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17th December, 2006  Volume 13, Issue 23

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

Taking the Bank of Ceylon to the cleaners

Mahinda Rajapakse, (inset) Additional invoice 
for lighting on the nameboards

Over Rs. 40 million squandered on 278 name boards          

Rs. 26 million on Nugegoda Building

Over Rs. 2.5 million spent on refurbishing Chairman's suite

Over Rs.1.8 million for banquet hall makeover

Kariyawasam stops previous contractor mid way and re allocates Colpetty contract to Creations Advertising

By Sonali Samarasinghe

Controversy surrounds the conduct of    Chairman, Bank of Ceylon, Udaya Sri Kariyawasam, with employees threatening to take serious action if the President does not investigate into his alleged corrupt deals. The Sunday Leader learns Kariyawasam's several actions have now been reported to the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.

Kariyawasam was given the post by Rajapakse as a political favour to JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa. He was appointed on December 5, 2005 and bank employees are reeling from Kariyawasam's opulent lifestyle and spending sprees at public expense.

Bank employees have already met President Rajapakse who is also Finance Minister and under whose direct purview the bank falls, on several occasions even as recently as last week, calling for Kariyawasam's removal and a full investigation into several financial irregularities, with the President vowing to take action on the matter. However Rajapakse has in the same breath refused to remove the Chairman stating he is pressurised by the JVP not to move against him.  

General Manager, S.N.P.Palihena, Chairman, Bank of Ceylon, Udaya Sri Kariyawasam, The quotation for the Nugegoda Branch renovation and Invoice for refurbishment of chairman's suite  

Kariyawasam stands accused of grossly misusing public funds causing grave loss to the state and of eating away into Bank of Ceylon profits through wanton extravagance violating all government tender procedures and flouting accepted financial standards.

JVP nominee

 The JVP nominee, Kariyawasam heads the largest financial institution in the country with a permanent cadre strength of 8,891 employees and a network of 304 branches throughout the island including three overseas branches. The performance and stability of the state banks is inextricably linked to how the country would secure World Bank loans. And as the foremost banking institution Kariyawasam has a tremendous responsibility not to run it like a child with a new toy.

Both President Rajapakse as Minister of Finance and Dr. P.B.Jayasundera asTreasury Secretary and the country's foremost financial regulator are duty bound to safeguard the country's financial assets. This they are yet to do. Earlier, Rajapakse had indignantly told Ceylon Bank Employee Union members he need not directly speak to Kariyawasam as the nation's President. 'I say! I am the President of this country why should I speak to Kariyawasam,' the President had reportedly told CBEU members who met him, completely oblivious to the fact he was also Finance Minister directly responsible for the conduct of the bank's affairs.

The response was prompted by Rajapakse when he was told by CBEU members, Kariyawasam had refused to carry out an order to reinstate NRFC Manager, Kandy Branch, Patrick Fernando, on instructions sent to him by Rajapakse via Governor Alavi Moulana and BoC General Manager S.N.P.Palihena. Kariyawasam had reportedly told participants at a meeting including CBEU members that if the President wanted he could call him direct.  

 Last week Fitch Ratings Lanka affirmed the 'AA(lka)' National Long-term rating on Bank of Ceylon (BOC) reflecting BOC's systemic importance as the largest bank in Sri Lanka (c. 18.6% of banking system assets). (National ratings are designed for use mainly by local investors in local markets and are signified by the addition of an identifier for the country concerned, such as 'AAA (lka)' for national ratings in Sri Lanka. Specific letter grades are not therefore internationally comparable).

Main Banker

Nevertheless BOC is also the main commercial banker to the state and one of the two commercial bankers to State Owned Enterprises (SOE), extending direct credit, trade finance facilities and foreign currency funding through its large deposit base and cross border borrowings.

According to Fitch, BOC has the largest share of inward foreign currency remittances from migrant workers and as a result, the bank's credit exposure to the state and SOEs remains significant at 43.7% of gross loans at H106. Fitch expects this level of exposure to remain at the current level or even increase due to the present policy stance of the state.

It is the very importance of the bank to the national economy that has now resulted in Chairman Kariyawasam's alleged corrupt deals sans transparency ending up before the Bribery Commission.

Refurbishment madness

Be that as it may Kariyawasam on reaching the apex, immediately decided to refurbish the 29th floor of the Bank of Ceylon Head Office in Colombo 1, housing the Chairman and General Manager's offices at a colossal cost of Rs. 2.5 million even though the offices, claim bank staff, were in tip top condition. Bank sources state that a glass door costing Rs. 53,000 to the Chairman's office was paid for but has yet not been fitted (see elsewhere for details and documents). He then gave into a peculiar malady pervading all Rajapakse appointees by according to banking staff, quickly stationing a security officer armed with a loaded pistol outside his office door.

Kariyawasam in indecent haste commenced to refurbish many a BoC building. He entirely redid the 28th floor of the BoC head office housing the banquet hall at a cost of Rs. 1.8 million even though like the 29th floor it was in great condition. He also authorised an expensive make over for the Bank of Ceylon building at Nugegoda junction totalling over Rs.22 million of public money even though he should have well known that the government was planning to build an over bridge at the spot which would necessitate the tearing down of a part of the BoC fa‡ade and building. For this Nugegoda office the manager's chair alone cost Rs.13,000 while a cabinet was purchased at Rs. 65,000. (see box for details and documents).

What is even more shocking is that for every one of his extravagances, Kariyawasam arbitrarily gifted the contract to one Creations Advertising & Promotions (Pvt) Ltd. without calling for tenders or following accepted procedure for government institutions spending public funds.

Name boards

It is however with the manufacture of name boards that Creations firmly came into the picture and received preferred status courtesy Kariyawasam.

Ironically  it was during former Chairman Manik Nagahawatte's period that Creations Advertising had been given the contract to supply the bank with 300 name boards at a colossal cost. No sooner than the CBEU BoC branch got wind of the transaction they made representations to Nagahawatte who agreed the estimate was excessive and according to CBEU documents  stopped board approval for the supply of the name boards.

Funnily enough Kariyawasam just four months after assuming office thought it fit to revive this halted project and procure 278 new name boards at a total cost of over Rs. 32, 248,005 as per BoC supplies department Order No. S601266. Mind you even though former board approval was halted due to the excessive cost, Kariyawasam made no attempt to lower or renegotiate the estimate according to a CBEU document published on November 27, 2006.

Thus amidst allegations of colossal waste and irregular procedure made by the Ceylon Bank Employees Union (BoC Branch) the contract was offered to Creations Advertising and Promotions (Pvt) Ltd. without any tenders being called and curiously with the approval of the present board. Bank employees allege that less than 200 such name boards had in fact been put up and even the internal bulbs in some of them had already fused. 

With no thought for regulations Kariyawasam now contracted with Creations to fix flash lights to the 278 name boards even though bank employees argue such flash lights should have been part and parcel of the original estimate which was in any event too excessive. Therefore Kariyawasam decided that a new lighting system was needed for these name boards and despite the fact that an astronomical amount had already been spent which should have covered such lighting requirements, he ordered additional lighting to be fitted on the 278 boards. The contract was again granted to Creations sans any tenders being called and this time Kariyawasam acted alone without even obtaining board approval.

The new lighting, not approved by the board and as per BOC supplies department order No. S603334, cost a colossal Rs. 8,744,212.

However when the CBEU queried this huge payment and the lack of board approval, the Chairman on November, 9 sent an urgent memorandum to the directors for the payments already made.

The memo sent and signed by Kariyawasam and seeking to white wash his high handed spending spree reads, "To obtain covering approval of the board of directors for the payment already made with the Chairman's approval for the additional cost incurred for the supplier for name boards i.e. Rs. 8,744,212 due to modifications as suggested by the bank."

As at November 23, 2006 according to the Creations invoice the total amount including VAT for the additional lighting of the 278 name boards was Rs. 9,578,212 and a balance was due from the bank of  Rs. 1,551,838.

Colpetty Branch

The fiasco surrounding the tender for the renovation of the Colpetty second branch situated at the Dasa building is even more alarming. In this case bids had been received from five companies of which M. Karunasena and Sons Ltd. bid the lowest at Rs. 3.4 million. No sooner than the renovation work had commenced an order came from the top (read Kariyawasam) stating that this branch should be made into a model branch.

Bank sources allege that Creations Advertising, getting to know that a company other than theirs was getting a BoC contract had immediately prevailed upon Kariyawasam to make amends and an idea to renovate the branch as a model one was floated. Therefore the bank forthwith halted the work already started by Karunasena and Sons and awarded the contract to Creations again sans tender procedures for a large sum of Rs. 7.4 million. Karunasena and Sons have now instituted legal action against the Bank of Ceylon claiming damages of Rs. 700,000.        

