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 Spotlight

JVP bites the dust over... Making a car park out of a...


 Meet Gota - the 'Ugly American'


Jeyaraj Fernandopulle

By Sonali Samarasinghe

'Because it's there,' famous alpinist, George Mallory once replied, when asked why he had climbed a mountain. It was an answer that would become the manthra of climbers ever since.

Alas for the Tamil citizenry in Colombo any reply which includes the words 'because it was there' or the more common Sri Lankan answer to any question 'just,'(nikan) or ohai innawa, will no longer suffice.

On June 4, last year, at a confidential meeting at the Overall Operations Command Headquarters in Colombo, Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse personally gave orders to evict Tamils from Colombo lodges. As mothers were separated from their daughters and bridegrooms separated from their brides, without warning over 400 Tamils were packed into waiting buses and dumped in a camp in Vavuniya.

In an interview last week to the Sunday Lankadeepa Gotabaya Rajapakse was defiant. He said, 'there are lakhs of Tamils in Colombo. We sent back 300 of them who were in Colombo without a valid reason.'

Who among us hasn't been somewhere without a valid reason? One may find oneself in Malabe of a morning with no real reason to be there. One of the benefits of being a citizen of a country is that you have a right to be anywhere in that country without having to proffer an explanation to anybody much less to an ugly American from Los Angeles.

One doubts, that should Gotabaya travel to his home in Los Angeles for Valentine's Day this February, he would be prevented by the federal police from gamboling on the streets in Las Vegas or Arkansas or Atlanta, on the basis he had no valid reason to be there. However given the tone of last Sunday's interview it is unlikely Gotabaya would appreciate the analogy.

Advocates

Let's take the Defence Secretary's interview step by painful step. Or let's not. Let's instead go straight to his desire to change the supreme law of this land to set himself up cosily. In the interview Gotabaya advocates an amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka that would forever institutionalise nepotism. He advocates that an amendment be made to the Constitution that would make it compulsory that a future president of Sri Lanka appoint his brother the secretary of defence.

 Perhaps with four brothers in top positions in government controlling 80 percent of the country's economy, and over 128 relatives appointed to various key positions in the Presidential Secretariat and other vital departments, and paid for by public funds, Gotabaya finds no distaste in saying this.

There would have probably been no tinge of shame on his cheek of modesty as he put forward this proposition. Mind you the reforms he envisaged did not include sisters or provisos in case a future President was not blessed with a brother or sibling of any sort. Perchance, he is of the view Percival Mahindra of Medamulane will be President forever.

We wonder whether this is a practice he advocates for the banana republic Sri Lanka is today or whether he would like it adopted a universal principle? Is he saying that in the US the defence secretary should be the brother of President Bush and that the constitution should have been amended for that purpose?

Self emulation

In last Sunday's interview he calls himself a superior and super secretary arguing that only he as a sibling had access to the President at any given hour. Only he, he said was able to call the President at 12 midnight or discuss with him the true position with regard to casualties or other defence matters. Surely if access and proximity are the criteria, should not Shiranthi Rajapakse, the First Lady qualify for the job?

After all she is the proud daughter of a top naval officer who served the country with distinction and more importantly sleeps right next to the President. Ditto for Laura Bush.

Alas, nonetheless, he would find upon introspection that he is not as close to the President as he thinks. He was to tell the Lankadeepa interviewer that the economic condition of the country was due to the war even though his brother had never made that an excuse and that time frames should never be given for the war.

Double speak

Did this super secretary not know that Rajapakse supporting the war had, just a week before assured the Indian press that peace would be achieved in a year? Had this superior secretary not been told by his brother, the President, that on several occasions hehad warned the public they would have to endure economic hardship and tighten their belts due to the war effort and had in fact blamed all the ills of the country on military issues?

That Gotabaya as per his interview is not only delighted that the CFA is no more but also wants the LTTE banned in Sri Lanka with immediate effect necessarily means that he has ruled out a political solution through talks. And with no monitoring mechanisms in place to entertain complaints of human rights violations, Gotabaya, with what can only be called overbearing audacity states, 'Look at what's happening today. If someone is arrested or is killed by the armed forces they say he is an ICRC worker, a Red Cross worker, an INGO worker, NGO worker or if not all this that he is a journalist. The person who distributes papers has also become a journalist now.'

