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 Spotlight  

Sex, lies and dirty deals that have rocked the JVP


Sunil Handunnetti, Sunil Handunnetti's wife -gagged, Shirsha Udayanthi Weerawansa and Wimal Weerawansa

Handunnetti's unofficial house arrest 
opens a can of worms

JVP's dirty financial deals cause furore in party

MP accuses party of accepting money from casino king

Wimal's wife's luxury lifestyle a talking point in party

By Malaika Fernando

The simmering discontent in the JVP especially among its senior most members over the party's "unprincipled" policies has now reached boiling point with the Marxists' involvement in underhand deals, links to casino kings and intimidatory tactics all set to play out in public.

Several cases involving the party allegedly receiving financial support from casino owners and from business establishments, accepting bribes, threatening and intimidating certain members of the JVP itself for raising these issues within the party, as well as illicit love affairs of several senior JVP members have now exploded inside the party like a claymore bomb.

The internal conflict within the JVP was blown wide open after the party decided to place one of its Colombo District Parliamentarians, Sunil Handunnetti under unofficial house arrest last December.

Can of worms

Handunnetti's unofficial house arrest has opened a can of worms and the JVP in a bid to cover up the details have vehemently denied ever placing any restrictions on the JVP parliamentarian. It has been alleged by sources close to Handunnetti that the party had forced him to make statements to the media denying that his party had placed him under unofficial house arrest.

Last week Handunnetti appeared in the media on several occasions always under close supervision. Since the story of his unofficial house arrest by the party came out in the media, Handunnetti first appeared in a political talk show telecast over a private television station last Monday where he vehemently denied the 'stories.' Handunnetti made his second appearance when he participated in a protest organised by the JVP outside the UN compound in Colombo last Wednesday. He was photographed by the media as he stood behind party heavyweights Wimal Weerawansa and Vijitha Herath.

It is now learnt that Handunnetti was placed under unofficial house arrest since December 22, 2007 by the party and an inside source has confirmed to The Sunday Leader the ghastly dealings by the party hierarchy which brings back haunting memories of its bloody role in the 1980s.

In this context the events leading to the explosion within the JVP make interesting reading.

Given the pressure mounted on Handunnetti for questioning the underhand financial dealings of the party hierarchy the member admitted himself to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital on December 19, 2007. He was first admitted to the ICU and thereafter transferred to Ward No. 6 where he remained till December 22. On December 22, he had left the hospital and returned home.

The detention

Soon after he had returned home, a person known as Priyantha in the party, along with several security personnel attached to the JVP had arrived at his residence and taken him with them to a location known only to the party hierarchy.

Handunnetti's mobile phone no: 0773 865 036 registered under one Mrs. R.A.D.H. Ranasinghe, 49/2, Kottawa, Pannipitiya was disconnected a few days later.

Handunnetti feared that he would at some point be taken prisoner by his own party owing to the growing animosity of several party seniors against him who felt he was becoming a stumbling block in what the former has termed as the party's "lucrative business deals."

For some time now, Handunnetti had been critical of the party's involvement in certain business transactions which were negotiated to find funds for the party, especially for the establishment of the party's new headquarters and perks for the top rung.

Handunnetti has opposed the party's decision to accept funds from a well-known casino owner in Colombo. It is learnt that the casino owner who likes to dust his stars and place his bets with prominent members of all parties had made two generous donations to the party fund. The first was a payment of Rs. 500,000 and the second was a payment of Rs. 100,000.

Soon after these transactions Handunnetti had told a close confidant that he could not believe the JVP had accepted money from a casino owner and added that he was too depressed to even be in the party anymore. He has also told the confidant that the JVP has always stood against casinos and this act by the party was in violation of party principles.

Issues raised

Apart from this, Handunnetti raised a voice within the party against its involvement in business deals. The party however had not heeded the concerns raised by Handunnetti.

Another issue that was taken up by Handunnetti was the case involving Bogawanthalawa Plantations and the sub leasing of 13 of its rubber estates to Lalan Rubbers.

According to Handunnetti, this was yet another instance where the party had violated its 'principles' by converting an issue of national interest into yet another business deal.