Creations Advertising

What is Kariyawasam's connection to Creations that he would readily grant them all the BoC contracts sans proper tender procedure and transparency? The answer is baffling. However  Form 48 of the company states that the directors are one Don Patrick Rohan Wisidagama, a businessman and his wife Dona Vipuli Dhammika Bernadette Wisidagama, a pharmacist.

Vipuli is the daughter of a former Assistant General Manager of the Bank, D.B.T.Edirisinghe and bank staff claim both Vipuli and her husband are very close to the top management of the bank.

Power rush

Meanwhile with power rushing to his head Kariyawasam started recruiting from the outside, his friends, as consultants to the Bank of Ceylon. He also willy nilly dished out promotions to his favourites flouting all accepted procedure and financial regulations. Employees have already filed fundamental rights applications in the Supreme Court against the actions of Kariyawasam with the Chairman last week being summoned before court on one such application filed by two aggrieved employees.

He has appointed a number of retired persons to consultant posts at astronomical salaries. For instance a Chief Financial Officer Saliya Rajakaruna has been appointed at an astronomical salary of Rs. 600,000, insurance cover of Rs. 2.5 million, petrol allowance of  250 litres, a brand new luxury car and other allowances over Rs. 100,000.  A credit card with a limit of Rs. 1 million was also to be issued according to documents published by the CBEU.

Kariyawasam also appointed a young lady, Rekha Nilaweera hailing from Boralasgamuwa and closely connected to the Chairman since campus days to a special post as head of research of the economics section at a salary of Rs. 70,000 plus a vehicle.

Other appointments    

CBEU officials also alleged that other retired acquaintances of Kariyawasam such as 63-year-old Dr. Asoka Jinadasa has been appointed as the Corporate Communications Officer at Rs. 350,000 salary plus perks.  Earlier, former Chairman Manik Nagahawatte had appointed one Godwin Perera at a salary of Rs. 150,000 with no perks also over 68 years old but after combined trade union action he was removed during the time of Kariyawasam. To no avail however as Kariyawasam was to quickly replace the vacancy with Jinadasa. Both Perera and Jinadasa interestingly enough were appointed not in their individual capacity but as representatives of little known companies.

Nonetheless, adding credence to numerous allegations of gross misuse of public property especially given that his own appointee Jinadasa was in charge of the marketing division, Kariyawasam's first achievement as Chairman BoC was to run through the annual allocation of Rs. 235 million for the marketing division by October 2006.

According to a document issued by the Central Bank Employees Union Bank of Ceylon Branch on November 11, 2006 the marketing activities are now being conducted making use of a supplementary budget allocation of Rs.65 million.

Making matters even more suspicious, on October 30, 2006 Kariyawasam sent an internal memo to all general managers, assistant general managers and heads of division stating that all promotional materials including hoardings, pennants, banners etc. should be done through the marketing division with the approval of the Corporate Communications Officer, a person personally appointed by the Chairman.

Unpopular

Earlier this year employees of the Bank of Ceylon Kandy Branch refused to allow a banner welcoming Kariyawasam to be hung in the bank premises, thus forcing his henchmen to put up the banner at the bus stand opposite the bank instead. The banner reading "Lanka bankuwe nava sabhapthi  saadarayen piliganimu" was to be put up by the owner of Kings Park Hotel and Travels - Rohana Kumara who, according to a letter of complaint sent to President Rajapakse by the Ceylon Bank Employees Union dated February 10, 2006, was a customer who had defaulted on a large credit facility and against whom the bank had moved to take action. However, Rohana Kumara was intent on handling the festivities to welcome Kariyawasam to Kandy much to the dismay of Kandy BoC  employees who knew of Kumara and his allegedly defaulting ways.

According to the letter written to President Rajapakse, the loan allegedly defaulted by Rohana Kumara was Rs 31 million.       

So who is this man Udaya Sri Kariyawasam?

While the democratically challenged Rajapakse triumvirate has taken over the country on the one hand, a lesser known trio of blood brothers are now attempting to run Sri Lanka's largest financial institution - the Bank of Ceylon, to the ground.

The Kariyawasam brothers have hitherto been little known Johnnies perhaps mixing only with the rank and file of the JVP and the likes of its Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa and others of his ilk. The trio, calling themselves Udaya Sri, Dharma Sri and Kula Sri are of an extremist bent with Dharma Sri serving as an editor of the JVP's vernacular propaganda tool - The Lanka, and Kula Sri until recently working for the state media which he joined following the JVP-SLFP alliance.

The third brother, 44 year old Udaya Sri Kariyawasam was up until December 5, 2005 running a small audit outfit called Udaya Sri Kariyawasam & Company somewhere in Nugegoda. However, no sooner than Mahinda Rajapakse rode into his Jerusalem on the back of the LTTE terror donkey and to the Hossannahs and palm leaf waving of the extremist JVP elements, Kariyawasam experienced the miracle of career levitation.  

Wimal appoints Udaya Sri BoC Chairman 

Wimal Weerawansa, the God Father behind The Lanka, immediately pressurised Rajapakse to appoint Udaya Sri Kariyawasam as the Chairman Bank of Ceylon. All Rajapakse's ill-conceived political appointments have been monumental mistakes but this one was a catastrophic disaster. However, for Weerawansa's propaganda sheet, The Lanka, struggling as it was - the timing could not have been sweeter.

Udaya Sri rose gladly to the occasion, forthwith ordering the Bank of Ceylon to inundate The Lanka with advertisements thus giving the unofficial propaganda tool of the JVP a desperately needed financial fillip.

Funnily enough while exceedingly kind to his brother's newspaper, Kariyawasam at a press briefing held on May 11, 2006 at the Bank of Ceylon Head Quarters was to threaten journalists from certain newspapers and told the journalists present to shut off their cameras and close their note books and merely to listen to his speech. Allegedly threatening the journalists present he also made irresponsible statements regarding press releases and other notices of the bank by targeting certain media institutions. The Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association issued a hard hitting statement against Kariyawasam's unbecoming conduct on May 14. 

Advertising 'contra' signed

It was in this same high handed state of mind that Kariyawasam hastily signed a 'contra' with ITN and Grand Oriental Hotel, a subsidiary of the Bank of Ceylon. The contra was for entertainment to the value of Rs. 1.2.million to  ITN and its staff for a period of one year in exchange for free advertising. However already a year is up and no advertisements for the GOH have been run  as yet by ITN claim CBEU members even though ITN staff have been liberally using the contra to even host a wedding costing Rs. 156,000 and other lavish events for large numbers of guests.

The news down the grapevine is that Kariyawasam having got wind of the storm brewing regarding the contra is now planning to hurriedly get some ads telecast by ITN between Christmas and New Year to again attempt a white wash.

Ironically however  ITN obligingly advertised The Lanka propaganda sheet in the background continuously during a particular weekly talk show featuring the JVP as lead actors.  

Udaya Sri Kariyawasam meanwhile did not stop there. Going against all the much publicised policies of frugality and nationhood preached by the JVP on election platforms and on soap boxes at Sri Lanka's answer to Picaddilly Circus - Lipton's Circus,  Kariyawasam now served up for himself some very capitalistic perks.

Student of Weerawansa

Given that Kariyawasam's political benefactor Weerawansa, while preaching traditional culture to the masses, sends his wife scantily clad in a hipster together with his children to enjoy one of the monuments of capitalist extravagance - Disneyland, this hypocrisy would have been mildly amusing but for the fact that Kariyawasam may be guilty of corruption. Not only that but gross misuse of public property, and The Sunday Leader is in possession of the documents to prove it.

Be that as it may, Kariyawasam in that sense is a true student of Weerawansa. No sooner he ascended to the top job at the BoC he grabbed the  chairmanship of the nine subsidiary companies of the bank - an unprecedented move even by the most despotic of political appointees through the ages. Usually either the general manager or the deputy general manager takes these chairs.

But a man who prefers to squash all others, he sidelined the existing General Manager, S.N.P.Palihena, a man rising from the ranks and counting 38 years of experience with the bank and instead of confining himself to government policy decisions as a political appointee he brought under his purview corporate administration and management normally the responsibility of the General Manager. Palihena is due to retire in February next year and the current Deputy General Manager B.A.C.Fernando is next in line as General Manager.

The board of directors under Kariyawasam comprise Sumith Abeysinghe, Chaminda Kumara Kularatne, Gunaratne Gallage, Raju Sivaraman and Buddhadasa Kaluarachchi.

