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 Spotlight

  Govt. kills 5000 Tigers but... Oceanscan takes on Navy Chief over...


Politico Vs. Celebrity: The ordeal of Anarkali Akarsha


Anarkali and her mother leaving the Kollupitiya Police Station in a trishaw
and (inset) Duminda Silva

By Ruan Pethiyagoda

High-handedness and abuse of power - traits that come as naturally to today's ruling politicos as a breath of fresh air - were on full display last Tuesday as ruling party Western Provincial Councillor Duminda Silva followed his ex-girlfriend around Colombo, not only trying to abduct her and threatening to kill her if she refused to go along, but also to marry her by force.

What is ironic is that had this been any other damsel in distress, Silva would have succeeded. It was to his chagrin that he had to choose a former Miss Sri Lanka beauty queen and award winning actress of the ilk of Anarkali Akarsha as his prey.

The two had met as recently as last December, and Duminda Silva's charm seemed so close to something out of a fairy tale that the young actress was enchanted enough to pursue a relationship with him, and move into an apartment with Silva at the Hilton Residences this March.

However, after moving into the apartment, Anarkali felt more like a prisoner than a girlfriend. Bodyguards would follow her wherever she went, and she would lament to confidants that she "had no freedom to do things" on her own.

Being in a dungeon

The actress was prevented by Silva from visiting or speaking to any friends or family associates, according to intimate family friends to whom Anarkali would whisper over the phone when she had a moment to herself. "I think it's almost like being in a dungeon," she would say, sometimes terrified of what vengeance Duminda Silva would wreak upon her if he realised that she was speaking openly about their 'relationship' to outsiders.

"He had told her that he needed a pretty girl by his side to launch his political career," a close friend said bitterly, relating that "Anarkali is built for more than that. She's not just a rubber doll to be shown off by some politician."

Over May and June, the abuse had gotten worse and more physical in nature. "She couldn't just leave," said a relative. "It wasn't that simple. Bodyguards would follow her wherever she went, and wouldn't let her leave the apartment unless they had gotten clearance from Duminda Silva. What she had to do really was escape."

And so she did. Although action movies have never been Akarsha's forte, her escape from the Hilton Residences Complex would have made a fine audition for any Sinhala drama movie. Her plan to leave had to be kept completely secret, with only those involved in the know.

On a day that Duminda was not at 'home,' and security was somewhat lax in and around the apartment, Anarkali made her move. That day was June 14. The actress snuck out of the apartment unseen by the guards, whose routine she had familiarised herself with.

Rushed off to safety 

Anarkali then made it to the elevator and rushed straight out of the building where she was met by her mother, and rushed off to safety at an undisclosed location. Silva was outraged at her escape, and chastised his hapless security personnel and began to call Anarkali and her mother relentlessly, demanding that she return to him.

The veteran actress however, had gone through enough of Silva's dictatorship over her life, and arranged to meet a senior lawyer last Thursday, June 19, to file a restraining order against Duminda Silva 'just in case' he threatened them. "It was more a precaution," said a person involved in the process. "No one considered that Duminda Silva would actually be so bold as to try anything, but just felt that the precaution was a prudent one."

The events of June 17 changed all of that.

Although Anarkali was effectively in hiding, she was also alone when her mother was not around. "She didn't want to leave her alone after what she had been through, so she decided to take Anarkali with her on her errands," said a friend of Akarsha's mother, Indrani.

Thus mother and daughter left their hiding place together in their own vehicle, to the Ramani Salon on Elibank Road, Colombo 5 where they had a prior appointment. After they parked their car on the curb and alighted, they heard a voice - and turned to see a sight - that morphed their stomachs into solid lead orbs.

Bodyguards in tow

Duminda Silva towered over and towards them, bodyguards in tow, and demanded that Anarkali come away with him immediately. Indrani, who had just barely managed to save her daughter from the wrath of the likes of Silva, was not about to allow her work to amount to nothing, and refused to move aside to allow the provincial councillor to seize her daughter.

