jayatunga for all we care.

But, our deal is with the 15 people who sought nomination. This is the background. But this man yesterday came and accused me of doing some jugglery (hora wedak). (Inaudible)

Wait a minute. You have no idea as to what he told me. It is true that you are lawyers but listen to me now.

You have no clue about what he said to me. He said these signatures were forged. He told me to go and lodge a complaint at the police station against you and Mr. (unclear).

He told me that the letters he submitted contained forged signatures. But I know that they are correct and are not forgeries. (Inaudible)

He said that he is a God fearing man. You were also there yesterday. Tell me whether he said so or not? He said within two hours of submitting documents with forged signatures, others could be submitted.

Third voice: We are not denying anything anyone said. We accept that he said so.

Deshapriya:I will sign the papers to the effect that I have accepted them. But you better know the calibre of this man. He is untrustworthy. He is a man who should not be trusted. (Inaudible)

Deshapriya: I have met Sujeewa several times in courts. You will also fall into trouble by keeping company with untrustworthy people like this. Youngsters like you will also fall into trouble if you work with such people.

I am a man who speaks my mind out directly without mincing words.

You all have a team. The UNP also has 125,000 people who voted for the party at any cost. This got affected only for one reason. Because we made the National ID s compulsory. Otherwise, your vote was intact. (Inaudible)

Deshapriya:You disgraced the entire public service. It is he who said it.

He claimed to have submitted false documents. They brought a fresh set.

—— Write it and give me. Otherwise this woman would lose her job.

The Commissioner had issued an order. What if the Commissioner or I —(Inaudible)

Take copies of these documents. I will say that I accepted them.

First give them into my hands. Otherwise, he will say that they were given into my hands before doing that. (Inaudible)

Deshapriya: I cannot be held responsible for such acts. (inaudible) Take photo copies.

He might even say that just because there are lawyers present here—(Inaudible)

I told you ( mama umbata kiwwane) if you work with this type of people, you have to get the thumb impression. Take these three originals. Take the thumbprint now before they lie some more. (Inaudible)

Malli, I told you before. You all have proper careers. These top-level politicians only want to acquire power at any cost.

Third voice: We do our job. We don’t care as to what he says. At the end of the day, we as lawyers, we have taken a decision in front of him, and that’s it.

Deshapriya: It is because of you only that I am paying some attention. You don’t know what happened. You don’t know abusive Tamil words. He scolded in absolute filth in Tamil. (Inaudible)

I know Tamil. I have worked in Trincomalee for two and a half years. I know Tamil well. (Inaudible)

Deshapriya: We are straightforward people. If there is some discrepancy we will say it outright. What if the names were already gazetted? In other places, such stupid things don’t happen.

It is I who kept it till the 2nd. Was he in hiding until then? From where did he surface now? (Inaudible)

Deshapriya: Absolute lies. I have had enough of these lies. His is the first name on the list. 

 

The sequence of events

By Shezna Shums

It was a momentous occasion in the life of Mohamed Imithiyas Uvais. On Friday (2) afternoon, he was sworn in as the youngest mayor of Colombo. Interestingly enough, he was sworn in by the man who is supposed to be his advisor — UNP’s mayoral candidate and Justice of Peace, Sirisena Cooray at the Premadasa Center in Colombo.

Appearing by his side was Independent Group 3 Leader A. K. M. S. Rajendran.

Rajendran, after his many disappearances since the announcement of the poll results surrendered himself to the Kotehena police.

According to Rajendran’s lawyers Sujeewa Senasinghe and Farman Cassim, Rajendran is unaware of the identities of his abductors.

When leaving the Kotahena police station, Rajendran appeared like a man who was having the time of his life and not like someone who had been abducted and happy to resurface.

He certainly appeared to be fascinated by the excitement of the day and thrilled by the publicity he was receiving.

Rajendran was abducted last Wednesday (31) by an unknown gang from his brother’s Colombo 13 residence.