Not to the manor born 

 He also quickly got accustomed to the high life, wining and dining every day at the GOH free of charge and even refusing to remove his jacket himself, ordering the concierge or a servile waiter lurking on the side to remove the jacket for him. In high handed fashion like a neuveau riche grocer from Billingsgate who had purchased a title - this erstwhile Lord certainly not to the manor born, may now be seen of an afternoon rushing up the stairs to the GOH lobby and holding out his hands crucifix like as a waiter removes his coat for him.

But even this was not enough for the power mad Kariyawasam. He demanded an unholy respect from the 8000 strong employees of the bank, and insisted they shot upright every time he entered a room or even stepped into a lobby.

Kariyawasam should perhaps be forgiven due to his JVP background for being ignorant of the finer points of chivalry and sense of decorum, but he cannot be forgiven exactly due to his JVP background for going against the very ideals of equality for all and worker's rights.

Didn't stand up

Last month he sent on two weeks compulsory leave two female employees of the Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka, a subsidiary of the Bank of Ceylon for failing to stand up, smile and say 'Good Afternoon Sir,' when he walked into the lobby. On November 23 at about 4.30 p.m Kariyawasam alone and unannounced walked in through the back door of the 18th floor of the MBSL building at Colpetty as two receptionists/telephone operators Dhakshini Ranasinghe and Judith Cramer were busy attending to their duties- one on the computer the other answering her telephone  Fuming Kariyawasam was to summon the two ladies to the boardroom and demanded their explanation.

The two employees said they had not seen him as they were busy working and apologised. However Kariyawasam on the same day acting as judge and jury got Ranjith Siriwardena, Deputy Director Strategic Planning and Risk Management to send both employees letters calling for their explanation within 10 days.

"We hereby regret to inform you that you are sent on two weeks compulsory leave with immediate effect. This decision is taken due to your unsatisfactory reception extended towards the Chairman Mr. Udaya Sri Kariyawasam on his arrival to the 18th floor and your indisciplined response given when you were called to the boardroom by the Chairman, Mr. Udaya Sri Kariyawasam.

"Considering the above lapses in performing your task, you are hereby requested to submit a letter of show cause within 10 days from the date of this letter.

"If no explanation is received from you within the time mentioned above, it would be presumed that you have no explanation to show and action will be taken against you accordingly."

Delusions of grandeur

It was obvious that Kariyawasam crazed with power was under the delusion that the employees were paid salaries by the bank to jump up like jack in the boxes when he passed by.

That the appointee of Wimal Weerawansa should act in this indecent way towards two lady employees comes as no surprise given that Weerawansa himself is currently being hounded by allegations of sexual harassment, alleged exploitation and misuse of power. 

This however is not the last word or even next to last word on the subject of Kariyawasam and his high handed antics. Watch this space next week when we reveal even more shocking details guaranteed to knock your socks off. Stay tuned.

Deals currently before Bribery Commission

The supply of 278 name boards costing over Rs. 40 million

Chairman, Bank of Ceylon Udaya Kariyawasam just four months after assuming office thought it fit to procure 278 new name boards at a total cost of over Rs. 32, 248,005 as per BoC supplies department Order No. S601266. Amidst allegations of colossal waste and irregular procedure  made by the Ceylon Bank Employees Union BoC Branch the contract was offered to Creations Advertising and Promotions (Pvt) Ltd. without any tenders being called and curiously with the approval of the board.

In addition to this Kariyawasam decided that a new lighting system was needed for these name boards and despite the fact that an astronomical amount had already been spent which should have covered such lighting requirements, he ordered additional lighting to be fitted on the 278 boards. The contract was again granted to Creations without any tenders being called and this time Kariyawasam acted alone without even obtaining board approval.

The new lighting not approved by the board and as per BOC supplies department order no  S603334 cost Rs. 8,744,212/-

However when the CBEU queried this huge payment and the lack of board approval, the Chairman on November, 9 sent an urgent memorandum to the directors for the payments already made.

Covering board approval 

The memo sent and signed by Kariyawasam and seeking to white wash his high handed spending spree reads, "To obtain covering approval of the board of directors for the payment already made with the Chairman's approval for the additional cost incurred for the supplier for name boards i.e. Rs. 8,744,212 due to modifications as suggested by the bank."

As at November 23, 2006 according to the Creations invoice the total amount including VAT for the additional lighting of the 278 name boards was Rs. 9,578,212.00 and a balance was due from the bank of Rs. 1,551,838.00.

Refurbishment of offices and buildings in excess of Rs. 30 million at the behest of the Chairman  

Chairman's suite

Creations was also granted the contract to refurbish the Chairman's suite which employees maintain was in tip top condition and needed no refurbishment on the 29th floor of the BoC building in Colombo 1. As per the invoice dated August 23, 2006 the total cost was Rs. 2,550,075.55.

The refurbishment included engraved wall mounted name boards in Kariyawasam's office which cost Rs.37,500 floor carpeting that cost Rs.821,365  and numerous and expensive glass top coffee tables. A glass partitioning in the Chairman's area costing Rs. 53,200 has been paid for but not fixed.

Banquet Hall

The Banquet Hall on the 28th floor of the BOC Head Office building on Bank of Ceylon Mw. Colombo 1, was also refurbished at a colossal cost of Rs. 1,875,991.55. Again employees of the bank state that there was no need to waste public funds on making over a banquet hall which was in good condition.

Nugegoda BoC building

Despite uncertainty whether the Nugegoda BoC building fa‡ade would have to be torn down to accommodate a government plan to build an over bridge at the Nugegoda junction, Chaiman U. Kariyawasam spent over Rs 22 million of public funds to refurbish the building anyway.

The exterior work which included heavy aluminium angle frame, canopy for the main entrance and two large stainless steel pillars cost Rs.7,466,950. For the interior work which included ironically the removal of existing interior work, for gypsum walls and ceiling mirror wall pillars, glass walls, and a new lighting system the cost was Rs. 9,688,550. Furniture including MDF service counters and reception tables and chairs the cost was Rs. 3,908,750. A drive way ATM unit in the exit area was to cost Rs. 2,146,625. The total cost including VAT would come to over Rs.26 million.  

All this indecent extravagance and greed for opulence despite Kariyawasam's JVP background only serves to demonstrate the JVP's own hypocrisy and pursuit of personal agendas not only amongst its political leaders but also amongst those it supports and appoints to public office.

Kariyawasam says little 

When The Sunday Leader contacted Chairman Udaya Sri Kariyawasam and stated there were various allegations of corruption and irregularities over tender procedures against him, he said he was unable to answer as he was outside the office but referred the newspaper to the Bank of Ceylon Board Secretary. Kariyawasam refused to comment on any of the matters saying he was unaware of the details even when asked by this newspaper why Creations Advertising was bagging every BoC contract without contest and against procedure. Kariyawasam also said he had a policy not to speak on the phone. When The Sunday Leader requested a time to meet the Chairman could only give next Wednesday but could not confirm a time and the newspaper was told to call his secretary and secure a time.

Kariyawasam' secretary when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that Kariyawasam personally hands out appointments on Wednesdays. When told that it was he who suggested the newspaper call her she took a message and number.

The Sunday Leader also contacted the BoC Board Secretary Janaki Siriwardena who declined to comment on any matter stating that as Board Secretary she was duty bound to maintain confidentiality.


Battle lines drawn at Stassen

Harry Jayewardene, Wijedasa Rajapakse, G. G. Arulpragasam, V.P. Victtachi and some of the letters exchanged between harry J. and his fellow board members

Stassen directors take on Harry

Harry told not to make a fool of himself

You don’t have the freedom of a wild ass Vittachi tells Harry

Harry warned of criminal intimidation and robbery

Vittachi back in the saddle


By Sonali Samarasinghe

With renewed fighting erupting in the corporate world of business tycoon Harry Jay and a fresh surge of acrimony surfacing amongst the four founding shareholders last week, the controversial mogul appeared to have met his match.

There seemed to be no hope of reconciliation between the old friends turned rivals as the District Court reinstated Dr. V.P.Vittachi as chairman of Stassen Exports and warned Harry Jay any deviation from the enjoining order would result in legal consequences.

The case was heard before District Judge Aruna Ranasinghe who issued the enjoining order and notice of interim injunction and summons returnable on Boxing Day December 26 and fixed the case for inquiry next January 11. Wijedasa Rajapakse PC with Kuvera De Soyza and Kapila Liyanagamage instructed by G.G.Arulpragasam appeared for Vittachi with S.L Gunasekera and Priyantha Jayawardena appearing on behalf of Harry Jay.

In a battle of wits that commenced earlier this year Harry Jay found himself increasingly alone as the other three stakeholders Zaki Alif, Raj Obeyesekera and Dr. V.P.Vittachi joined hands to take on the magnate accusing him of unethical business practices and unilateral action. It is now all but certain the parting of ways has come with the directors all set to engage in a long drawn court battle, the details of which when out will not only shock the corporate world but shake the foundations of the political powerhouses locally and internationally.