The Bogawanthalawa issue reached Handunnetti in 2006 and after studying the issue in depth he raised the matter in parliament. The allegation was that 13 rubber estates belonging to  Bogawanthalawa Plantations Limited was given on a sub lease to Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Limited since the former was operating at a loss. However, it has been alleged that the lands were sub leased in contravention of the stipulated laws and that Lalan Rubbers was unwilling to return the lands back to Bogawanthalawa Plantations.

It has been alleged that when Handunnetti raised the issue of Bogawanthalawa Plantations, the party had approached the said establishment and had received from them financial support for the JVP fund. The guarantee given to the plantation company was that the party would raise the issue in parliament and that it would help them get back their rubber estates.

Death threats

In this backdrop, Handunnetti had informed confidants he was receiving death threats from people claiming to be affiliated to Lalan Rubbers and added that although the party was trying to take a side in the case, his stance was that the rubber estates should not be held by either Bogawanthalawa Plantations or Lalan Rubbers. He had said that it should be taken directly under the purview of the government.

 Given this state of play, owners of Lalan Rubbers had approached the JVP through one of its Parliamentarians, Badulla District JVP MP, Samantha Vidyaratne.

Vidyaratne it is alleged had then taken the owners of Lalan Rubbers to meet Weerawansa, who had after accepting a financial contribution for the party, requested them to be part of the Patriotic National Movement (Deshahithaishi Jathika Vyaparaya).

When contacted by The Sunday Leader, Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Limited Head, Lalith Hapangama denied making any financial contribution to either the JVP or the PNM and ever meeting Weerawansa.

However, he said that he contacted Vidyaratne as he was a member of the parliamentary sub committee that was looking into the Bogawanthalawa Plantations case and asked him to put him through to the member of the JVP who has raised the issue in parliament.

Vidyaratne had then introduced Hapangama to Handunnetti. According to Hapangama, he had met with Handunnetti on a Monday at his office in Maharagama and requested the latter to hear the other side to the Bogawanthalawa Plantations story.

Hapangama told The Sunday Leader that Handunnetti had told him that since the matter was being probed by the parliamentary sub committee, they should wait till the final outcome was known.

Hapangama also said that the JVP throughout has shown partiality towards Bogawanthalawa Plantations.

Handunnetti, meanwhile had told close family members that he was not pleased with the manner in which the party handled the Bogawanthalawa case.

Side business

With money being the name of the game, the party had also decided to undertake contracts for putting up posters for whoever that pays them. One such contract accepted was to put up posters for Arya, manufacturers of sanitary napkins.

This party decision to accept the poster campaign for Arya sanitary napkins was opposed by Handunnetti.

Handunnetti had objected to the decision by saying that it was going to create an impression that the party had fallen into the lowest possible level imaginable to earn money.

It is learnt that when representatives from the Arya Company visit the districts, they get in touch with the JVP office, which then deploys a group of its young members to paste the posters in the area.

Handunnetti had told the party that as a movement that adhered to strong principles, it should think twice when deciding on ways to generate funds for the JVP and argued it was more dignified for the party to walk the streets with tills than resort to such methods.

Personal affairs

Apart from all these issues, Handunnetti had also voiced his disapproval at the manner in which certain JVP seniors carried on with their personal affairs.

He had been critical of Wimal Weerawansa's conduct and said it had created a bad impression on the party. Handunnetti had said that it was hard for the party to speak on behalf of the poor in the country when certain senior members of the JVP led luxurious lives.

He had said that apart from the image maintained by Weerawansa at a high cost, the brand new vehicle driven by his wife was making matters worse.

Luxury

Weerawansa's wife, Shirsha Udayanthi or "Shashi," is said to be driving around in a black TATA Vios bearing number, WP KD 2419 registered under the name of Weewela Hewage Charitha Akalanka, 317/3, Sunflower Village, Danmulla Road, Mulleriyawa.

The party it is learnt had then tried to silence Handunnetti by citing an extra-marital affair the member was allegedly having with another female JVP member.