The Defence Secretary by this, effectively accuses the ICRC, the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies of fraudulently claiming that a person killed or injured is a member of their organisation. Not only that, he accuses these organisations of complicity with the Tigers.

'Reporter'

As for even paperboys being called journalists by interested parties as he alleges, Gotabaya, who claims he can call his brother the President at all odd hours, should know that even his own brother was at one time famously known as the 'cabinet reporter.' Yes, anyone can be a reporter.

Furthermore it was following a plot hatched between a dubious political office clerk purporting to be a website editor, President Mahinda Rajapakse and EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda in Switzerland last June, that Karuna was packed off and Pillayan put in his place.

Gotabaya knows well that he has now been named by Karuna in a London Court as the man who gave him the forged diplomatic passport and facilitated the terrorist's escape. Despite a denial by Gotabaya of any involvement in Karuna's escape to the UK, the evidence, both direct and circumstantial this newspaper has revealed elsewhere in today's issue proves otherwise.

With measured nonchalance he says some innocents may be arrested but it can't be helped. 'Even I do not like being stopped and searched,' he says. Luckily there is little chance of that happening to him given he has served himself the privilege of stopping vehicular traffic and clearing roads at any given hour, for him to motor down any highway or by-way.

'If a hundred are caught 10-15 may be innocent,' Gotabaya admits in his interview. He gives the classic example of how his own brother, President Rajapakse was accused of murder and jailed. Extracting sympathy left and right he says, 'When my mother died, the President was in jail - for a false charge of killing a man.'

It is true that President Rajapakse was discharged in that case for lack of evidence. But assuming the veracity of the facts as told by Gotabaya, do two wrongs make a right?

It is obvious Gotabaya is not comfortable with the media that does not grovel before him. It is this that prompts him to say that if he had the power he would not allow the media to write anything about the war. Whether this blanket censorship would include the government's grossly exaggerated figures of dead and injured LTTE cadres and other propaganda was not immediately clear.

'The public do not need to know about weaponry. What is there, what was procured but only what is generally happening with the war,' he said. Why Gotabaya, who in September 2006 formed a private company for the procurement of all arms and ammunition, under the auspices of the state of which he became subscriber director, does not want the media spotlight on procurements was not made immediately clear. What was in fact clear was that he wanted the media watch dog to clear off and leave him and his brothers to deal with the war and the Defence Ministry the best way they thought fit.

Retired and went away

Gotabaya lived safely in America for 15 years of his adult life having left the army in the early 1990s under a retirement scheme on offer. As a US citizen, while he advocates media censorship for the war he now seeks to fight, the question is whether he will advocate the same for the US media on the war in Iraq? Everyday official numbers of American soldiers whose lives are lost in Iraq are officially published. They are respected and named and mourned.

Supress the media?

Today Bush leaves the White House a veritable laughing stock due to his war on terror in Iraq based on false and discredited evidence regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. While the American media uncomfortably review themselves over their apparent lack of perception and insight in swallowing the biggest WMD lie in the history of the civilised world, does this  super secretary also advocate media censorship on the war on Iraq? Come on Gota, go tell it to the Marines. Meanwhile, Gotabaya's call to suppress the media and bring back criminal defamation came just 72 hours after Karuna, now serving a jail term in the UK for travelling on forged documents, named him as the person who facilitated his travel.

His arrogance is all the more absurd as Gotabaya attempts to foist upon the Tamil people two leaders for their community. 'Only two Tamil leaders remain' he says. That is TULF head, V. Anandasangaree and EPDP Leader, Douglas Devananda. While Pillayan showing his affinity to the government has decided to run with the government at the upcoming eastern polls, The Sunday Leader learns Pillayan has already made threatening noises against PLOTE Leader Siddarthan, Devananda and Anandasangaree, issuing a warning they would not be allowed to effectively campaign in the east.

Dreamworld

Gotabaya is living in a dream world if he thinks either Pillayan, Pirapaharan or any other Tamil leader or politician will allow him to choose their leader for them. It is officious and idiotic that he would as a Defence Secretary make such a statement to the Sinhala media. But force feeding is a fashion for those from Medamulane it seems. His brother, Mahinda force-fed a solution based on the 13th Amendment to the long suffering but spineless APRC.