According to him, he had been taken to a hotel near the beach which his lawyers confirm to be Hotel Taj Samudra. According to the UNP lawyers, this fact has been established by the Taj security personnel. Rajendran had been kept at the Taj from 11 p.m till 5 a.m the next day.

As far as the list of nominees goes, the second list stands — he has informed his lawyers. It is this list that had been sent by the Elections Commissioner for gazetting.

He has also claimed that he was forced to send a third list of names under duress. He has also agreed to stand by the UNP decision.

The famous abductee was seen happily leaving the Kotahena police station to meet up with Sirisena Cooray to decide future events.


Nightmare at Wilpattu

Security forces personnel collect pieces of the vehicle which was torn apart in the explosion

By Ranee Mohamed

"We remember them. We remember them as happy, elderly people who arrived at the gate. They were laughing as one gentleman cracked a joke," said an employee at the Wilpattu Wildlife Park.

"This is the way they entered the park, happy people wrapped in togetherness. But when they left, we all cried, for they left as pieces of flesh, some of which were gathered by hand and placed in a tractor. Some pieces may have been left behind since their bodies were torn apart and flesh was scattered all over the jungles. 

Only four bodies were identifiable," said the employee who witnessed the departure of Darrel Perera, Nandana and Henrietta Abeysuriya, Chand and Anula Asirwathan, Nihal de Silva and tracker Anura Dissanayake.

On seeing the blood and the flesh scattered all over, the employees of the park knew that this had to be the work of man. "We knew for certain that no animal would do a thing like this," said the employee who spoke exclusively to The Sunday Leader.

Last Saturday’s Wilpattu tragedy portrays man’s inhumanity towards man in a park filled with wildlife that did not kill except for food.

Initial reports of this tragedy came in a seemingly innocent manner, that the crumpled remains of a jeep were found in the jungles of Wilpattu. But the sad truth came all at once – unbelievable, unbearable and shocking.

Dead without a warning

Nihal de Silva, Darrel Perera, Anula Asirwathan, Chand Asirwathan, Nandana Abeysuriya, Henrietta Abeysuriya and even seasoned tracker Anura Dissanayake, seven people at the height of excitement, fresh with anticipation of seeing wildlife in different forms, died without a warning early Saturday, May 27.

This group had expected many things to happen on this adventure – laughter and fear, hunger and tiredness, excitement and sweat; they had expected all this during their daring drive into the jungle, but the last thing they expected was for black death to stop them in their tracks on that fresh Saturday morning.

The six local tourists had booked into the Kokmotai circuit bungalow on the evening of Friday, May 26 to spend the weekend at the Wilpattu Wildlife Park. The visit had been planned in earnest one week earlier.

Though some friends had dropped out, these six wildlife enthusiasts had been firm in their decision to go on this adventure into the jungle. They were wildlife ‘heavy weights.’ Having traversed the jungles of Africa, Wilpattu, in terms of animal life, was a breeze to them.

Their friend Vajira Wijewardene on the advice of a mutual friend, MP Lakshman Seneviratne had decided not to go. "In fact, when Seneviratne asked me not to go, I gave the telephone to Nandana and Seneviratne warned him too about the dangers therein. I told Darrel that I will try to come later on, but later decided against going," Wijewardene told The Sunday Leader.

When Wijewardene heard of the tragedy and visited the park he found a note at the gate from Darrel Perera. The message was that if a gentleman named Vajira Wijewardene came to the gate, to please let the group know, that they would come to the gate and pick him up.

"It was a three day booking. It is usual for visitors to go out early in the morning as this group did. Often groups go out very early in the morning without breakfast and return for breakfast around 8 a.m.," said a park worker.

But this group died without their breakfast when three connected explosions ripped their double cab apart in a place approximately 42 kilometres from the main entrance of the Wilpattu Wildlife Park

Three explosions

"We heard not one but three explosions early in the morning," said an employee of the park.

However, it was another group of tourists visiting the same area around that time that had reported seeing the remains of a blasted vehicle and some human parts about 40 kilometres inside the thick jungle. They had later told authorities that they had not wanted to get closer due to fear.

