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                   coming colours


The effects of the economic meltdown looming over
Sri Lanka are already being felt. This trader’s face
at Nugegoda says it all -
Photo by Thusitha Kumara

Golden Key Dep. Chairman pleads innocence

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Jailed Deputy Chairman of Golden Key Company, Khavan Perera in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Leader insisted he is innocent and has been unfairly implicated in the Golden Key financial scam.

Perera said the disputed Rs. 26 billion remains in the country and all 9,054 depositors could be repaid despite Golden Key so far having failed to come up with an acceptable repayment scheme.

However, his chief and Chairman, Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala continues to maintain he was completely unaware of any scam despite having collected a monthly sum of Rs. 3.5 million as part of a monthly remuneration package.

Perera admitted that tens of thousands of depositors' monies had been transferred out of Golden Key to Kotelawala's charities, the Sarana Fund and SOLO U.  

Besides drawing Rs.  3. 5 million from Golden Key assets, Kotelawala has also drawn another Rs. 500,000 for the Sarana Charity Fund, Rs. 2 million for his SOLO U charity fund and Rs. 350,000 as director's fee.

When the matter came up in court last week, Golden Key assets were frozen with strict orders of non-transfer.

Court remanded Chief Operating Officer, Golden Key and Personal Assistant to Deputy Chairman, Padma Nandini Kumari till March 11 together with Deputy Chairman Khavan Perera, Finance Director Saradha Sumanasekara, Manoj Chaminda Jayalath of Ceylinco Insurance, former Internal Auditor M. Nallanthuvan and directors Suramya Karunaratne and Niranjan Fernando.

Meanwhile, investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department have revealed the manner in which GK directors had siphoned off funds to nine other subsidiaries of the Ceylinco Group.

It has transpired that millions of rupees have been taken out of Sri Lanka to float companies overseas including Australia. Perera and his PA Padma Nandini Kumari have made several trips last year to Golden Key Investments Australia Ltd., one of the several new foreign ventures. At the time of arrest, Kumari had Rs. 144 million in her Golden Key account.

Deputy Solicitor General Jayamanne told court all this was public money and requested court to make Sicille Kotelawala also a suspect in the case.

Jayamanne told court that Mrs. Kotelawala was evading arrest and had used Golden Key money for personal use including foreign trips. At the time of retirement as a Golden Key director, she had drawn a gratuity of Rs.4.5 million for 20 years service.

DSG Sarath Jayamanne told court that Rs. 215 million had been transferred from Golden Key to maintain the Ceylinco office and Rs. 266 million transferred to Ceylinco Consolidated.

However, police investigators are unable to access the Golden Key computer systems due to electricity being disconnected at its main office at Bambalapitiya. Lawyers representing the defrauded depositors have requested court to compel payment of head office utility bills for investigators to access records.  

Despite Perera insisting all 9054 depositors can and will get their monies back so far, no repayment plan has been produced.

There were tears at The Sunday Leader office last week by depositors who lost their life savings amounting to millions of rupees. Over 75% of the depositors have deposited less than Rs. 2 million.

Perera said he is to be next produced in court on March 26.


Lasantha killing: Nothing yet

By Nirmala Kannangara

The police on Friday confirmed to The Sunday Leader that they had received the Government Analyst's (GA) report into the murder of Editor-in-Chief, The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

However contradicting his earlier stance Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera claimed that the report would not help to make a breakthrough in the investigation.

According to SSP Gunasekera although the police had received the GA's report, the investigation teams could not do much unless they receive reliable information into the assassination.

"Now the police has received the GA's report but how can we expect any breakthrough from these findings? It may have given the mode of the weapon used to assassinate Wickrematunge and the cause of death in addition to scientific evidence. But how can the police nab the killers from these findings unless they get first hand information," queried the SSP.

The SSP on many previous occasions told The Sunday Leader that the GA report was vital for a breakthrough and added the investigation process was at a standstill due to the delay in the GA's report.

The four police investigation teams that were appointed to investigate into the killing of Wickrematunge have failed to make any breakthrough over the past two months but were making various excuses for their collective failure The Sunday Leader understands.

Meanwhile SSP Gunasekera further said that the investigation teams are still probing into the telephone calls received by Wickrematunge moments before his death and claimed that the police are yet to trace 'vital details.'