Gotabaya also comments that the likes of Devananda need round the clock protection while stating that people like Mano Ganesan don't even need security as they are persons who talk to the LTTE. It is when they deal with the LTTE and things go wrong that they should get scared, he says. In the same vein he continues about Maheswaran. Maheswaran came a cropper because he did business with the LTTE. He did a business deal with them and when the money wasn't given he was killed by the LTTE itself, Gotabaya alleges.

Surely then by the same logic, the President too does not need security because he too had dealings with the LTTE and was even accused of passing money under bogus housing projects to fulfill a pre election deal. Mirror, mirror on the wall.

He also laments in the interview that Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has referred to him as 'Ugly Gota' in the presence of diplomats. 'He calls me 'ugly' then he asks me to give security, there is no meaning to this. This is where we want the help of the media,' he says.

Whether Gotabaya is angling for a prime spot in the Hi Magazine one does not know but perhaps he is ignorant of the well known term 'Ugly American' which is in fact the phrase Wickremesinghe reportedly used. The term has nothing to do with appearances but attitudes and actions. The Ugly American is the title of a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer which became an influential bestseller. The novel described how the United States was losing the struggle with Communism - what was later to be called the battle for hearts and minds in Southeast Asia, because of arrogance and failure to understand the local culture.

In the context of this novel, the title alludes to both positive and negative attributes of its characters. The authors state that one of the "good" characters is "ugly" looking to create a contrast with the "bad" characters who were "handsome." For example there is an "ugly" engineer who helps villagers with an irrigation system, and a "handsome" ambassador who does not care about what happens to the people on the village level.

The term is now widely used to refer to perceptions of arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless behaviour of Americans at home or abroad.

Cocky and ignorant

 Gotabaya in the interview comes out as a brash racist, ultra rightist, attempting to tell a people who has suffered immeasurably while he was living it up in Los Angeles what to do with their lives. His cocky attitude can only be borne out of ignorance, having gone straight from places like Medamulane to the US. Gotabaya like many other migrants living in Melbourne, Sydney, London, Los Angeles and Toronto are caught up in a time warp.

Having left their motherland and gone to Western countries where they often are compelled to engage in professions that they were not accustomed to back home, they grow nostalgic. Treated as third class citizens, they see a sharp contrast between themselves as first generation migrants and their sophisticated children often born in the new country of residence.

Reality

It does not matter that thousands of village boys die in a bid to fight a war they do not believe in while their own children sip coffee at wayside cafs on the rue de la pais and obtain Harvard degrees. These migrants hold on to their prejudices and hates from 20-30 years ago while the true Sri Lankan has long ago shed him and herself of all that garbage. Of these ugly migrants, Gotabaya is one.

Finally, once while resting on a rock during a short trek in Nepal, an American (Ugly) walker stopped and showed the great Conqueror of Everest, Edmond Hillary how to hold an ice-axe. Hillary listened and thanked him, but said nothing else. The American went away with no idea to whom he had spoken.

There is a lesson in this tale for the likes of Gotabaya who lived 15 years in the US while the sons and daughters of the soil bore the brunt of terrorism.

Pledge of allegiance to be a US citizen

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

  


JVP bites the dust over dirty deals


A gagged Inoka with part of 
Handunnetti's hand around her

By Malaika Fernando

The internal conflict within the JVP that intensified with the unofficial house arrest of one of its Colombo District Parliamentarians, Sunil Handunnetti, has further deepened adding several new twists to the saga.

The Handunnetti saga brought to the open the involvement of the JVP in various underhand deals, links to casino kings and strong-arm tactics to keep the members in check.

In a new twist to the Handunnetti story, a woman claiming to be a close confidant of the JVP Parliamentarian spoke to The Sunday Leader. She spoke to The Sunday Leader after the issue ended up in court last week following a complaint made to the police by the man the JVP has accused of leaking the details of the inner party crisis to the media. She also decided to go public, it was claimed, because the party attempted to deny the whole issue leading to fears that harm will come Handunnetti's way and of course hers.

Threatened

It was following the revelations of the inner party workings that the man the JVP suspected of having leaked the information to the media, Sampath Dimuthu Ketapearachchi came under threat prompting him to make a police complaint and highlight the plight faced by Handunnetti at the hands of the JVP.