This, Silva had a solution to, as eye witnesses watched him shoving Akarsha's mother out of the way and pulling the actress towards his vehicle, in what can only be described as an attempt to abduct her. "Let me talk to her. Leave her alone. She's my girl!" Silva had bellowed in the process. Anarkali's screams for help alerted onlookers, one of whom had alerted the Bambalapitiya Police to come to the scene.

Despite Silva's demand that Anarkali return with him to the Hilton Residences, the actress had insisted that they speak in a public place, where she mistakenly believed that Duminda Silva and his minions could do her no harm. So it was that the Provincial Councillor followed her to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, where he made his position crystal clear to the actress.

"He told her that no one would ever believe that she dumped him. That anyone would be too scared to dump him. He thought he could ruin her career with the snap of his fingers, and said that unless Anarkali came away with him and marry him the next day (Wednesday), that he would not only kill her, but her mother as well. That rattled her and she burst into tears," said an eye witness.

First ever wedding proposal

Thus it is that Miss Sri Lanka 2004, Anarkali Akarsha, will forever remember her first ever wedding proposal being from a man who not-so-romantically uttered not just the sacred two words "marry me," but added for effect the suffix "or I'll kill you." The man didn't even have the decency to go down on one knee to boot!

"They tried to send him away but he simply refused to leave," said an eye witness, who watched a terrified young girl shake before the might of a power-wielding politico. Before things could get too much worse, the Kollupitiya Police had arrived on the scene and managed to put some distance between the two former lovers.

Eye witnesses made it clear to the police officers on the scene that Silva was attempting to kidnap the actress and it was at this point that the police offered to escort Akarsha to the Kollupitiya Police Station to file a complaint or give a statement if she wished - an offer the terrified actress readily accepted.

Having lost that round, Duminda Silva had done what any good political stooge would do when backed against the wall: he got on his mobile phone and started barking orders to the lord knows whom to do we can only guess what.

Yet not minutes after Akarsha and her mother arrived at the Kollupitiya Police Station with the full intention of giving them a complete detailed account of the day's events including Silva's attempts to re-abduct her, who barged into the station but Duminda Silva, accompanied by his goons.

Spoke in a soft gentle tone

At the station, the man's tone had changed, and he spoke in a soft, gentle tone to the beauty queen for the benefit of the watching policemen. To many, Akarsha is something of a popular idol, and there was nothing that some of the assembled police officers would have begged for more than for Silva to even raise his voice - giving them an excuse to put him behind bars.

Yet their hands were tied due to his 'importance,' as he himself made abundantly clear. After speaking to everyone and explaining that what had occurred was nothing other than a misunderstanding, Silva whispered in Anarkali's ear that if she repeated any of the day's events to the police, she and her mother would again pay with their lives.

That saw the actress burst into tears once again, and when she received a call from a friend on her mobile phone a few moments later she had said "he wants to kill me. Even here at the police station he's threatening to kill me and my mother both. I love her. I don't know what to do," she sobbed.

The Kollupitiya Police Station had no choice but to maintain neutrality. Some officers, when our sister paper The Morning Leader called the station on Tuesday, denied that the couple was even at the station and that there was any incident involving the police. Others such as Station OIC, Chief Inspector Sisira, said that they were in fact at the station but would not comment on the nature of the incident.

For the police, it was being stuck between a rock and a soft spot, having to choose between the wishes of a big-shot politico, and the needs of a celebrity actress, reduced to tears by her ordeal. So it was that they allowed both parties to write statements.

Smug and satisfied

Silva was somewhat smug and satisfied, knowing full well that Anarkali would not dictate the details of the day's happenings in his presence for fear of her life. Instead, a complaint was dictated by her mother Indrani, not detailing the events of the day but asking that Silva be prevented from "harassing" her further.

Even after the statements were written, Silva's mind was on the media photographers waiting eagerly outside the police station for any word of what was transpiring within. He had the gall to ask Akarsha to leave together with him "holding hands" so that the media would believe that the dispute was settled amicably - a proposition the actress refused.