War turns ugly

Late last month the war turned ugly in the Stassens’ boardroom even as the media swooped in to closely watch the imminent fragmentation of the country’s largest corporate group. Harry Jay a man who once fondly offered to push Vittachi’s wheelchair if necessary had later threatened to shoot and kill him before two witnesses, and on November 29, controversially removed him as chairman of a subsidiary company Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka Ltd. With resentment gathering momentum on December 4, Harry was to unilaterally remove Vittachi as chairman of the holding company Stassen Exports as well.

In his letter dated December 4, 2006 a public bank and mercantile holiday, Harry also ordered Vittachi to return all company property including his vehicles and even had company security prevent him from entering the premises. Harry Jay then nominated and appointed himself chairman. The man it appeared was intoxicated by power

Septuagenarian

Harry Jay by his letter practically ordered Vittachi off the Stassen’s premises accusing him of violating the law. Harry alleged that Vittachi had failed and neglected to give notice to the company of his age. "You have failed and/or neglected to give notice to the Company of age, after you attained the age of 70 in terms of Section 183(1) of the Companies Act and thereby committed an offence.’ Harry stated that therefore Vittachi ceased to be Director of the Company from March 1, 1993 by operation of law. He signed it as Managing director/Majority shareholder.

Harry Jay holds 50.01% shares in the parent Stassen Company with Vittachi holding 20.01% and both Raj Obeyesekere and Zaki Alif holding 14.99% each.

Some 29 years earlier in happier times when the four friends started the small tea export company that ballooned into the nation’s most influential business, little were they to know that their combined efforts would end like this.

You are making a fool of yourself

Vittachi on receiving Harry’s letter of December 4, fired a reply the next day promising to consult together with the other two directors obtain legal advise and reply to the contents. In the meantime Vittachi advised Harry in writing as follows.

"Let me advise you that you are making a fool of yourself by recklessly writing letters such as the one referred to above, without proper legal advice and in total contempt of the law. Any person with even an iota of knowledge of Company law would have advised you that a Managing Director cannot unilaterally remove the chairman of a company.

"Your statement setting out your designation as ‘holder of majority shares’ does not give you a freedom of a wild ass. Company law sets out well defined procedures that need to be followed whether at board or shareholder level and they must be strictly adhered to.

Vittachi also warned of terrible consequences if Harry continued to act without consultation with the other three stakeholders and stated, "I trust that you will take note of this advice at even this stage, since you are pushing all the stakeholders of Stassen Exports Limited to proceed to take actions which will result in dire consequences."

Vittachi argues that the relevant sections of the Companies Act cited by Harry do not apply to a private company such as Stassens but only to public companies or private companies that are associated and/or subsidiary companies of a public company.

He also argues that as Harry has purportedly removed him as a director of the Company, in any event the proper procedure for such a removal including a meeting of shareholders has not been followed.

Arrangement between friends

On the same day showing solidarity with Vittachi the other two directors also sent a letter to Harry Jay signed by all three dismissing his letter of December 4, removing Vittachi as null and void.

"We wish to inform you that the said letter has absolutely no effect and that you have written the same without any authority to do so from the board. Your act is also mala fide in that it is contrary to the arrangements that exist between the four of us. We also wish to point out to you that you have either been ill advised or wrongly advised yourself on the provisions of the law, " the letter stated adding that Harry’s request for company Chairman Vittachi to return all Company property in his possession is unlawful and has no effect.

The three director also sent a letter to their Company Secretary, Secretaries and Registrars Limited placing them on notice that if any action is taken on Harry’s letter of December 4 they would be legally liable for any consequences flowing from such action.

Criminal intimidation
and robbery

But December 5, seemed like a good day to fire letters to each other. Vittachi having been by this time informed that Harry had ordered the Company security personnel to bar Vittachi from entering the premises, he wrote once again on December 5,

"I have been reliably informed that you have ordered the security not to permit me to enter the premises of the Company….I have also been informed that you have given an order that my vehicles be seized and taken back to the company…. You have no authority whatsoever to issue such an order and…if any such illegal/unlawful action is taken, you and the persons responsible for executing such an order will be liable for criminal intimidation and robbery. I trust you will take serious note of these matters and act sensibly."

With Harry no doubt huddled with his lawyers planning strategy on the one side and the other three directors seeking legal counsel on how to plan their strategy on the other, it was Harry who again struck another blow by ordering the Financial Controller of Stassen Exports Limited not to pay Vittachi’s wages.

Following these instructions the three other directors Vittachi, Obeyesekere and Alif dispatched another letter to Harry stating they were informed that he had instructed the Financial Controller not to make payments due to Vittachi as salary, re-imbursments and other payments made to directors.

"Presumably", they continue "these actions have been given by you on the basis of your action purporting to remove Dr. Vittachi from the Board of directors of the Company. As we have informed you by our letter of 05th December 2006, this action is illegal and has no legal effect whatsoever." They requested Harry to immediately withdraw these instructions.

Harry now in a bid to increase his support in the board room which was hitherto one to three immediately delivered a notice dated December 5, to the Company Secretaries convening an Extraordinary General Meeting of Stassen Exports for the purpose of appointing two new directors. The notice was copied to the other directors.

Having purportedly removed Vittachi he now only needed two others to wrest control of the boardroom.

Therefore the two directors Harry wanted to appoint were his wife Priya and one a supporter of his from Ratmalana, Cedric Royle Jansz.

The consent in writing of the two directors had been obtained earlier with Jansz giving Stassen Exports a letter of consent dated December 4.

The three directors, Vittachi, Obeyesekera and Alif on receiving notice of this special meeting immediately sent a letter to the Company secretaries pointing out that an Extra ordinary General Meeting has to be convened by the board of directors in terms of the law and therefore advised the Company Secretary to convene a meeting of the entire board of directors to consider the notice received and to schedule the Extraordinary meeting. And also to consult with all board members before convening a date for this meeting.

In the meantime on December 7 the Company Secretaries noticed the Board members of a requisition of a board meeting at the request of Harry Jayawardene.

On December 8, Harry Jay replied Vittachi’s letter of December 5, which letter was prompted by Harry’s letter to him of December 4 accusing him of not disclosing his age and therefore not a director of the Company since March 1, 1993.

Harry’s December 8, letter addressed to all three opposing directors, stated that it is an indisputable fact that the provisions of the companies Act have legal effect and equally indisputable that Vittachi turned 70 on December 02, 1992 and that no resolution under section 182 was passed at any time either before or after that date.

"I am surprised to note that you refuse to accept the self-evident fact that Dr. Vittachi has ceased to be a director by operation of law – perhaps you have been ‘ill advised or wrongly advised.’"

Nonsensical

"Your allegations of mala fides is as nonsensical as is your contention that I have acted in breach of an alleged ‘arrangement’, the alleged particulars whereof have not been specified in your letter", he also wrote.

Harry signs this time merely as Managing Director of Stassen Exports.

Harry Jay also sent a copy of this letter to the Company Secretary referring to the December 5, letter addressed to the Secretary by the three directors Obeyesekere, Alif and Vittachi and urging the Secretaries to act on the basis that Vittachi is no longer a director.

Pushing the wheelchair

On December 12 Vittachi replies to Harry reminding him it was in fact Harry who entreated him to stay on as a director when he turned 70 even though Vittachi offered to step down. At the time Harry all emotional had even told Vittachi I will push your wheelchair but you must stay on as director till the day he dies.

States Vittachi "I also find it ironic that you have chosen to raise the issue of my age, fourteen years after I turn 70. You may recall that when I reached the age of seventy, I told you that I wished to step down and hand over the chairmanship of the Company to you. However you were aghast at the suggestion and you said that I should remain in my position as chairman until the day I die and that if I became unable to walk, that you shall push the wheelchair for me.

"Neither of these events has taken place. Hence your sudden decision to remove me from my position as a director of the Company is clearly motivated by malice and desire to stifle the dissent that Mr. Obeyesekere, Mr Alif and I have begun to raise about your total disregard for our rights as shareholders of these companies, your blatant disregard for the law and regulators and your illegal conduct towards the companies and some of the subsidiaries."

On the same day on December 12, both Obeysekera and Alif jointly wrote to Harry Jay expressing surprise at the content of his letter dated December 8 and saying there was no legal basis whatsoever for the contention that Dr. Vittachi ceased to be a director of the Company on reaching the age of 70.