"On the request of the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate the Moratuwa University is helping the investigation teams to trace the telephone numbers," the SSP said. The inquest into Wickrematunge's murder is scheduled to be held on Thursday, March 19 at the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate's Court.


CPJ urges Sri Lankan ambassador to investigate media attacks

A delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists on March 5 met the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States and called for a comprehensive and transparent investigation into a series of recent attacks against the press that may have involved government forces.

Citing the independence of the Sri Lankan judiciary, Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya said he was unable to offer any assurances about the scope of the investigation. "The Government of Sri Lanka is perturbed by threats against media workers and especially repulsed by the alleged attacks on media workers," the Ambassador told the delegation.

He further said that the government in no way condones or endorses any such attacks and said that the attacks on journalists may have been perpetrated by "terrorists" seeking to embarrass the government.

"While we appreciate the opportunity to convey our concerns directly to the Ambassador and his staff, we hoped to emerge from the meeting with assurances of a robust and vigorous investigation into these appalling crimes," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

The worst attack came on January 8, when the Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was killed in his car on his way to work. CPJ produced a special report, Failure To Investigate, detailing this assault and others after a trip to Colombo at the end of January.

"There has been impunity for those who attack journalists in Sri Lanka, and there have been attempts to intimidate and silence critics of the government. Journalists who are critical should not be targeted as part of the government's military objective," Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator told Wickramasuriya.

Meanwhile the CPJ highlighted three specific cases that are in need of urgent attention. Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has had to spend a year behind bars as of March 7, and is facing implausible terrorism charges. Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, the editor of two Tamil-language papers, was detained on February 27 for alleged contact with the suicide bombers that attacked Colombo on February 20.

Iqbal Athas, the Sri Lankan Sunday Times  defence columnist and a former CPJ award winner, has been under constant harassment, and has been in and out of the country for months, fearing for his life.

CPJ also raised concern about a consistently high level of violence towards journalists that rose in January with three incidents and the ongoing restrictions on reporting.

The main control room at the Sirasa TV came under an arson attack on January 6 while the prominent editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge was brutally assassinated by an unidentified gunmen on January 8 and Editor Rivira Publications, Upali Tennakoon was attacked by four men on January 23, which resulted in him sustaining severe injuries and made him to flee the country.

The CPJ delegation board members included Andrew Alexander, David Marash, Clarence Page and Mark Whitaker in addition to Joel Simon, CPJ's Executive Director, and Washington Representative Frank Smyth. Marash has posted a blog entry about the meeting on CPJ's web site.

According to CPJ's records, since President Rajapakse took office, eight journalists have been killed of what CPJ considers to be premeditated murder. No one has been brought to trial in any of these cases, according to CPJ research.

Dietz testified about the threats to the Sri Lankan media in front of a Senate subcommittee in the Middle East and South Asia on February 24.


ICRC to continue evacuations

By Raisa Wickrematunge

The ICRC has so far transported 3175 patients and their accompanying relatives to Trincomalee since February 10. The organisation said that it will continue to facilitate transportation of essential items to Mullaithivu despite the prevalent conditions in the area.

ICRC Media Coordinator, Sarasi Wijeyaratne said that the ICRC had facilitated the shipment of foodstuffs provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) from Trincomalee to Puthumathalan. Wijeyaratne said the shipment contained flour, dhal, sugar and vegetable oil.

The ship was contracted to transport 500 metric tonnes of food, but had only been able to offload 142 tonnes of the food due to bad weather. "The navy actually requested the captain of the ship to return to Trincomalee because it was raining badly, so they were unable to offload the remainder of the food," Wijeyaratne said. She added that the remaining cargo would be offloaded on March 13.

Wijeyaratne further noted that, "In the nine evacuations we have carried out, the ICRC has transported 3,175 patients and relatives in total, since we commenced this operation on February 10."

She added that the ICRC would continue such evacuation movements, adding that the organisation would need the security assurances of both parties in the combat zone. She added that the ICRC had no reason to believe that their vessels were being directly targeted.


Police on slashing Ravi's security

The police have sent a clarification on a news story published in The Sunday Leader on March 1 under the headline 'Ravi's Security Slashed.'

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara in his clarification has said that UNP MP, Ravi Karunanayake's security was reduced to four from seven, as he did not have any threats.

"According to his position as a Member of Parliament, he is entitled to only four security officers."

"However, out of the seven security officers provided to Hon. Ravi Karunanayake in the past, three security officers were withdrawn by the Inspector General of police as there were no known threats to him," Gunasekara said.