The Sunday Leader reliably learnt that Akarsha had on Thursday planned to file an interim restraining order against Duminda Silva on Friday, to prevent the politico from approaching her or subjecting her to abuse.

Legal restrictions

What transpired afterwards we cannot divulge due to legal restrictions. Suffice to say that Section 20 of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005 makes it a punishable offence to "print or publish  'the name'   or any matter which may make known the identity of an applicant or a respondent in an application" under the act.

Akarsha, when contacted by The Sunday Leader was also aware of the restrictions and advised us of the same. Having consulted her attorney, she made a brief comment about what she endured. "I left him by my own choice," she insisted. "It was my decision, and had nothing to do with anyone else," she said, in response to widely publicised allegations by Silva that the affair was blown out of proportion by the actress's mother.

"I was being harassed and threatened regularly. That's why I had to leave him. I have filed an interim order, but I can't talk about that due to the legal restrictions. I can say categorically that I have no intention of having any future relationship with Duminda Silva, ever, again," she said.

The Sunday Leader understands that the actress and her mother are still in hiding as of the time of going to print, and only left their current place of residence on one occasion on Friday, to visit the Colombo Magistrate's Court.

 


Govt. kills 5000 Tigers but the war goes on


Troops in action (inset) Sarath Fonseka
and Gotabaya Rajapakse

By Ranjith Jayasundera

For all intents and purposes, the military - according to Defence Ministry figures and claims - has cleaned up the map, and killed the Army Commander's benchmark of 5,000 LTTE cadres between January 1, and the moment this newspaper was printed.

As of last Friday, the statistics maintained by The Sunday Leader of LTTE cadres claimed killed by the Defence Ministry's official claims, was 4,698. Given the Rajapakse administration's war on media, we have exercised much caution in maintaining these statistics.

A copy is saved of every article referred to, as is a link to the article's unique identity number on the Defence Ministry website's archive, along with the number claimed killed. In situations where swathes of LTTE cadres are claimed "killed or wounded," we are careful to count less than half the number as killed.

The many instances referring to "ferocious" battles where the military had inflicted "massive casualties" - but no concrete numbers - were omitted entirely. The effects of air strikes too were omitted entirely as the air force has allowed that it is extremely difficultto independently verify the number killed on the ground after an air strike.

It would not be prudent to use the LTTE figures for those killed by air strikes either, as the terrorist group is known for highlighting air strikes on military installations as fabricated, targeted attacks on anything from farmers to accountants to kindergarten teachers.

And thus we have a number from the Defence Ministry - that cannot be independently verified - of 4,698 LTTE cadres killed in land and sea action. Theoretically, 302 should be remaining, skulking in the Wanni jungles.

Kept track

However, we have also kept track of the number of air strikes announced by the air force this year on "identified terrorist targets." Eighty four, separate, aerial bombing raids have been announced this year, most involving more than one aircraft.

Given that at least four bombs are dropped on each target - and they don't come cheap: the cheapest of reliable 'dumb' bombs costing in the region of Rs.100,000 each - from a value for money perspective if no other, it would be sensible to expect that at least four LTTE cadres are killed in each of these "massive" strikes on "LTTE installations."

It is not much to ask that a single military operation costing in the region of Rs.400,000 to several million rupees in their ordinance costs alone - leave alone pricey aviation fuel and aircraft maintenance costs - take out at least four terrorists.

Thus with at least 5,000 terrorists having been killed by the Defence Ministry's own numbers, we are back to square one wondering why the government is asking the country to brace itself for an ever more, stringent war footing.

For all practical purposes, going by Defence Ministry statistics alone the war should therefore be now over with at least 5000 Tigers killed between January 1 to date. But is it? And if not, how come? Surely the Defence Ministry that has identified media persons who challenge their word on the war as traitors would not have been lying to the very people who are funding the war? That after all would be treason, would it not? 

Reality

The reality is that although Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka claimed bombastically that the war would be over by August with the killing of 3000 Tigers, and then by the end of the year, the advances of the military - most likely due to tactical and strategic sensibilities - have been conservative.