They continued, "We also wish to reiterate our contention that you are acting mala fide in seeking to invoke the aforesaid provisions of the Companies Act at this time. You and all of us on the Board were well aware that Dr. Vittachi reached the age of 70 on 02nd of December, 1992. In fact it was you who strongly insisted that Dr. Vittachi should continue as the chairman of the Company when he offered to step down from the position of chairman of the Company."

"However given recent developments where we have begun to raise objections to the unilateral decisions that you have increasingly taken in respect of the property of the Company, and our strong objections to the blatant disregard to any principles of corporate governance within the Company in clear breach of the arrangements that have existed between us, you are now wrongly seeking to remove Dr Vittachi from the board to stifle our voices."

They stressed that Vittachi remains as chairman and a director of the Company.

The three directors then on the same day on December 12 wrote to the Company Secretaries referring to their letter of December 7 and requested them to convene a meeting of the board of directors of Stassen Exports Limited on December 22 or December 23 to consider the requisition made by Harry Jayawardene to deliberate resolutions to appoint two more directors by an extraordinary General Meeting.

Meeting at neutral venue

The three directors Obeyesekere, Alif and Vittachi also stated in the letter that the meeting should be held at the Company secretaries offices or some other neutral outside place since Vittachi the chairman of the company has been forcibly prevented from entering the Stassen’s premises at 833 Sirimavo Bandaraniake Mawatha, Colombo 14 by Harry Jayawardene.

The next day on December 13, Vittachi was however reinstated as chairman by the courts with the courts also ordering that he be allowed to enter the premises and that he should be paid his salary and other dues and also be allowed to keep his vehicles.

Be that as it may it is inevitable that at Stassen, the Christmas cheer and goodwill toward all men will be sadly lacking this festive season even as the company’s founder shareholders continue to thrash out their differences through litigation which promises to turn nastier by the minute.


Wimal's worst nightmare

Wimal Weerawansa - Phony Crusader?,
 Wimal's wife - Shirsha Udayanthi

By Vimukthi Yapa

The young Lake House employee who made a desperate appeal to President Mahinda Rajapakse in writing for redress after getting transfer orders following a political scandal involving JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa has finally quit her job in disgust and returned to her home in Polonnaruwa.

Given the domestic political compulsions faced by the President, the desperate cry for help by the young woman from Polonnaruwa fell on deaf ears with Weerawansa a far more useful political tool for Rajapakse.

If the case of the young Lake House employee and Weerawansa was purely a private affair between two consenting adults, it would have no place in the pages of The Sunday Leader but what we have is a case of alleged sexual harassment by a powerful political ally of the government, who, using his influence, got her employment and then allegedly sought favours in return.

It is after the name of the young employee surfaced in parliament recently that all hell broke loose for her with summons issued to meet with the wife of Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa. For the government and the powers that be, it was not a case of helping out a damsel in distress but political damage control a la Mahinda Chinthana.

What better way to get Weerawansa to do the government's political bidding? In Weerawansa the government now has a man practicing the oldest profession in the world, politically.

But for the young employee it was to be a transfer order to Anuradhapura and it is after that order came she decided to write to the President appealing for help, but that did not so much as elicit a response from the so called champion of the small man.

Finally in disgust she quit Lake House, having in writing explained her reasons for so doing, and went back to Polonnaruwa.

Below we publish in the public interest excerpts of a telephone conversation the young woman had with an acquaintance where she explains the harassment, death threats and vilification allegedly at the hands of Weerawansa who projects himself to the public as the new messiah and the embodiment of cultural and social purity.

Some of the names of the people mentioned have been withheld to protect their privacy. The Sunday Leader is also in receipt of a televised discussion on the charges made by the former Lake House employee.

In fairness to Weerawansa, The Sunday Leader offered him an opportunity to respond to the charges but he took cover under a party decision not to speak to this newspaper.

Weerawansa's wife too took the same position but did have it communicated to The Sunday Leader that she has no grouse with the newspaper or its editor but only on a couple of  allegations made by the former Lake House employee.

She charged that the young woman was not a relative of her's as claimed but a 'servant' in her home. Weerawansa's wife also had it communicated that one of the reasons the woman was asked to leave her house was because she had stolen money from the children's tills.

She however did not have it communicated to us why her husband then got employment for a person who had stolen money from them.

Weerawansa's wife had it further communicated that she is prepared to challenge the woman in court and prove she was not related to them but does not intend to challenge any of the other issues because the Lake House employee, like she, was a woman.

In the recording reproduced, the responses of the Lake House employee is given as 'A' and the questions posed by the acquaintance as 'Q'.

Following are excerpts:

A: Now this is what happened, I was transferred at a most unexpected time. It was the reward I received for doing the right thing.

Q: Yes.

A: I have decided to quit my job.

Q: What do you plan to do after quitting?

A: I am now sick of everything. Do you understand that? I am fed up of that issue. Do you know what happened to me?

Q: No can you please tell me what happened? Let's see what we can do. I'm calling you from my mobile.

A: Now I will tell you what happened to me. Then you will try to help me.

Q: Of course. That is where we are now.

A: That is where I am going to lay down a condition. Now Wimal Weerawansa helped me first and then expected something else in return.

Q: Yes.

A: Do you understand? You see, I called him aiya and treated him like a brother and he called me nangi, but he then came on another track after promising to help me. Do you understand?

Q: Yes.

A: So if you people are going to help me, then please do so sincerely in order to help and protect me. Please don't expect anything else in return and don't make me a political stooge

Q: That will never happen. That is why I called you from my personal phone.

A: Ok. That promise has to be kept. You have to give me that trust.

Q: Yes, I definitely give you my word. Now what really happened? Tell me everything in detail

A: Now this is what happened. I'm related to Wimal Weerawansa. I'm related to him from his wife's side.

Q: Right.

A: Did you understand that? His wife's family was very poor earlier. It was my mother who had helped them.

Q: Ok, ok.

A: They used to visit us because we had helped them. According to my mother, I had been an infant then. In lieu of all the help, when I grew up and did my A/Levels they took me. They asked me to come to their house.

Q: Ok

A: To get me a job.

Q: To whose house?

A: I was asked to come to Wimal Weerawansa's house by his wife. They had asked my mother to send me.

Q: Right, right.

A: When I went, their house in Mawaramandiya was shut down. The people who worked at the communication center were also sent home.

Q: Yes.

A: Now they are saying that I was brought to work at the communication center. That is the real situation now. It was night when I reached there. Since it was night and she was a sister to me, I went. I am from Polonnaruwa, so getting a job after my A/Levels was very important to me.

Q: That's true.

A: I come from a place like that, no?

Q: True, I understand.

A: After that my mother - my mother is a teacher. I have two brothers and I am the eldest and the only girl in the family.

Q: Yes.

A: So I went because of that. After I went they signed up the Alliance. Because they were going to form the Alliance, they shifted houses saying it was due to security reasons.

Q: Where did they shift to?

A: They shifted to a house on Arawwala Road in Pannipitiya. That was those days. Now I heard they were in some place in Etul Kotte or Pita Kotte. I don't know. They shifted to this house. The house belonged to their politburo. Wimal had said that I can be trusted and that I too had to be taken to the house.

Q: Aha.

A: It was said that there won't be a problem in taking me there. I had that trust and also went there to stay.

Q: Where did you go?

A: The house in Arawwala. The house that belonged to the politburo.

Q: Where is it situated?

A: It is in, those days they rented a house in Arawwala, Pannipitiya, down that road.

Q: Right, right.

A: Before going to that house, I stayed in their house in Mawaramandiya. We went for a wedding then. One of akka's friends.

Q: Aha.

A: After going for the wedding, a boy had seen me and inquired about me from akka.

Q: Aha.

Sound of a mobile phone ringing.

Q:  Tell us what you want done from us. Speak, don't be afraid. We'll look after that. That is what I have to tell you. I have given you my mobile number, ok?

A: Ok.

Q: What do you need done from our side. Tell me what happened because people cannot be allowed to treat others unfairly like this.

A: This is truly unfair. I have fought to ask for my rights and my life from these people. But those people complicated matters even further.

Q: Who are these people ..?

A: What I'm saying is that when you look at it from that side, they are only complicating things.

Q: Who is threatening you, who is specifically threatening you?

A: When you say threaten, something like this happened. Now my name was spoken in parliament.

Q: Yes.

A: They say it was spoken. After that happened, I received a call and was told that I am being used to sling mud at him. I said that they themselves had created the mud, I can't say anything about it.

Q: True, true.

A: I said it is because he gave me various calls that this happened. I was then accused of having gone to the media.

Q: Hmm.

A: After that he started to shout at me. He shouted and kept the phone.

Q: Ok, ok. Who kept the phone, Wimal?

A: Yes. I came home after that. Then I got a call from the office and they said that there was such a new item in the papers and asked me to have a look at it. I was working at my department at Lake House. I said it was about a journalist at Lake House - after seeing it I said it could be me.