He said that there was no information from the state intelligence service of any possible threats to the parliamentarian.


Former SLRFU council told to send observations on audit query

By Dilrukshi Handunetti

The Sports Ministry has written to all 22 members of the former Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) Governing Council requiring them to submit their responses and observations to a February 17 audit query within the next 10 days.

Additional Secretary, Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation, H. M. B. C. Herath wrote to all members with copies of the audit query dated February 17, (Query No: PY/B/SA/2008/04) by V. P. P. Fonseka (signed on behalf of the Assistant Auditor General) seeking clarifications on a number of issues.

Sports and Public Recreation Minister Gamini Lokuge first referred the financial statement of the previous administration to the Auditor General amidst allegations of alleged mismanagement of SLRFU funds in the year 2008. Subsequently, the Minister instructed the Ministry Secretary to refer the same to the Permanent Commission Investigating into Allegations of Bribery and Corruption following the Auditor General's rejection of a financial statement prepared under its controversial President Nimal Lewke.

Minister Gamini Lokuge when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that it was a matter of course until the Ministry sought official clarifications from the former administrators but said after The Sunday Leader published the audit query, there was renewed public interest.

When The Sunday Leader on an earlier occasion questioned the Snr. DIG regarding the audit query that referred to his tenure as SLRFU President, his response was that he was not responsible, but the union was.

"My position is that they must answer," Minister Lokuge said, adding that the former administration's financial management was indeed questionable on the face of it alone.

The former council was headed by Snr. DIG Nimal Lewke (President), Asanga Seneviratne (Deputy President), S. P. Duke Hamid (Secretary), Nandi Anthony (Treasurer), Dilroy Fernando (Executive Director) and 17 others.


Clinton expresses concern over increasing loss
of life in the northern "safe zone"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed deep concern over the deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life occurring in the Government of Sri Lanka-designated "safe zone" in northern Sri Lanka during a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday (13).

During Clinton's conversation, she had said the Sri Lankan Army should not fire into the civilian areas of the conflict zone and had offered immediate and post-conflict reconstruction assistance.

Following is the official communiqu‚ issued by the US government following Clinton's telephone conversation with Rajapakse:

"Humanitarian Situation in Sri Lanka

Gordon Duguid,

Acting Deputy Department Spokesman, Office of the Spokesman,

Bureau of Public Affairs,

Washington, DC.

March 13, 2009

On March 13, Secretary Clinton called Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa to express the United States' deep concern over the deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life occurring in the Government of Sri Lanka-designated "safe zone" in northern Sri Lanka. The Secretary stated that the Sri Lankan Army should not fire into the civilian areas of the conflict zone. The Secretary offered immediate and post-conflict reconstruction assistance and she extended condolences to the victims of the March 10 bombing outside a mosque in southern Sri Lanka. She condemned the actions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who are reported to be holding civilians as human shields, and to have shot at civilians leaving LTTE areas of control.

Secretary Clinton called on President Rajapaksa to devise a political solution to the ongoing conflict. She urged the President to give international humanitarian relief organisations full access to the conflict area and displaced persons camps, including screening centers.

The United States believes that a durable and lasting peace will only be achieved through a political solution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all of Sri Lanka's communities. We call on the Sri Lankan Government to put forward a proposal now to engage Tamils who do not espouse violence or terrorism, and to develop power sharing arrangements so that lasting peace and reconciliation can be achieved."


Many families separated due to conflict says ICRC

The ICRC yesterday said that many families have been separated while fleeing conflict zones.

The issues faced by the IDPs were taken up when the ICRC and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society met with Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Minister Rishad Bathiudeen on Friday (13).

"In the process of displacement, many families have become separated or have lost contact with relatives in other parts of the country, or abroad. The Movement offered to help them reestablish contact and reunite," the ICRC said.

The ICRC in a statement following the meeting said that the movement had offered to improve access to medical care by upgrading existing health infrastructure, providing first-aid services and mobile medical clinics, running an ambulance service and engaging in physical and psycho-social rehabilitation.

"According to the authorities, over 36,000 people have left the conflict zone since December 2008 and are living at sites in Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna districts. All possible measures must be taken to ensure that these people are received in a safe environment, under adequate conditions of shelter, hygiene, health and nutrition. They must also be allowed to return voluntarily to their homes as soon as conditions permit."