The military has advanced, by its own estimates, as deep as 10 or more kilometres on the northwestern Mannar front, and has captured an area of 50 square kilometres in the road-less jungles atop northeast Weli-Oya.

The area captured is effectively less than one third that was controlled by the Tigers six months ago. Although this was no mean feat for the soldiers on the front line, who have valiantly accomplished the tasks before them at great peril - hundreds of soldiers have died in battle this year - the arm chair map-meddlers who play with their toy soldiers at the Defence Ministry who cook up their politically opportunistic estimates need to be exposed.

It would be almost delightful to hear the excuses of the people who believed the government when it claimed mid-last year that the LTTE strength was a mere 5,000, also believed in December 2007 (after 2,800 Tigers had been killed) that their actual strength was 3,000, and then later believed again in February that the true number was 5,000 cadres remaining and that the war would be over by August. What do they have to say now?

Even more stunning than the ever multiplying number of Tigers in the Defence Ministry books, are the sardonic claims from the government's freshest batch of ministers (the February 2007 edition) made in defence of this administration's arms dealing bonanza.

UNP Defector Minister Rajitha Senaratne was the latest to cry in their defence when he defended the formation of Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited, claiming that it prevented arms dealers from "making commissions of up to 35%" and passing on details of arms deals to the LTTE.

Vouchsafe to the public

Since Senaratne seems to know much about the percentages of commissions made by arms dealers, he will also do well to vouchsafe to the public who these arms dealers are and from whom they collected these mammoth commissions.

Not only does the good Minister not propose that any legal action be taken against people whom he is effectively accusing of spying for the Tigers, but he is also saying - straight faced at that - that Lanka Logistics has stopped the practice of commissions in defence procurement. That assertion we will leave for another time to deal with provided some mysterious patriotic group who loves those handling the war does not get to us first as prayed for by the Defence Ministry website.

It was just a day before the company was formed that the government inked a scandalous deal to buy old MiG bombers at what was said to be a highly inflated price, in a deal supervised by another Rajapakse relative, our Ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, Udayanga Weeratunga. That matter we will of course deal with in court when the opportunity presents itself soon.

Just two weeks ago, The Sunday Leader exclusively bared details of how another procurement materialised via an offer from Lanka Logistics, which resulted in the purchase of over Rs.200 million worth of sonar equipment for guarding the Colombo harbour, with a documented, mysterious, price increase of over 57%, which the Navy Commander kept denying until he was blue in the face.

Conflict of interest?

Vice Admiral Karannagoda, who is also a director of Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited - spell conflict of interest, anyone? - not only denied knowledge about the price increase to us, but also maliciously misquoted an accredited British diplomat and told tall tales about Ports Authority Chairman Saliya Wickremasooriya and another accredited British defence supplier.

In fact at his request we kept out specific aspects of the investigation because in his view it would have compromised national security.

Given the great depths to which The Sunday Leader had to go to uncover the details of this scandalous deal, as so much is hidden in the annals of the Defence Ministry's and Lanka Logistics' files, no doubt on grounds on national security, we leave it to the readers to draw on their imagination and reach their own conclusions on the matters adverted to by Senaratne.

It is through Lanka Logistics also, that Janes reported in March that Sri Lanka was planning to buy five MiG-29 interceptor fighters from Russia to counter the LTTE aircraft. The MiG-29 sells at approximately US$ 15 million each, and so five would cost an astounding Rs.8.25 billion.

Whether such aircraft are the right choice for taking down the primitive LTTE's propeller planes - and whether buying five is pushing the envelope - a 10 year old could deduce with simple math but since raising such issues according to the Defence Ministry 'bible' tantamount to treachery, we will again leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.

Impossible to intercept

The LTTE aircraft travel at a maximum speed of 262 kilometres per hour. The minimum speed that a MiG-29 can sensibly travel at without stalling is about 2600 kilometres per hour, thus making it almost impossible to intercept the much slower propeller aircraft from behind. Besides, given what was paid for the MiG-27 purchase, how much we pay for each MiG-29 remains to be seen.