Q: How do you know it was about you?

A: It could be me because it said that it was a girl from Polonnaruwa. So I thought that the calls given by this man for his stupidity and indecency would have been taped by someone and used like this. I had nothing like that in my mind. I had not done anything wrong in my mind. I have no problem.

Q: Yes.

A: So, after that on Monday, I went to work. After I went there, I had problems in the department because, the way I was in office, no one would question me about it. When I was silent, my personnel director called me. He called me and asked me what the problem was. The personnel director is Anura Priyadarshana Yapa's brother in-law.

Q: Ok.

A: He called me and asked me.. what is your problem? I said, Mr. Narada, until you questioned me right now, I was under the impression that it was not me. I said that I did not know anything about it till he asked me.

Q: Yes.

A: To tell you frankly, my whole office would have known.

Q: True, true.

A: I had to protect my position and so I said that he was related to me, but I did not know anything about this. Then he told me that I would not have to face any problems. He said that he would get me an office vehicle to go and immediately meet madam.

Q: Who is this madam?

A: Anura Priyadarshana Yapa's secretary, his wife. Madam has asked them to send me to her house. I said Mr. Narada, sending me like this was not right, it was illegal.

Q: Yes.

A: That is to send me from office for something to do with my private life.

Q: Yes.

A: I asked if he was taking the responsibility. I don't know no if I was really being taken to madam's house. Then I was told, yes, I take responsibility - you go. Office was asked to give me a vehicle and I went.

Q: Who else went with you?

A: I went alone with the driver. I was under such pressure. I left then. When I went, Mrs. Yapa was at home. It is a huge house - I don't know. She then spoke to me. She asked me what this issue was all about. I then explained it to her, but I was not open with her. I was not open with her because she was also attached to my office.

Q: Of course. Now you told me that you will explain everything to me in detail. Now you can tell me how I need to take things to my head.

A: Now when I went to all these people and told them what has happened, they told me to take some time off. I said no. I asked if that was to give me a transfer. I said no because I was not in the wrong.

Q: Yes.

A: I would then become the one who had done wrong. I then came to office. When I came back to office I heard that the directors had discussed to put something in my bag and then sack me. I went and told Mr. Narada, I told Mr. Narada that he is the one who knew the case and said there was something like this. I said that I will speak to my lawyer and file a case for my future protection. I was asked not to. As long as I was good there would be no problem at Lake House he said, but if I go bad, it would be.

Q: Hmm, hmm.

A: I said ok because I was given the freedom and it ended there. After I came from there, Wimal Weerawansa called me on the office line and started to scold me.

Q: How did he scold you?

A: He scolded me in filth. No point even saying it. He said, you should know.I will kill you, I will bury your family alive, you know you bitch. Who do you think you are? He shouted saying that I came after him. That is how he scolded me.

Q: So didn't you say anything?

A: So wait. This was in office, no, no one in office questions me, even if they knew. I can't shout in office. I then said that I did not speak to any paper and asked him to go and find for himself who had gone and said things. I said I did not know any of these things. His wife then took the phone. He had shouted at me in front of his wife.

Q: Wimal Weerawansa?

A: Yes.

Q: Yes, while he was there, she started to shout at me saying she knew who I was. She said, it was she who asked Mrs. Yapa to question me. You will work at this office only for a few more days - see what will happen to you she said and started to scold me. I said, Akke, your husband is also here, so call me when he is not there and I will explain everything in detail.

Q: Hmm.

A: After I said that she took a call in a while saying that aiya has left. She then apologised for talking to me in that manner earlier. She said that and tried to get in to the good books. I said so and then she asked me what needs to be done next. I then told her everything. I said that her husband called me and asked me to come for these things, but I did not go and refused to accept the invitations. People have tapped and listened. I don't know any of these things.

Q: You really.

A: Do you know what she said? She said, I thought everything happened with his knowledge. Do you understand? She also said, tell you the truth nangi, aiya (Wimal) is a man who can't do anything. He does not really have a sex life. So she had said, bring that girl and give her a job and have such a life over the phone. I told her that she was a mental patient and so was he, but I was not like that. She then started to ask things from me. She asked if I was kissed over the phone. She asked various things. I said I cannot say such things. I don't know even if this line is tapped.

Q: Yes.

A: She said that since aiya can't do anything, aiya has given me to X. (Name withheld) X and I go everywhere together, even overseas.

Q: Who is this X?

A: (Gives full name of politician).

Q: Ah! X, right, right.

A: It is X who has even given me vehicles.

Q: Now is akka saying this?

A: Yes, now she is telling these things to me.

Q: What's Wimal's wife's name?

A: Sista Udayanthi.

Q: What?

A: Shirsha Udayanthi. (Sashi)

Q:  Does that mean that she and X are friends?

A: Now she is telling me. Sometimes she can be telling the truth, now if this comes out of my mouth, it would also be more mud and I will get caught for that.

Q: Ah. Ha.

A: I think she would have told it to me with that in mind. She told me, now it's like this, since aiya can't do anything. she went on to explain things. I said, akke, I don't need to know about your private life, if this phone is tapped, this too would become mud. So I'm telling for your own good. I asked her to guard her tongue. After that the next day. After that means, she asked me to meet her that evening. She told me a place in Nugegoda. I said I had no way to make it. She then gave me a phone number, but it was a wrong number.

Q: Hmm.

A: The next day she called me and said, since I'm also carrying on such a life did you like it. I was under the impression you liked it. She went on saying things like that.

Q: Hmm.

A: First I was scolded saying, I know what you are doing together with Lasantha. Lasantha bought buses and lorries for your father. That is how I was scolded. I said no one had helped me. I said that I did not know this Lasantha they were talking about. Then it died down and I thought it was over. I finally said that there won't be any problem for him from me. I have not said anything to anyone. You mind your business, I will mind mine. Then last Friday I received a letter through a peon saying that I had been transferred to Anuradhapura.

Q: Who had sent it?

A: It was sent by our director.

Q: Ah. What's the name?

A: The director had signed it.

Q: What's the director's name?

A: Ah. The director's name, it was not much of concern, I took the letter in a hurry.

Q: Ah. It's ok, it's ok

A: Abhaya Kumaradasa.

Q: Abhaya Kumaradasa?

A: Yes.

Q: He sent it to you?

A: He had signed it.

Q: When was it signed?

A: The date was 31st. So the order to type the letter was received on the 31st.

Q: Is it 31st of October?

A: Yes, October. So I was released on the 31st, but I received the letter on Friday.

Q: What was written in it?

A: It has said to transfer me immediately - to the Anuradhapura branch.

Q: Didn't you then call Wimal on that issue?

A: I said. I have no way to speak no. I have never called him. He has always called me. I did not pay much attention even to his phone numbers. Because I. his wife is very vicious. I don't like to play with such a person. So I minded my business. Only when he calls, even those I answered with the greatest difficulty. When I answer with great difficulty, it is not right for me to speak with much enthusiasm.

Q: True, true.

A: That is why. I don't even know his hand phone number. I somehow got scared after I got the letter telling me of my transfer. I then went to my personnel director. Before that I went to Chamara Peiris. You know Chamara Peiris?

Q: Yes.

A: I went to him. He then told me he had no idea about these things. It would have been much better if I had just sold pineapple on the streets, if such a thing like this could happen. Then I asked how such a thing could happen. Then there was nothing I could do. I went to the union leader of the PA.

Q: What's the name?

A: I went to Dassanayake. Till such a thing happened we did not know the case. I then said you people have to give me a reward. That they should give me gifts for protecting these people and the Lake House. I never let these out. I said I had not told these to anyone. They then said various things and said that I'm taking hard decisions.

Q: Didn't Wimal speak to you after that?

A: No, Wimal did not speak to me. Before this happened one of Wimal's sidekicks and a monk friend came to meet me.

Q: Who is the sidekick?

A: Wimal's sidekick told me.

Q: Who is Wimal's sidekick?

A: He is someone called Priyantha - a bodyguard. He came and asked for details. I said yes, he called me like this and harassed me and so on.

Q: Did he ask you to come to places like this?

A: I never asked anyone to come.

Q: No, did Wimal call and ask you to come to this house and that house?

A: Yes, I was asked to. He said he wanted to see me. He asked if I looked pretty now? I said no that I looked the same as earlier. I said, aiya tell me, I will come to your office and see you. There is no problem in going during office time no.

Q: True, true.

A: No, not like that, to come to a peaceful place. I asked what he meant by that. No, an aunty's house, he said. I asked if this aunty did not have any children.

Q: Hello.. Hello..