For the JVP the issue becoming public and ending up in court was disastrous, especially considering the image the party was projecting to the public, and Handunnetti was directed to issue a statement disassociating himself from the suspected informant who had lodged the police complaint.

That denial Handunnetti made, going so far as to say he does not even know the man concerned but that lie also now stands exposed with photographic evidence surfacing of Handunnetti and his wife, Inoka, attending the ceremony of reading the first letters to Ketapearachchi's son. Inoka being a school teacher and Handunnetti, were asked to do the honours at the ceremony.

Given this overall situation where the party was adopting strong arm tactics to keep the lid on the issue snowballing, Ketapearachchi decided to go public as an 'insurance policy' for himself.

Thus, following these threats, Sampath Dimuthu Ketapearachchi lodged a complaint with the Welikada police on January 26 on the threats made to him by members of the JVP.

Ketapearachchi was an active member of the JVP and has even spent time in the Badulla, Haliela and Beragala camps. He is currently attached to the Textile Industries Ministry and has been a long standing friend of Handunnetti and someone whom the latter trusted enough to confide in him, even the foulest secrets of the party.

Captured by police

Ketapearachchi had joined the JVP through the Jathika Shishya Madyasthanaya in the latter half of the 1980s. During the 1988 and 1989 period he was captured by the police and detained in several camps.

According him, he and JVP Politburo Member, Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath were both held captive at the Beragala camp. During this period, Ketapearachchi had built a close link with Herath.

However, after being released, Ketapearachchi had moved out of active JVP work. Six years later Herath had contacted him and urged him to rejoin the party. During this period, Ketapearachchi had built close links with many senior party members as well.

It was also Herath who had introduced him to Handunnetti.

Since then, Ketapearachchi had developed a close friendship with Handunnetti. The latter had then started to confide in him on various deals of the party, the misconduct of several senior members and also details of his personal life.

Confidant

It was Ketapearachchi whom Handunnetti had turned to when he began to face issues within the party.

Handunnetti had brought up several cases involving the party allegedly receiving financial support from casino owners and from business establishments, accepting bribes, of threats and intimidation by certain members of the JVP itself for raising these issues within the party and the illicit love affairs of several senior JVP members in violation of the party's code of ethics.

Ketapearachchi told The Sunday Leader that Handunnetti had stood firm against the party's decision to accept money from casino kings and the acceptance of a poster pasting campaign for a sanitary napkin company.

Disgusted

According to Ketapearachchi, the JVP Parliamentarian had been disgusted at the manner in which the party handled the case involving Bogawanthalawa Plantations and the sub leasing of 13 of its rubber estates to Lalan Rubbers.

The party it is learnt had accepted financial contributions from Bogawanthalawa Plantations and had also approached Lalan Rubbers as well.

Ketapearachchi had been involved in the case as Handunnetti had taken him along when he met with the board of directors of Bogawanthalawa Plantations. Ketapearachchi said he was introduced to the directors as "Sampath," Handunnetti's secretary.

After discussing the case with the directors of Bogawanthalawa Plantations, a few days later, Ketapearachchi was asked by Handunnetti to visit Lalan Rubbers and meet with its head, Lalith Hapangama.

According to Ketapearachchi, during the conversation, Hapangama had agreed to pay a sum of Rs. 500,000 to the party funds for Handunnetti to stop dragging the case further in parliament. Ketapearachchi had then increased the amount and requested Rs. 1 million.

However, neither Bogawanthalawa Plantations nor Lalan Rubbers had made any payments to the party through Handunnetti.

Large financial contribution

Ketapearachchi says that Head,  Metropolitan Group of which Bogawanthalawa Plantations is a member, D.J. Ambani, had allegedly made a large financial contribution to the party at the JVP headquarters. As for Lalan Rubbers, he said that the owners had allegedly made a payment to the Patriotic National Movement through Wimal Weerawansa.

Head of Lalan Rubbers, Lalith Hapangama however denied making any payments to either the JVP or any movement affiliated to it. He also denied ever meeting Weerawansa. Ambani was not available for comment.

Hapangama had met with Handunnetti several months back at the latter's Maharagama office, where the duo had discussed in detail the Bogawanthalawa case, Ketapearachchi also charged.

CEO, Bogawanthalawa Tea Estates Limited, Sarath Fernando also denied making any financial contributions to the JVP.