Such extravagant and wasteful purchasing by the Defence Ministry on its virtually blank cheque book should indicate, if nothing else, that they too expect that this conflict will continue for some time, regardless of what they tell the public for the purpose of winning a vote here or there.

That the war has taken its toll thus far on Sri Lanka is a known fact, yet a recent study published in the esteemed British Medical Journal last Thursday, indicates that the age old estimates of 60 something thousand killed in the war up to 2002 are far from accurate. The independent study, performed by the University of Washington and Harvard Medical School, indicates that at least 215,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka's war up until 2002.

The estimate may be as high as 338,000 killed taking into account various factors that may have led to under-reporting, and only includes those killed directly due to violence in the conflict. The study is careful to point out that their survey's inability "to capture families with no survivors is another source of downward bias" and that their estimates are thus conservative.

Time running out

This begs the questions of how many people have really been killed in Sri Lanka's war between the most recent hostilities from 2006 to date, as the study shows that most estimates that rely on "affected parties" such as the government and LTTE will show significant bias from both sides.

As to when the government will come to its senses, and come clean with the truth on its own war efforts is anyone's guess, but it is clear that time is running out if Sri Lanka is to have any hopes of lasting peace.

 


Oceanscan takes on Navy Chief over sonar deal


Wasantha Karannagoda

By Ranjith Jayasundera

Our revelations about what can only be described as a tender bender at the hands of the navy, published on June 8, have caused enormous uproar. While this is common for investigative articles appearing in The Sunday Leader, what is surprising is that it is not anything that we wrote that has summoned the storm clouds, but the utterings of Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda.

Oceanscan and their local principals Tess (Pvt) Limited, were enraged by the Admiral's comments, and submitted to us several documents and a lengthy rebuttal of all of the Navy Commander's allegations.

What these documents prove, if nothing else, is that the Commander of the Navy lied on record with regard to the words of an accredited British diplomat, and the business affairs of a registered British defence contractor.

Rival bidder

That all of his lies were supportive of a rival bidder, also a British company, whose offer was submitted by Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited (LLTL), a company in which Karannagoda serves as a director, have raised questions of a conflict of interest in his dealings.

These loopholes aside, the 57% difference in the price quoted by Qinetiq and the amount shelled out by the Ports Authority for this sonar system, beg an investigation of their own. The original Qinetiq offer was for 480,000 sterling pounds or Rs 102,073,000 rupees for the purchase of two sonar heads. The company gave this in writing to the navy following a previous Sunday Leader expose in March 2007.

We reported two weeks ago that the letter of credit opened by the Ports Authority to Qinetiq was for 746,107 sterling pounds or Rs 158,692,000. Simply put,there was adifference of Rs 56,619,000but given the Defence Ministry warnings that military procurements cannot be questioned, we guess we cannot question what led to this huge difference in price.

The Ports Authority for its part has remained mum even after we revealed that it had been swindled, and seems to be in no hurry to get to the bottom of the sonar story. The Sunday Leader has done its part and placed the facts before the public, and it is now up to the relevant authorities to take action against those responsible for this unbecoming situation, to put it very very mildly.

We would alsourge President Rajapakse - if he has not already done so - to inquire into the major deficiencies in the system purchased on the navy's instructions, which we still refrain from publishing at Vice Admiral Karannagoda's request, as he feels that revealing their very nature could jeopardise national security.

Infuriated

Oceanscan was most infuriated by Karannagoda's allegation that their system "was rejected three times by the same committee" because it "failed." Oceanscan Director Manel Monteiro wrote us a detailed rebuttal of this allegation.

"This is completely untrue and very disrespectful to Oceanscan," he began. "Our trials were very successful and approved and accepted by the SLPA, in which they stated that they were very satisfied with the performance of the system."

"The X-Type systems are specifically tailor made for each location as the environmental conditions around the world vary. This fact was explained, time and time again to the Sri Lankan Navy. No other company has spent so much time and money to satisfy both the SLPA and the navy. Our interests are in helping the long term security of Sri Lanka and building a working relationship."