A: I asked if the aunty did not have any children. If it is an aunty then there should be children no. Then he asked why I was asking such a question. Then I said, no, there should be children no. If children were there, then she wouldn't do such a thing by getting other children to the house. I then said that you people have helped me a lot, you'll have. Please wait.

(After several minutes)

Q: Hello.. Hello..

A: Oh sorry, aunty called me for something. They don't know that I'm in the middle of a conversation.

Q: Oh please be careful. How is your personal safety?

A: My protection, it is safe for now. That means, I'm not sent anywhere, but I don't know if my phones are tapped. I don't know if someone would take advantage of me by taping what I say.

Q: Can your phone be tapped?

A: I don't know how.

Q: Is it a mobile?

A: I don't know how. I'm sick of everything.

Q: Now you have to worry about everything.

A: If you can give me an appointment date. I will meet you.

Q: Ok, can you meet tomorrow?

A: What time tomorrow? Where?

Q: Ok, you know our . office (name withheld)? What time can you make it in the morning?

A: In the morning? If I'm coming I can make it only after 10.

Q: Ok tell a time after 10.

A: Between 11 and 12.

Q: Ok between 11 and 12, do you know where the . office is?

A: Where is it?

Q: No not there. At the head office.

A: No, when you say giving, they are trying to take me abroad.

Q: No, no.

A: Once bitten twice shy. I won't go. It doesn't mean a thing. They ruined my character.

Q: Now who is trying to give you a job?

A: They are the ones who are saying it. They are ready to send me to Japan.

Q: Is it he who said it? Wimal?

A: His sidekicks.

Q: Who are these sidekicks? Are these sidekicks so powerful?

A: That is the thing. He is saying that he has fallen mentally. He is upset. I don't think you are bad and so on. It's his wife who has done everything. I said there is no point talking if your party works according to one wife.

Q: That is a good statement.

A: I gave them points. I said I was good and asked why Lake House became bad to me.

Q: Then.

A: Then I was told that they were orders from higher up.

Q: Didn't you speak to those from the JVP?

A: No. I said to ask Wimal Weerawansa to speak to me directly. I told the union also that I had not done anything wrong.

Q: So what do they say is wrong now?

A: That I have opened my mouth and that I have told things.

Q: What?

A: That he calls me and that I have gone and told the media that I find it troublesome. And that if I stay inside and in Colombo, it would be a threat to their family life and their lives as well. That is the summary. That is my transfer. It is a huge risk giving me a transfer. I don't blame the Lake House. If such injustices happen in such an institution, that is a whole new matter to look at.

Q: On the other hand there is your relationship as well.

A: Yes my relatives. Although my relatives, that is a long story, I will tell when I meet.

Q: No problem, no problem - you come tomorrow at 11. Come at 11. Don't be afraid. Everyone will be there, so there is nothing for you to be afraid. Come to the reception and ask if I'm there. Then you meet me.

A: Ok, I will come.

Q: Bring anyone along. There is no problem in that.

A: Ok, ok. I don't have such a lot of people with me.

Q: No, what I mean is if you have a problem, because you have had it with Wimal no.

A: Yes, of course, that is true. I don't trust a lot of people that is why I said it.

Q: Yes.

A: I think it is safe to speak after meeting face to face.

Q: No problem. Tell me the exact time you will be coming. I will tell the security.

A: Ok I will come. Before I come, I will give you a missed call.

Q: Right.

A: Then take a call to me and I will tell how I'm coming.

Q: No problem. Come straight to the reception. There are two girls there. Ask for me Silva and they will show you.

A: Ok. Aunty is calling me. So I will do that tomorrow.

Q: No problem. Thank you. Ok. Thank you. Good night. Bye.


Rehan's death shrouded in mystery

The fanlight of the bathroom on the ninth floor from which Rehan's friends claim he jumped, (inset) Rehan's mother, Rehan's father, Suresh Perera, Rehan De Silva and Rehan on his wedding day with his radiant bride

By Ranee Mohamed and Nirmala Kannangara

Mystery surrounds the death of Jeevanka Rehan de Silva of Homagama, which occurred at the break of dawn on Monday, December 4 at Global Towers Hotel Wellawatte.

A twenty-seven-year-old former Royalist, Rehan was found dead on the grounds of Global Towers Hotel Wellawatte, where he was attending the stag party of former Sri Lanka national cricketer Suresh Perera with some friends on December 3.

Rehan was found lying dead on the ground the following morning by the security guards of the hotel with cut injuries in his abdomen and his intestines hanging out.

A trail of blood

New evidence is now surfacing that Rehan, who according to a handful of the party revelers, jumped to his death through the fanlight of the bathroom, had actually left behind a trail of blood - a blood soaked towel and broken glass in Suite No. 902, Global Towers, Wellawatte where the party began as early as Sunday afternoon.

Indrajith and Marie de Silva, his grieving parents, want to ascertain what really did happen to their son at the party hosted by Perera, who was to marry Amali Jayasekara, Rehan's cousin, in January at Water's Edge.

Perera had invited some of his friends and Rehan for a stag party last week, that has now ended up in a murder investigation with the rest of the guests in remand prison. It is learnt that although the party was held at Global Towers Hotel in Wellawatte,Perera has informed his fianc and family members that he would be holding the party in Hikkaduwa.

Having checked in at the Global Towers on Sunday, December 3 afternoon with Rehan and other friends into suite number 902 on the ninth floor, Suresh Perera had started off his stag party in a different style.

Night of debauchery

It is an accepted practice in different circles for young men to enjoy a stag night with black label scotch beer, vodka and champagne and even a stipper thrown in but joining them mid way on this fateful day were two airline girlfriends from Sri Lankan Airlines and Etihad Airways. Then two Russian women followed, reaching the suite at around midnight and the stage was set for a night of debauchery.

In the early hours of Monday morning, at a time when his parents, the De Silvas, expected their only child to come home, they received a message from the host of the fateful stag party, former Sri Lankan national cricketer Suresh Perera, to come to Global Towers to see their son Rehan.

On arrival at the Global Towers the De Silvas for the first time in their lives saw their sportsman son as a fallen man. Not only had he fallen: his strong, sporty body was sans life and lay sprawled on the ground, bleeding from his nose and his ears.

The death of Rehan, who has been described by friends and colleagues as a happy go lucky young man, has shocked the country, but the mystery surrounding his death has raised many questions.

According to his acquaintances who shared suite 902 during the party, Rehan had got violent after consuming liquor and had visited the bathroom. When he had not returned, they had gone to the bathroom to see what was wrong and then 'discovered' that Rehan had jumped from the fanlight.

Theories

Other theories that a violent Rehan was locked in the bathroom by his friends in the suite are falling apart with the discovery that bathrooms at Global Towers cannot be locked from outside. The hulky ruggerite and a sportsman par excellence whose awards and certificates are the pride of his mother, had, according to his partying friends, squeezed himself out of the fanlight of the bathroom and jumped to his death.

Rehan 's 'jump' actually came from a height of an additional two floors, taking into the consideration the basement and the mezzanine floors. But the body of Rehan de Silva had not shown signs of head injuries.

Now submerging in an untold sea of sorrow, his parents and family members are seeking justice to find out who is behind this murder and want to know why if Rehan took his life by jumping from suite 902 as claimed, there was blood in the suite.

"Have these ungrateful friends pushed my son from the balcony since he was under the influence of liquor or have they killed my innocent precious child? Though his friends say so, he cannot creep through the small fanlight as he was a well built boy of 6'4"," said Rehan's dejected father.

Parents' grief

"On December 4 morning I received a call from Suresh asking me to come to Global Towers. Earlier I was puzzled as to why I was asked to come to Global Towers as I knew nothing about this venue as I was told that the party was to be held in Hikkaduwa. I could not believe my eyes when I saw my precious son lying on the ground bleeding profusely. That nightmare cannot be erased from my mind until I leave this world. If my son was violent and was a nuisance at the party then Suresh would have asked me to take him back. Suresh was constantly in contact with his fianc right throughout the night as I too was at a party with Amali and her parents at Water's Edge that particular night until the wee hours the following day," he said.

"I wonder whether he had informed this to Amali or whether he did not reveal this to her either. But I am certain that my son did not have any reason to take his life. He had everything in his life. It is true that he consumes liquor but he would never have acted the way his friends told the police. My son was a jovial, fun loving boy," claimed De Silva.

Meanwhile, Rehan's mother,  Marie de Silva, speaking to The Sunday Leader from their home at Saman Mawatha, Homagama said that Rehan was her only child. Seated in a house enveloped in sorrow and tears, his parents swore that there was no reason for their son to 'jump to his death' this way.