Conduct of seniors

However, he conceded that Handunnetti had visited the Bogawanthalawa office several times and had on one occasion spoken to him as well. He also said that the company, to his knowledge, was not involved in making any payment to the JVP to resolve the rubber estate controversy.

Be that as it may, Handunnetti, according to Ketapearachchi was disgruntled with the party's business dealings and also of the conduct of certain party seniors, namely, Wimal Weerawansa.

Handunnetti has had many issues regarding the conduct of Weerawansa and his family. He had said that the luxurious lifestyle of the Weerawansa family was creating a negative impact on the party's image.

Ketapearachchi says that Handunnetti had not approved of Weerawansa's expensive lifestyle and had also opposed the conduct of the latter's wife. Weerawansa's wife, Shirsha (Shashi) Udayanthi drives a black Toyota Vios bearing number WP KG 3214, valued at several million rupees.

Handunnetti had said that party members at the grassroots level would question the party how the wife of a JVP parliamentarian who does not even receive his MP's salary could drive around in such an expensive vehicle and regularly go overseas on pleasure trips.

Premonition

According to Ketapearachchi, Handunnetti, during the budget debate had felt the party was going to either eliminate him or take him prisoner and asked the former for his help. The duo had then planned for Handunnetti to settle down in the UK, where Ketapearachchi had several relatives. It was planned that Handunnetti, who was to take part in a parliamentary delegation to Singapore would fly directly to the UK from there without returning to the island.

However the plan fell through when Handunnetti's wife had allegedly informed the party of her husband's secret plan.

Soon after the whole story appeared in the media, the JVP started to hunt down those whom they believed to be involved in releasing the details to the media.

The first victim was of course Ketapearachchi.

On January 18, when Handunnetti's story first made it to the news stands, several senior JVP members had allegedly called Ketapearachchi and accused him of leaking the information.

According to Ketapearachchi, among the seniors who called him were Parliamentarians Vijitha Herath, K.D. Lalkantha, Bimal Ratnayake and S.K. Subasinghe. They had accused him of leaking the news to the media and asked him not to do so in the future if he knew what was best for him.

On January 22, Lalkantha had allegedly called Ketapearachchi once more and said that Party Leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe and Secretary, Tilvin Silva wanted to meet him. Ketapearachchi had turned down the request.

Since then he has been the recipient of several threatening calls allegedly made by the JVP.

Prisoner

Ketapearachchi says that he has so far worked to save Handunnetti from his present plight. According to him, Handunnetti who had risen against the JVP's business deals was being considered a stumbling block to the activities of several seniors.

"Handunnetti knew that he would one day be a prisoner of his own party and he told me that in such an event, I had to go to the media with the details he had given me. That is what I did," Ketapearachchi said.

In his complaint to the Welikada police, Ketapearachchi had named JVP Colombo District Organiser, Priyantha, Western Provincial Council Member, Mohamed Nafli and Colombo Municipal Council Members, Ravi and Hemantha as arriving in a vehicle bearing number GK 5045 and threatening to kill him and dump his body in the Diyawanna Oya.

According to Ketapearachchi, Nafli had called him from the mobile number 0773-409947.

The Welikada police upon receiving Ketapearachchi's complaint had reported the facts to court the following day and obtained approval to proceed with the investigation including approval to verify necessary telephone records. The case is filed as B249/4 in the Colombo Magistrate's Court.

The Welikada police had then submitted a request to Suntel and Hutch to release phone call details of the numbers used by Ketapearachchi. The police are to receive the detailed bills some time during this weekend.

Denial

The police have so far recorded statements from Nafli and Hemantha. In their statements they have denied the allegations and even denied knowing Ketapearachchi.

A statement from Handunnetti was to be recorded on Friday (1) morning. However, the statement was not recorded that day and is expected to be done some time this week.

Handunnetti meanwhile has denied knowing Ketapearachchi and the party on Friday said that it was part of a mud slinging campaign carried out by the media.

The JVP has also said that Ketapearachchi was never a member of the party, a charge which Ketapearachchi says he could prove as false.

He said that intelligence reports and statements recorded of those arrested in the 1988-89 period would clearly prove his affiliation to the party at the time.

The 'other' woman

It is in this backdrop the woman friend of Handunnetti approached The Sunday Leader to corroborate the story of Ketapearachchi.