It has been alleged that Handunnetti was engaged in an extra-marital affair with a female cadre for the past four years in direct violation of party principles. The affair it is said has angered Handunnetti's wife, who is also a full time member of the JVP and she had raised the issue with the party.

She, it transpired in investigations, had complained to the party leadership of his movements as well. She had allegedly called some of Handunnetti's friends and shouted at them for helping him.

Seeking favours

According to one of Handunnetti's family members, when one of the MP's friends had told Handunnetti's wife that she would be reported to the party if she were to continue shouting at people, she had allegedly said that she had no problem with it as JVP politburo member and Parliamentarian K.D. Lalkantha has been showing interest in her for some time, and that he would definitely stand by her.

 Such are the depths to which the party has sunk with sex, lies and financial dealings dominating it, and even the personal lives of the senior members have now become fair game with Handunnetti accused of abusing his wife.

Towards this end, photographs of Handunnetti's wife's with a plaster on her mouth, allegedly placed by her husband, have been released to create an impression that Handunnetti was treating his wife in an inhumane manner.

When all these issues kept mounting on him, Handunnetti had contemplated leaving the party that he had worked for over 15 years.

He had even met with one time JVP presidential candidate, politburo member and Parliamentarian, Nandana Gunathileka and asked him if he could get the government to help him leave the country.

During the budget debate, Handunnetti, who was depressed by the manner in which the party had compromised its policies, was contemplating on moving out of the party and serving as an independent member in parliament.

However, he had told a close confidant that he could not do so as the party would then kill him. Handunnetti had said that the only reason the party could not get rid of Gunathileka was because the media highlighted the issue and he received the backing of the government. Handunnetti believed that for him too, such a course of action would be the only salvation.

Double game during budget

Handunnetti had also said that the party was playing a double game and that during the budget it used both the government and the UNP. He has said that while Weerawansa and Bimal Ratnayake were named by the party to establish links with the government, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and K.D. Lalkantha were asked to build a rapport with the UNP and adopt a divide and rule strategy until they achieve their goal of marginalising the SLFP and weakening the UNP to form a government of their own.

 By this time Handunnetti had already been named by the party to take part in a parliamentary delegation that was scheduled to visit Singapore soon after the budget vote on December 14.

Realising this was the ideal time to decamp Handunnetti had started to prepare the necessary travel documents and decided that he would travel to the UK from Singapore without returning to the island.

The party however heard of Handunnetti's plan from a source close to the family and immediately withdrew his name from the parliamentary delegation. The JVP then nominated Parliamentarian Wasantha Samarasinghe to be included in the delegation.

Handunnetti from then on was watched closely by the party and was given a warning as well.

After the budget vote on December 14, Handunnetti knew that the party was tightening the noose round his neck and unable to do anything admitted himself to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital on December 19.

Soon after Handunnetti was placed under unofficial house arrest by the party his wife and child had moved out of the house and are believed to be staying with a relative.

Handunnetti's parents living in Deniyaya, upon hearing the news, had also locked up the house and gone to a relative's place for safety fearing that the JVP may adopt their old methods to silence them as well.

The party according to an inside source had allegedly told Handunnetti's mother not to utter a word to the media if she knew what was best for her son.

However, after the few public appearances made by Handunnetti last week, his mother it is learnt has returned to the house in Deniyaya.

Handunnetti, after participating at the party's protest outside the UN compound was taken to his residence at Madiwela by party members under close guard. It is learnt that Handunnetti was asked to bring along with him files and other documents in his possession.

President in the know?

Amidst all this drama, Weerawansa's wife is alleged to have called President Rajapakse according to Handunnetti's confidant and complained that although much publicity was given to the alleged sexual harassment case involving her husband, the illicit love affairs of other JVP seniors were far worse and had given the names of several firebrand JVP parliamentarians and details of their secret love affairs to be probed.

 Thus Handunnetti's saga has so far managed to bring out at least some skeletons out of JVP's closet.

The JVP that has waxed eloquence of being a party with principles and purity of purpose, has, it thus appears, not only betrayed the people who voted for it, but  its own membership as well. 


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