Govt. attempting to silence intellectuals - UNP

The UNP last week said it was time for the educational institutions also to rise against violence against intellectuals.

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake commenting on the abduction of Prof. Dhammika Ganganath Dissanayake said the government was in the process of silencing intellectuals.

Prof. Dissanayake, former Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) chairman and a senior lecturer at the Sri Jayawardenapura University was abducted on Wednesday (11) and released the following morning.

He stated that two persons had arrived at his house demanding to know whether he was writing a book against the government. The persons who had identified themselves as from the police had then searched the house. He was later asked accompany them for questioning and was taken in a white van.

The persons had taken him from his house, blindfolded.

On February 27, the Dinamina newspaper carried a news article that Prof. Dissanayake was tasked by UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to write a book against the government. Prof. Dissanayake however had denied the allegations.

Prof. Dissanayake said the abductors wanted to know whether he was writing a book against the regime. He said that he was not writing any book against the government.


Govt. ready to welcome Pillai to SL

By B. M. Murshideen

The Government yesterday said it would welcome United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai to Sri Lanka any time.

Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe responding to a question posed by The Sunday Leader said that he has also extended an invitation to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights during his meeting with her in Geneva recently.

The government yesterday held a press briefing to explain the Government's stance on the statement released by the UNHRC on Friday (13).

Samarasinghe also said the UNHR Commissioner had not given any details or discussed with him her concerns during his meeting. He pointed out that Pillai should have discussed her concerns either with him or the Sri Lankan Representative in Geneva.

Samarasinghe also charged that Pillai's statement carried details and figures, which were published in the Tamilnet website.  

When asked whether he made any request from the UNHR Commissioner on behalf of the Government to release a joint statement after his meeting with Pillai, Samarasinghe said they should do it and that even UNHR Commissioner should include the Sri Lankan Government's details in her statement. 


UN expert calls on Govt. and LTTE to prevent civilian casualties

The United Nations independent expert on internally displaced people, Walter Kalin referring to the conflict in Sri Lanka has called upon the government and the LTTE to do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties and to allow for the safe evacuation of those trapped in the conflict zone.

Kalin, who is the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, speaking shortly after presenting his annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council which is currently in session in Geneva, has expressed grave concern at reports that the LTTE are preventing civilians from fleeing the conflict zone and may be holding civilians as human shields.

He also appealed to the Government and rebels to allow civilians to evacuate the conflict zone in the country’s north.

Kalin also urged the Sri Lankan Government to provide all internally displaced persons escaping hostilities with all necessary protection and assistance. He recalled that internally displaced persons, as citizens, retain their right to freedom of movement and must not be confined to camps.

"While security screenings may be conducted upon arrival, they should be concluded promptly and individuals retained only in accord with judicial process and on the basis of individualized suspicion," Kalin has said.

He has called for more attention to be paid to some of the world’s most serious displacement crises, including those caused by natural disasters and by the conflicts in Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

"More than 26 million people in the world are displaced due to conflicts and violence," Kalin has said. "There is an urgent need for the international community to pay more attention to some of the worst crisis situations."

Also driving displacement is climate change, which threatens to increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters, leading to greater numbers of IDPs, he has said. "Governments have to make a greater effort to prepare for natural disasters and, in particular, to protect disaster-affected populations, including the displaced."


JVP supporters assaulted and office set ablaze

A case of election related violence was reported yesterday when a JVP office was set ablaze and two supporters allegedly assaulted early yesterday morning.

The JVP yesterday alleged that a gang of UPFA supporters had assaulted two JVP supporters and set fire to the JVP office at Malapalla.

JVP supporters, R.A.D. Saman Wasantha and Kapilasiri Nandana were allegedly assaulted by the UPFA supporters at 12.45 a.m. yesterday while they were removing propaganda boards set up for the JVP’s rally held on Wednesday (11).

Nandana was admitted to the Homagama Hospital for treatment.

According to the JVP, the armed UPFA supporters had arrived in a white Prado vehicle and after assaulting Saman Wasantha and Nandana had traveled towards the JVP’s Malapalla office and set it ablaze around 1 a.m.

The JVP has lodged complaint bearing No. EIB 20/41 at the Homagama Police regarding the incident.

The Homagama Police told The Sunday Leader that one of the suspects in the assault case was arrested and later released on bail. (MIA)


Arrested for selling Tamil magazines

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Manager, Poobalasingam Book Depot at Wellawatte who was taken into custody on March 5 by the Mt. Lavinia Police is being kept under a Detention Order (D/O), Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader.