The woman, 'K' (full name withheld on request) said that Handunnetti spoke to her on December 31 last year from some place in Kalutara. According to her, that was the last time Handunnetti had called her.

Handunnetti had during the conversation informed her that he was being held prisoner by his own party and was facing great difficulties at their hands. A frightened Handunnetti had also said that he felt he would be killed by the party as it was their way of overcoming obstacles that lay in their path.

According to what Handunnetti told the woman friend, when former JVP presidential candidate, politburo member and Parliamentarian, Nandana Gunathileka defected from the party, the Marxists had initially contemplated killing him. However, the exposure given to the story in the media had prevented the party from going ahead with the plan.

Handunnetti therefore had told the woman friend that he would have to heed the party's orders and remain there till things settled down.

During the telephone conversation, Handunnetti had also revealed to the woman friend that the party had forced him to sign letters stating that he had vacated the posts held by him in the party.

Sacked

Although Handunnetti signed the letters in December, one of the letters was only taken up at a meeting held on January 23.

It is learnt that the party's Central Committee that met on January 23 had taken up the letter for discussion and then decided to sack Handunnetti from the party.

When he was placed under unofficial house arrest by the JVP, he served as a member of several committees in the party - central committee, district committee and the international affairs committee.

Handunnetti's female confidant  also said that he was indeed planning to leave the country due to his disappointment over the manner in which the party dealt with certain senior members who were involved in alleged underhand deals. A further reason given was the dissension that was building up against him among the party leadership as he was the member who raised these issues during meetings.

Plan revealed

She said that Handunnetti was planning to leave for the UK with a  friend who had a relative there. "It was then that the party found out Handunnetti's plan and placed him under house arrest," she said.

In fact, it has been alleged that it was Handunnetti's wife, Inoka, a JVP member and a teacher by profession, who had leaked to the party leadership her husband's plan to leave the country.

Her anger it later transpired was partly due to the relationship Handunnetti had with the woman confidant. It is to be noted that while the personal affairs of the JVP members are of no relevance to this newspaper, the fact that it has led to threats and intimidation, especially in the backdrop of raising funds through intimidation, makes it a matter of public interest.

And in another startling revelation, the lady confidant said that Handunnetti had promised to get her down to the UK once he settled down there. According to her, Handunnetti had no plans to take his family along with him.

 To give credence to the story that Handunnetti in fact had a relationship with the woman confidant and was threatened by the party to keep silent over it, she also says that Handunnetti had spent a lot of time with her and at times taken her along with him on holiday to various destinations all over the island.

Rendezvous

It was alleged that Handunnetti had booked the Senpathi bungalow in Nuwara Eliya through parliament and had taken this woman confidant along with one of his friends on August 20, 2005.

 Giving further details to establish the relationship in the face of the party's denial of the whole sordid drama, she said during the budget debate last November, Handunnetti had taken her out for a drive in a vehicle belonging to another JVP MP. However, on their way back, Handunnetti had crashed the double cab on to a wall down Kuruppu Road in Borella, she said.

The vehicle that belonged to Kegalle District JVP Parliamentarian, Anuruddha Polgampola was then taken to a garage in Madiwela for repairs.

Cover up

According to the woman friend, the party seniors were aware of Handunnetti's friendship with her. She alleges that the party seniors who knew about it tried to cover it up as they believed it would have a negative impact on the party's so called image if it were to come out in the open.

"How can the party seniors say they did not know about me? Many in the party knew of my connection to Handunnetti. In fact he was sometimes driven to my place by JVP members like Ravi and Rathu Aiya," she said.

However, she charged that when she tried to contact several party seniors to inquire into Handunnetti's well being, they had disconnected the line after claiming not to know her or her connection to the JVP Parliamentarian.

She also told The Sunday Leader that following her calls several senior party members had allegedly threatened her and asked her to keep silent about her dealings with Handunnetti.

Handunnetti however has now denied through the media that he was being placed under unofficial house arrest. Last week he said in a political interview that he was carrying on with his work 'freely.'

Cleared house

However, he admitted that he had cleared his house in the Madiwela MP's quarters. According to him, he had to leave Madiwela due to the lack of security at the MPs' quarters.

Interestingly, the MPs' quarters is provided with round the clock security and no outsider is permitted into a MP's residence without prior approval granted to the security personnel by the respective parliamentarian.