Final goodbye

"He was such a happy child. That Sunday morning, around 9:30 a.m. we were talking, recalling old times when he was a child. I told him that he was only 'this much' long when he was born; I was actually showing the length from my fingers to my elbow. Then I told him, 'you are now a big boy' and I ran my hand along his tall body. He was lying down and smiled happily. Rehan was born on June 13, the day of the feast of St. Anthony," said Marie de Silva in tears.

"When he left on Sunday, December 3, it was his final goodbye to me and I did not know it. He left at about 12:30 in a cab, and that was the last I saw of him," she added.

"My son was always singing; always happy. He was counting the days to go and see his daughter. Her first birthday is approaching and my son was collecting presents to take to Australia for her. His wife is in Australia because her parents are there. My son used to get photographs of all their movements. His wife Shanelle sent every movement of his daughter to him. Rehan never showed any signs of depression," said Marie, sitting in a house that had more photographs of Lord Jesus Christ than ornaments.

"No reason to take his life"

Showing a photograph of Jesus Christ suffering, wearing the crown of thorns, Marie De Silva said, "This is the first picture that my son saw everyday. This is the image of Christ to which he prayed every morning. He never even took the life of an ant; there was no way that he was going to take his own life. He had no reason to," cried Marie de Silva.

"He knew that he was my whole life, he knew how much I loved him, because I used to tell him so everyday. I used to pack his lunch and put a chocolate into his lunchbox and his colleagues now tell me that he used to scream in delight at seeing the chocolate," said Marie de Silva.

Well-behaved

Marie de Silva said that Rehan worked for a very 'high class' office which hosted many parties. "This is not his first party, I used to joke with him that his office had more parties than actual work.  He has always behaved well and at the end of the party he was the one who arranged transport for all the others before he finally left. He always ensured the welfare of others," said Rehan's mother in tears.

Rehan, an old boy of Royal College, later proceeded to Newman College in Perth, Australia.

Marie de Silva who has her own garment company says that she gave her son everything he wanted. "He was such a good boy, such an exemplary child, that I used to tell the girls who work for me who were pregnant that they ought to get a son like Rehan," she said in anguish.

There is no explanation to the visions that Marie de Silva had been having for one week before the death of her beloved son. "For one week before, I saw the entrance to a cemetery and a cleared patch in a cemetery. These visions kept coming and disappearing both during day and night, so much so that I kept pleading with my husband and my son never to leave me alone and go," cried Marie de Silva.

It was on the morning of December 4 that she realised the meaning and the real agony of these visions.

Puzzled

The home of the De Silvas is no longer a nest for them. Its coziness has been replaced with tears and a pall of gloom. The door stands ajar, as Marie de Silva stands there in tears. It's a place she will always remain, in the hope that her son, Rehan, will come home and tell her whether he had a reason to die.

According to Rehan's circle of friends, they are puzzled about the way his cousin Amali requested her family members to leave the death of Rehan aside and support her to get her fianc out from prison.

Suspicious

"That made us feel very bad. How can a person say such things in front of a grieving mother and father? Doesn't she worry about her own cousin? She should keep in her mind that this innocent, jovial boy was found dead at her fianc's stag party. When the party was held at Global Towers, what is the reason for her fianc telling others that it will be held in Hikkaduwa? Suresh would have informed Amali about what was happening at the Towers that particular day. When all are seeking justice, why does Amali alone ask the grieving family to forget the dead and try hard to get Suresh out from remand prison?" asked some of Rehan's friends, speaking to The Sunday Leader.

According to Rehan's family, his spectacles, wristwatch and camera were missing from the scene and only Rehan's camera case was later found in the room.

Court displeased

However, on Thursday, the Mount Lavinia Courtwas none too pleased with the way the investigation was being handled by the OIC, Wellawatte Police, Mangala Dehideniya as he had failed to produce the clothes the suspects were wearing at the time of the arrest following the incident.

It is also learnt that the Wellawatte OIC had failed to turn up in court that day.

The suspects, Suresh Perera, Chaminda Dias, Dilan Seneviratne, Kumar Seneviratne, Manishin Wedage, Suren Anthony, Venusha Wickramaratne and K. Vas Angelo Perera, were produced before court and  re-remanded until December 20.

Wine, women, song and "something suspicious"

The Wellawatte police inquiring into the death of Rehan de Silva are trying to ascertain how a party already overflowing with liquor was supplied with the drugs cocaine and ecstasy. As the stag party had gathered momentum, there had been two girl friends from SriLankan Airlines and Etihad Airways joining in. The party spirit was heightened when two Russian women arrived at midnight to join the gang.

Police now believe that it was not only wine, women and song that raged on through the night at this party. OIC, Wellawatte Police, Mangala Dehideniya speaking to The Sunday Leader said that they believe that "something suspicious" had taken place during the party.

This belief arose, not merely after the unexpected 'leap unto death' of Rehan de Silva, but with the discovery of blood that was splattered all over the kitchen, walls, carpet and towels in the hotel suite.  Police have found a blood-soaked towel in the room and pieces of glass scattered all over.

According to police sources, the suspects when questioned about the blood had told police that the pieces of glass in the room were from a tumbler that they had broken and the blood was from a cut that one of the suspects received on his leg.

"This cannot be true because the cut was not that grave," Dehideniya told The Sunday Leader. 

"Material evidence essential for justice"

Attorney-at-Law Jeevantha Jayathilake told The Sunday Leader that to ascertain whether this is a homicide or a suicide, all the material evidence should be produced in court.

"Several items including the blood soaked towel, Rehan's camera, the clothes worn by the suspects at the time of arrest, and Rehan's shoes and shirt should be produced in courts," added Jayathilake.

According to the Attorney, the Judge had reprimanded the Wellawatte OIC for not being present in court on Thursday and said that this is the first time she had to accuse a government servant in open court for not carrying out a proper job.

It is learnt that the OIC had informed the Judge that he was under pressure from outsiders to cover up the investigation. Attorney Jayathilake told The Sunday Leader that he wants a fair investigation to ascertain as to how Rehan died as he too is well aware that certain people want this to be swept under the carpet.

According to Jayathilake, although the police had said that they have handed the case to the CID to probe further, Jayathilake has found out that the CIDis yet to be informed.

"The Russian girls' evidence could not be recorded due the absence of an interpreter. That evidence and clothes the suspects were wearing at the time of the arrest are vital material evidence to confirm what really happened to Rehan on December 4," added Jayathilake.

Hotel staff silenced

When The Sunday Leader attempted to speak to the staff at Global Towers Hotel who were on duty when the fateful incident occurred, General Manager, Global Towers Hotel, Andre Shackleton told The Sunday Leader that he was unable to give permission to the resident manager and the security guard who were on duty at the time of the incident to talk to the press.

"We do not have any objections to the resident manager and the security guard speaking to the press but the Wellawatte police wanted them not to speak to the press since investigations are being carried out. If you could bring written permission from the police, I would definitely grant permission for the resident manager and the security guard to speak to the press," Shackleton said.

"He was not an aggressive person" - Rehan's boss 

Merchandising Manager, Next Sourcing Limited (NSL), Wilhelm Elias where Rehan had worked as a merchandiser, when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that Rehan de Silva was a loyal colleague with a sober outlook.

"I have been touched by Rehan's pleasing qualities and I have not come across an employee who is so dedicated to his work. I have had the good fortune to work with him for three years. Rehan was a humble yet committed boy who was fun loving and caring. Our office is shocked and saddened by his death," said a grieving Elias.

Elias also went on to say that Rehan was an excellent sportsman and had represented NSL on many occasions in cricket and rugby.  "I have been out with him on many official and unofficial parties, but he has never been an aggressive person," pointed out Elias.

"We all will pray for Rehan and for his dearly beloved parents to get through this time of difficulty. He really adored his parents. He did not have any reason to take his life, nor would he ever allow such a thing to happen to his friends either," added Elias.

"Where are the witnesses?" asks Daya Perera

Counsel for Suresh Perera, President's Counsel Daya Perera expressed disgust at the way the police have handled the case.

"Suresh Perera was the chief guest at a surprise stag party hosted for him by the other seven suspects and the deceased, who was to be his best man. What the police did after this incident was arrest all of them. First they filed a report of a rash and negligent act committed by the suspected eight people and no one knows what that is. Thereafter they filed an amended report saying it is murder," pointed out Perera.

Perera also said that the police ought to have first investigated and then made their arrests. "What the police did here was produce the suspect in the hope of finding evidence," he said.

"They needlessly remanded Suresh Perera and he could not have his wedding. The broken bottle caused injuries to more than one person including the deceased," observed Perera, who went on to say that the police ought to have investigated before taking all the people present at the scene into custody.

Perera said that the deceased was not only Suresh's fianc's cousin, but also his best friend.


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