And in the very area that the visitors saw the blasted remains of the vehicle were the remains of seven people who died so suddenly, without even a hint of death on their path. The watch still adorning the wrist of a one of the women showed the time as 6:10 a.m that Saturday morning; the time had come to a standstill, just as their lives had.

From that time on Saturday morning until around 4 p.m. Sunday, the remains of these close friends lay undiscovered and unmoved. It was after security forces personnel rushed to the park to investigate the incident that their remains were discovered and their families notified late night Sunday.

"About 500 security forces personnel came into the park and visited the site of the blast. On Saturday itself all the visitors at the park along with their vehicles were evacuated after the blast," said an employee.

He went on to say that the Wilpattu Wildlife park is an extensive area. "It is about 131,693 hectares in extent and there are only about 25 wildlife officers here."

The employee, who did not wish to be identified, said dangerous elements could enter the park from three boundaries. "On one side is the sea and any threat and danger can come via this route. There have been times when we have spotted strange people at the park but they have always managed to slip away with alibis as villagers and poachers," he revealed.

Meanwhile Military Spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said the mine that took these innocent lives without warning was a recently planted, powerful landmine. Investigations have revealed that the mine may have even been planted the previous night since park authorities say that other vehicles passed on the same route the previous day.

LTTE involvement

"The explosion may have been heard as three blasts as the mines had been connected to each other. The area borders the Kudiramalai Road. The LTTE may have planted this mine with the intention of stopping people from coming to these areas for they have been using these roads before the ceasefire," said Brigadier Samarasinghe.

It is learnt that this blast occurred just 12 kilometres from the area in which the Sri Lanka Navy recently had a sea confrontation with the LTTE, during which the LTTE had fired upon a navy boat.

The Wilpattu Wildlife Park which was closed down in 1989 due to the war-like situation was reopened in 2002 after the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) was signed.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Director General Dayananda Kariyawasam said the closure of the park in 1989 had resulted in heavy losses to the state.

"We cannot say that the park is closed. We are continuing our investigations. If the park is closed, vandals and poachers will take over. The last time it was closed only the bricks remained," said Kariyawasam.

The Director General went on to say that since the park was reopened in 2002 there have been many improvements made and that the wildlife itself had flourished. "We want to preserve this park for the next generation," said Kariyawasam, adding that security measures will be taken in the interest of visitors to the park.

Business as usual

Agriculture, Irrigation and Environment Minister Maithripala Sirisena too said Monday that the Wilpattu Wildlife Park would not be closed after this incident. "The policy of the government is to continue the normal activities of the park as usual," the Minister told reporters.

He went on to point out that past experiences of closure due to LTTE attacks had caused heavy losses to the government amounting to billions of rupees.

It was on Monday morning that the sealed coffins of those who were killed in the blast were handed over to their shocked loved ones. The coffins arrived in Colombo with a police escort. Only four bodies had been identifiable – just barely.

Friends for over 20 and 30 years, this group of fun-loving people who made their way with laughter and good cheer to Wilpattu arrived back at their residences in Rosmead Place, Bambalapitiya, Nugegoda and the suburbs of Colombo in sealed coffins.

These friends who lived peaceful lives were people who saw each other almost every week, sometimes every day. They had been filled with excitement while planning the trip. Having been among wildlife in Africa, the visit to Wilpattu was to be an interesting adventure for them.

Not only did they live meaningful and happy lives together for years as friends, they also passed on to an eternal life in a togetherness that will never be forgotten. The trip to Wilpattu took them to a destination beyond so suddenly that they left this world without the faintest goodbye.

Nihal de Silva, a keen wildlife enthusiast who died in the explosion and to whom the cab belonged, was an award-winning writer and author of the book Road To Elephant Pass.

Nandana Abeysuriya and his wife Henrietta Abeysuriya have been described by friends as "wonderful people" who loved wildlife. Henrietta and Nandana had been married eight months ago. Henrietta had endured much heartache one and half years ago when she lost her first husband and two children in the December 2004 tsunami, ironically at another wildlife park, Yala. Friends say it was a common occurrence for the Abeysurias to coax trackers and drivers to go into unchartered territory at the parks in order to spot leopards in particular, which animals the couple adored.