Further, Handunnetti in the interview also claimed to have changed his mobile number to go for a phone with better facilities and said he was 'freely using' his new number.

However, Handunnetti could not be contacted on his new mobile number 0773-908760 as it was switched off.

With all these twists and turns the JVP is looking for new avenues to dupe the public to detract from the issues confronting the country and the latest gimmick is India bashing over the 13th Amendment with a threat to defeat the government if the implementation process is proceeded with.

  


Making a car park out of a heritage building


Gaffoor Building which once gave Fort its identity, is now a car park

By Arthur Wamanan 

A part of an architectural monument in Fort and declared as a heritage building by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) on a recommendation by the Department of Archaeology has been converted into a car park.

 The monument declared as a heritage building based on its historical significance has in fact been recently renovated with part of the building converted into a car park in stark violation of the prevailing laws.

The building, popularly known as the Gaffoor Building forms part of Sri Lanka's British heritage and is allegedly owned by one of the famous Wijeratne brothers, Lal Wijeratne of Burns International fame.

Declared heritage building

This building situated in the Fort area is a heritage building, declared as such by the Department of Archaeology under the Antiquities Ordinance.

The building had already seen some serious alterations to its inner fa‡ade with some of the stained glass and the teak frames removed with the basement being converted into a car park.

What is more, given the dilapidated condition of the building that has led to a costly renovation scheme, many question the safety factor in  having a car park there.

Besides, the heritage building though privately owned by Wijeratne cannot be altered without the necessary approvals and there is both the Commissioner General of Archaeology and a top UDA official stating that they have not approved any such alterations.

"The features of heritage buildings cannot be altered and conversions are illegal unless permission is obtained from the relevant authorities," emphasises Commissioner of Archaeology, Dr. Senarath Dissanayake.

Part of history

The building is a colonial masterpiece and represents the British era. Like several other buildings in the area, this monument was declared as forming part of colonial history in Colombo due to its architectural value.

Meanwhile, a top UDA official too confirmed that permission has not been granted to convert or alter the Gaffoor Building in any way.

The top official told The Sunday Leader that there was serious confusion with regard to the ownership of the building.

"We issued certain clearances earlier on. But, we realise the building is in a bad condition. There is a legal tangle about its ownership and several ongoing police investigations. The UDA is currently not getting involved wanting the ownership issue to be cleared first. Then we will step in," the high-ranking official added.

However the official said that no approval was granted by the UDA on the conversion of the Gaffoor Building into a car park and it should not happen.

Clearance not granted

"We are unaware of the present status of the Gaffoor Building," he stated.

The UDA provides the planning clearance for the development of a building. The party, which plans to develop the building should duly submit the plans and obtain UDA clearance. "If not it is an illegality," the officer claimed.

There is also a role for the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) to play in this respect. Once the UDA approves development plans of a building, declared a heritage or otherwise, it is the CMC's City Planning Division that should issue a Certificate of Conformity.

A top CMC official when questioned about the procedural requirement added: "We have not issued any certificate of conformity. In fact there was no request for such made with plans submitted," he explained.

In the meantime, disputed owner Lal Wijeratne remained uncontactable despite several attempts made by The Sunday Leader.

A part of our national heritage 

- Archaeology Commissioner

Commissioner General of Archeology, Dr. Senarath Dissanayake told The Sunday Leader that the Gaffoor Building was gazetted as a 'Protected Monument' under the Antiquities Ordinance due to its historical value.

"Such buildings represent an era and form part of the national heritage of a country.  This building was so declared post year 2000 upon a recommendation by the National Heritage Commission," he said.

He added that the building continues to be privately owned though declared a protected monument.

The building is in very bad condition and the money spent on its conservation is expected to be in the range of several millions of rupees, Dr. Dissanayake added.

"It is in a dilapidated condition and on the verge of collapsing. The worst thing is the water that seeps underneath making the foundation weak," he noted.

He explained that some 10 heritage buildings existed in the Fort and Pettah area, all of which but one belonging to the early British period.

"One belongs to the Dutch period. It is now being used as a police hospital," he said.

"They are declared as protected monuments according to their architectural values under the Antiquities Ordinance," he said claiming that whether private or state owned, there character could not be altered without the necessary approval to do so.

  


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