The Mt. Lavinia Police arrested Manager Sritharasing at his Wellawatte residence on March 5 for distributing the South Indian weekly magazine  Ananda Vihadan  which was in support of the LTTE, SSP Gunasekera said.

SSP Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader that Sritharasing has been charged for distributing Tamil magazines published in South India that are in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"These magazines were to be sent to Jaffna and were detected at the Ratmalana Airport," SSP Gunasekera said. According to Gunasekera, Sritharasing is being kept under a DO and is being interrogated by the Mt. Lavinia Police.

However when queried as to when he would be produced in courts, the SSP said that  depends on the investigation report. "The police are now probing as to how he got down the magazines from South India and how he got customs clearance. Once the police get all the details he would be produced in court," SSP Gunasekera added. 


Victims of Akuressa blast paid compensation

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Of the 45 people injured and at least 15 people killed in the Akuressa suicide blast, only 33 of the injured, and the dependents of 10 of those killed received compensation, according to the Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Minister, Rishard Bathiudeen. Of the people injured in the blast three are currently at the Colombo National Hospital, while the majority of the patients are at the Matara General Hospital.

Director General,  Colombo National Hospital, Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, confirmed that the three patients admitted  with injuries were on the path to recovery. Weerasinghe said the Post and Telecommunications Minister, Mahinda Wijesekara, was still in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), following surgery. He also confirmed that the two other patients, former Southern Province Chief Minister H. G. Sirisena and his son, were in a stable condition.

Bathiudeen said that when he  visited the Matara General Hospital there were 33 patients who had been admitted with injuries following the blast. He added that each of these people had received Rs. 10,000 as compensation.

Bathiudeen added that he had visited several funeral homes of victims of the Akuressa attack. "We visited two homes in Weligama, one in Gintota and another in Matara, and we paid the families of these victims a partial compensation of Rs. 75,000," Minister Bathiudeen said. He added that six other families had been awarded Rs.100,000 as compensation.  Bathiudeen also said that the hospital had been instructed to pay compensation to any others  who qualified for compensation.

The Minister further said that to his knowledge there were no requests for compensation in respect of damage to property and that if there were any whose property had been damaged by the blast, they would be awarded compensation in respect of the damage suffered.

A press release from the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order stated  that anyone who organised national events in which the general public participated would now need to obtain permission from the Defence Ministry.

The statement said that those who organise local events should obtain permission for same from the closest police station, and  that all who organise events for the  Sinhala and Hindu New Year too should ensure that they have permission from the relevant authorities.


Four Karuna supporters killed

Police are on the lookout for the attackers of the supporters of newly appointed National Integration and Reconciliation Minister and former TMVP head, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan.

Four persons, who were loyalists of Muralitharan, were killed last Friday when unidentified gunmen attacked their office in Sammanthurai.

Muralitharan's spokesperson D. Kamalanathan said that it was not clear as to who had carried out the attack. "Anything is possible. At the moment, we do not know who is behind the attack," Kamalanathan said.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara told The Sunday Leader that there were  no developments in the investigations.

Kamalanathan added that they were looking into the matter and the steps to be taken with regard to the safety of the supporters would be discussed later. 

It was said that the LTTE could have been behind the attack, because of  previous reports of their presence in the nearby jungle areas. Kamalanathan however said that they were only assumptions and nothing had been confirmed.

TMVP sources denied any connection with the attack.

The TMVP last week officially handed over their weapons to the security forces and called upon other armed groups to join the democratic mainstream.


  More News....

 

Lasantha killing: Nothing yet

CPJ urges Sri Lankan ambassador
to investigate media attacks

 

 

ICRC to continue evacuations

 

Police on slashing Ravi's security

 

Former SLRFU council told to
send observations on audit query

 

Clinton expresses concern over increasing
loss of life in the northern "safe zone"

 

Many families separated due to conflict
says ICRC

 

Govt. attempting to silence intellectuals - UNP

 

Govt. ready to welcome Pillai to SL

 

UN expert calls on Govt. and LTTE to prevent civilian casualties

 

JVP supporters assaulted and office set ablaze

 

Arrested for selling Tamil magazines

 

Victims of Akuressa blast paid compensation

 

Four Karuna supporters killed

 

 


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