In Nandana she had found happiness again, said a friend. "She was so kind and nice. In fact, they were so nice that they belonged with each other," said the friend.

"He was not only a father-in-law, he was a friend to me," said Kamal Goonesinghe, Nandana Abeysuriya’s son-in-law. "He was a very straight person, very methodical and very nice to everyone. He was somebody we looked forward to seeing, someone who guided us," said Goonesinghe.

"I have lost both my arms," he said Wednesday.

Lovers of wildlife

Darrel Perera was the managing director and chairman of Mechanised Business Applications Ltd. Friends say that it was with deep enthusiasm that he attended to his work. His business applications gave the barcode in our lotteries.

A lover of wildlife, Perera had traveled to Kenya and South Africa to have a closer look at nature there. He was recognised as a social worker and had also been engaged in church work.

Chand and Anula Asirwathan had left home early morning. They left their children Dinesh and Anukshi behind. "They were in high spirits when they left," said a close associate. Two vehicles had taken the group to Wilpattu.

Meanwhile, a relative of a couple in the group questioned why authorities had not alerted them or guided them as to where to go and which areas they ought to avoid. He said that it took a long time to find out what had happened and which group was missing from the park.

"I told them not to go"

The plans for this fateful trip had been made at Torrington Avenue over a dinner.

"It was around May 17 when discussions were being made about the trip. When Vajira Wijewardene told me that they were planning to go to Wilpattu next week, I immediately asked him not to go. His little daughter Kavita picked up my warning and had repeatedly asked her father not to go," said MP, Lakshman Seneviratne, a close friend of the group, and especially of Vajira Wijewardene who was also scheduled to go on the trip to Wilpattu.

He had also told Wijewardene to somehow convince Darrel not to go. Wijewardene had heeded the warning and decided not to go on the trip.

On that Saturday morning, Seneviratne had been sending repeated text messages to Nandana Abeysuriya. But the messages on his mobile phone kept stating ‘Nandana: delivery failed.’


Wijewardene’s miraculous escape

Managing Director, Anglo Asian Group, Vajira Wijewardene was the friend of the group who heeded another mutual friend’s warning. When their mutual friend Lakshman Seneviratne had asked him not to go, he had taken the advice.

"I not only telephoned him and thanked him for the good advice, but when I met him at the funerals I told him, ‘It is because of you that I am alive today,’" said Wijewardene.

A saddened Wijewardene told The Sunday Leader that officials of the Wildlife Department and the officers of the Wilpattu Wildlife Park ought to have warned the public and brought the happenings at the park to the notice of the government.

"When we went there on Sunday, the villagers told us that the LTTE had entered a bungalow there and expressed their anger at the bungalow being rented out. They told us there is an entry to this effect at the park. But no one was informed. Visitors were never warned," pointed out Wijewardena.

In fact, The Sunday Leader reliably learns that after the warning from Seneviratne, Nandana Abeysuriya had telephone the Wilpattu Wildlife Park and had asked a park officer about the safety therein. He had been assured that all was well and there was nothing to fear.

However, it was Seneviratne’s belief that there was no need to take a chance, thus he had repeatedly warned them not to go. But the group took the chance.


The tracker who was stopped in his tracks

"He worked here on a contract basis. He was a man who was dedicated to his job. He could have found something better but he always preferred this job in the wilds," said a colleague of Anura Dissanayake, the tracker who died with the visitors.

Speaking from Wilpattu, the colleague said that Dissanayake found it difficult to live on his salary alone and thus used to cultivate a chena close to his house. "This time he planted chillies," said the colleague.

Dissanayake’s father too had worked with the Wildlife Department for about 36 years and is a pensioner today. With his sudden demise, Dissanayake, in his late forties, leaves behind his wife , daughter (15) and son (nine).


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