"In July and August, 2007, we deployed the system in Colombo in the monsoon season, something our competition was incapable of doing." Monteiro expanded on request about the amount of time and money spent by Oceanscan in Sri Lanka. He claims that his company has already spent nearly US$ 1 million in its operations in the country.

"We have visited your country about 30 times since 2004. Seven different engineers and professionals including a Nobel Physics Prize winner have travelled to Sri Lanka at our expense to assist with R&D work for the system we tailor made for the navy. For all of this we have not been paid one cent by either the SLPA or the navy."

Big investment

"Our principals in Sri Lanka, Tess, have also spent a large sum of money on top of what we have invested," Monteiro added. He lamented that "the Qinetiq system was built in 2004" and that "it has never been sold to any navy in the world. Demonstrated, yes. Sold, no."

"Qinetiq claim sales of the technology used in other areas, but this is not the same as selling actual systems," Monteiro's letter alleged. "It is old technology, and the price that you reported has been paid for it is pure daylight robbery, to justify the lack of sales success they have suffered for the last seven years."

He also objected to the Navy Commander's defence of the cable laying for the Qinetiq system that is currently installed in the harbour. "It was clearly mentioned in the tender documents that minimum use of cables was imperative. This is one of the reasons we designed our system without seabed cables," he explained.

"The cables that they are using now will be a nightmare to repair," he warned, also stating the obvious that they are "subject to sabotage" from the terrorists they are supposed to be guarding against.

What enraged Oceanscan outright, and caused the board of directors to put pressure on Monteiro and Tess to abandon Sri Lanka completely, was the completely untrue allegation made by Admiral Karannagoda to us that their sonar system "got washed away" and "was lying" on the seabed from last "November or December."

No point

If the Navy Commander of a country was so gung ho about tarnishing their image, and was to go as far as lying about comments by British Lt. Col. Anton Gash on the subject, there was little point in expecting fair play in Sri Lanka, felt the Oceanscan board.

"We have been around since 1991 and have over 100 employees," asserted Monteiro. "How can he say that it's a 'one man company' without a telephone line. That is outrageous. The navy has known who we are full well since 2004."

"The British High Commission has sent the navy two signed letters of recommendation for Oceanscan in 2005 and 2006 respectively, stating that we are a reputable British supplier of defence equipment, thus for the Admiral to say the British Embassy Defence Advisor 'has never heard of Oceanscan' is a total lie, and comes as a complete shock." For him to say so in the same breath as singing Qinetiq's praises shows where his heart truly lies.

Admiral Karannagoda also chastised Oceanscan for offering a 180 degree coverage sonar, boasting that Qinetiq can cover a 360 degree field. Monteiro's response was that "the 180 degree coverage was requested in the tender document of 2004."

"We have at various stages offered to construct 360 degree sonar systems for Sri Lanka, like the ones we have just installed in China for protecting their harbours at the Olympics. But they clearly asked for 180 degree coverage. We basically built a system tailor-made to the navy's specifications, only to have someone bring something off the shelf that was opposed to those specifications and sell it at over four times the price we were offering."

'Hurtful'

"It is very hurtful personally to hear that a senior figure would say such things. We invited the SLN to visit our HQ in Aberdeen, Scotland many times in writing, therefore this comes as a shock to us all. We have been invited to submit a paper at the Underwater Defence Conference in Glasgow, and our X-Type system is one of the main papers of the conference. That itself can tell you that Oceanscan is not the shell company claimed by your Navy Commander."

He also criticised the Commander's attempt to turn the assistance rendered by the British High Commission to Qinetiq as to show a sign of partiality to that company. Lt. Col. Gash made it crystal clear to us when we spoke to him that his office would advocate both offers equally and was not partial to one or the other.

The only reason that Oceanscan did not use the British High Commission's services to the extent of Qinetiq, according to Monteiro, is that they "had Sri Lankan representatives in Colombo since 2004 who deal directly with the navy, SLPA and Ministry of Defence."

"Oceanscan and Tess do not need to use anyone's influences," he said proudly, "as our products speak for themselves."

The company also submitted to us a series of letters exchanged between them and various navy officers as well as one of the letters of recommendation sent by former British Defence Attache Lt. Col. Collin Marin recommending Oceanscan.

The first letter from the navy, dated June 1, 2007 asked Oceanscan to prepare for tests of their system and outlined the nature of the tests to be performed. Oceanscan subsequently arranged to perform their trials on June 6, which they did faithfully.

Unable to perform

In the interim, Qinetiq had also attempted to perform trials but had been unable to even get their system operational outside the harbour, allegedly due to the monsoon water conditions. "This didn't affect us as we had done our planning, knew about the monsoon, and had our brackets installed in advance. This other company just landed here thinking they could do their tests in the monsoon, and when they failed, we had to pay the price," lamented Shiran Fernando, a representative of Tess Pvt Ltd, Oceanscan's agent in Sri Lanka.

After Qinetiq failed to install their system to detect targets trying to enter the harbour, the navy had arranged for their system to be tested inside the harbour, as we reported, but as specified nowhere in the tender. When Qinetiq managed to install their system in the calm inner harbour waters, the navy wrote to Oceanscan on June 9, suddenly asking them to replicate their tests in the conditions where Qinetiq excelled.

Monteiro wrote back that he "cannot understand the navy's sudden decision to conduct trials at the inner harbour. Oceanscan was asked to conform to the request made by SL Navy to produce a fully engineered production head specifically for Colombo's outer harbour (ref. navy letter dated September 14, 2006)"

Criteria

This letter too, we have a copy of, and the navy told Oceanscan that they "will carry out the same performance tests as done before." Oceanscan highlighted this fact stating in their letter that "the SLPA have always categorically stated to us that all trials must be conducted in the outer harbour and they would not consider trials in the inner harbour since the requirement is for sonar to protect against intruders entering north and south gate from the outer harbour."

As the battle waged on, Monteiro boldly accused the TEC in a letter dated August 6, of being partial to Qinetiq in their requests. "We assume that SL Navy decided on doing trials in the inner harbour since the other contender Qinetiq tried to install in the outer harbour and failed due to monsoon conditions," Monteiro wrote, highlighting that Oceanscan had no issues with the monsoon in their trials.

Sensing a trap, he asked that Qinetiq be asked to perform trials in the outer harbour before Oceanscan be lured to the inner harbour, knowing full well the difficulties Qinetiq would face in conforming to the tender conditions. As it stands, the Qinetiq Cerberus system was never once tested by the TEC or anyone else under the conditions for which it was purchased (for over Rs 150 million) to perform in.

"It is like testing a four wheel drive jeep on a main highway before buying it to go off-road into jungles and sand dunes," scoffed a naval officer involved with the process who was ashamed of the tone his Commander took in bashing a company with which the navy had business dealings.

Provide details

Oceanscan was then asked to provide details of their other military customers, which they did - although they confirm that none of their customers received any requests from Sri Lanka for information on their system performance with Oceanscan. This itself shows how interested the navy was from the very beginning.

Oceanscan ultimately wrote to the TEC Chairman, Rear Admiral Hettigama, on August 14, conceding their earlier standoff and offering to "do any further trials" that the navy required "to prove that the X-Type system" is the "most technically advanced diver detection system in existence."

According to both Monteiro and Shiran Fernando, that was the last they ever heard from the navy with regards to the tender, until The Sunday Leader broke the story that the navy had decided direct the SLPA to procure Qinetiq's off-the-shelf and previously unsold diver detection system.

We learn that the navy is already in negotiation to order more of these Qinetiq sonars to guard the country's harbours. It is advisable that the world's only navy that is currently at war be a little more prudent in their purchasing, and avoid embarrassing themselves in the eyes of diplomats and defence companies of such a staunch traditional ally of Sri Lanka as the United Kingdom.

 


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