ANUSHA PALPITA TURNS YAHAPALANAYA TOPSY-TURVY : Ediriweera Premaratne’s daughter launches scathing attack on ‘Raththaran’ | Daily News

ANUSHA PALPITA TURNS YAHAPALANAYA TOPSY-TURVY : Ediriweera Premaratne’s daughter launches scathing attack on ‘Raththaran’

former Western Province Senior DIG Anura Senanayake arrested by the CID on Monday. Picture by Rukmal Gamage

 

Yahapalanaya, in Sri Lanka, is a thing of fluctuating fortunes.

Soon after the new Government came to power in January, it established the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) to probe into alleged acts of bribery and corruption under the previous administration.

On the other hand, the Bribery Commission was strengthened under the provisions of the 19th Amendment, making it more independent and empowering its functioning.

At the same time, a Presidential Commission was established to investigate into large-scale corruption and abuse of power. The commission was entrusted with the task of probing into some of the much-talked-about cases in the recent past. That was the brighter side of yahapalanaya, which made almost every citizen of the country happy.

However, the same yahapalanaya has a darker side too. Although institutions have been set up, many who campaigned to bring the current administration to power, 16 months ago, are utterly dissatisfied with the progress of the inquiries. They claim that those who were responsible for acts of large-scale corruption have ‘dodged’ law enforcement authorities, with the blessings of some top-notch members of the present Government. The public at large view the Government’s anti-corruption drive with a modicum of suspicion.

This lethargic approach compelled four ministers of the national unity Government to present a joint-Cabinet paper to the weekly meeting of ministers, requesting a report on the progress of the ongoing anti-corruption investigations.


 

Anusha Palpita

 

The joint-Cabinet paper, presented by Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Sarath Fonseka and Arjuna Ranatunga, put forward the following requests:

* The Cabinet of ministers requests details and follow-up action on every complaint lodged by the civil society groups with various government bodies looking into bribery and corruption. We also wish to know the legal status and background relating to the progress of those investigations.

* The Cabinet of ministers also requests details about the progress of the work carried out by the institutions attached to the Sri Lanka Police and other commissions, including the Presidential Commission.

* The Cabinet requests details about action taken by the Attorney General’s Department in relation to the said investigations.

We also propose to take a collective action to expedite and fast-track the functioning of the law enforcement process in this regard.”

President Maithripala Sirisena, however, vetoed this Cabinet paper, saying the Cabinet meeting was not the appropriate place to discuss such things.

The President further clarified his position saying any ‘Cabinet discussion’ on anti-corruption investigations would allow their opponents to dub the government’s anti-corruption drive as a political witch-hunt. The President, however, assured that he would give a separate discussion to the four ministers who wished to discuss the issue.

Six days after the presentation of the joint-Cabinet paper, the government made an unprecedented move by appointing former Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s Director General Anusha Palpita as the Additional Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry. The appointment drew the attention of many as Palpita was known to be a close associate of the former first family and his name mentioned in connection with many controversies.

Achini Ediriweera

Interestingly, both Palpita and former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga had been indicted by the Attorney General (AG) in connection with the misappropriation of Rs 600 million from the SLTRC, between the period October 30, 2014 and January 5, 2015. It was alleged that the money was used to distribute ‘sil redi’ among Buddhist devotees in the run up to the last Presidential election.

FCID investigations revealed that the two officials had transferred the money to a personal account belonging to the former President’s Secretary.

According to the indictment filed by the AG, the accused were charged under Section 21 Public Property Act of 1982 and the SLTRC Act no 25 of 1991. What requires emphasis is the fact that Palpita is an accused in a criminal case involving Rs. 600 million.

Palpita also found himself in hot water over a court case involving a 14-year old child who appeared in a news item during the last Presidential election.

In the news item aired on state- run ITN at the time, the child claimed that Maithripala Sirisena, who was the Common Candidate of the Opposition at the time, was detaining his mother.

This incident led to legal action involving eight suspects including some high profile officials such as former diplomat Sepala Ratnayake, former Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Director-General Palpita, former Deputy General Manager of ITN Sudharman Radaliyagoda and ASP Sarachchandra Gunathilaka.

The Police reported that the suspects had allegedly used the child for a news item during the last Presidential election without his guardian’s consent.

It was also revealed during the case that Palpita was heavily involved in the election campaign of the former President, deviating from the standard practices followed by government servants.

Palpita’s appointment, however, sent shockwaves across the ‘Yahapalanaya’ camp. Many expressed surprise as to how an accused in a criminal case obtained a senior appointment in the government sector, while the Public Services Commission (PSC) was functioning. If the appointment has been done without the knowledge of the PSC, it indicates that the high-powered commission is in a drugged slumber!

“The appointment is absolutely illegal and cannot be justified under any circumstances,” said senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuwa, a stalwart of the Lawyers’ Collective as well as the Purawesi Balaya Organisation.

“It is common knowledge that Palpita is an accused in a criminal case. According to the law of the country, an accused in a criminal case cannot hold a position in the government. On the other hand, there were various allegations leveled against him, when he was a senior official under the previous administration,” he added.

“This appointment sends a wrong message to investigators and prosecutors. It shows certain individuals, currently under investigation, show strong links with the present government. It indicates they have ‘muscle’ to overpower or to circumvent the law enforcement mechanism of the country. This, needless to say, hampers the ongoing anti-corruption investigations,” Weliamuna said. It was also revealed on Tuesday, that the Lawyers’ Collective was planning to issue a strongly worded statement against the appointment.

Quite surprisingly, Palpita was appointed to a ministry placed under the UNP, a party that strongly campaigned for good governance before the last Presidential election. Our multiple attempts to contact Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena to get a comment on this appointment did not bear fruit due to the minister’s busy schedule.

Anura Senanayake saga

While Palpita assumed duties as the Additional Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry, another close ally of the Rajapaksa camp, former Senior DIG Anura Senanayake walked into the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for his third interrogation in connection with rugby player Wasim Thajudeen killing.

The interrogation was conducted under the supervision of SP Shani Abeysekera, an officer who handled several high-profile cases in the recent past. He was the same officer who handled the inquiry into former DIG Vass Gunawardena.

Anura Senanayake’s name was ‘officially’ linked with the case after the CID arrested Sumith Chinthaka Perera, former Crimes OIC of the Narahenpita Police station, over the same incident.

Perera said initial investigations into the Thajudeen killing were handled according to the instructions given by senior DIG Senanayake, who was the senior DIG in charge of Western Province at the time of the murder.

The CID first questioned Senanayake on Friday. It was in the grapevine that the former senior Police officer, who wielded more authority than the IGP under the Rajapaksa rule, burst into tears during interrogation. According to highly placed Police sources, Senanayake had denied charges leveled against him.

Senanayake was arrested for allegedly covering up evidence in connection with the killing. The Colombo Additional Magistrate ordered the retired Police officer to be remanded till May 26.

Producing the former DIG in Court, SP Shani Abeysekara told Court that according to a statement given by an eyewitness, the former DIG had visited the place where Thajudeen’s ‘accident’ took place in civil uniform around 2.45 a.m. to 3.00 a.m. on May 18, 2016.

The person who first alerted the Police on Senanayake’s alleged presence at the scene of crime in the wee hours of May 18 was a widely known and a very senior government officer. He informed a lawyer of the senior Police officer’s presence and the lawyer conveyed a message to a senior officer handling the investigation. However, the Police independently conducted inquiries to ascertain whether Senanayake was present at the scene of the crime.

SP Abeysekara further stated in court that the suspect could be charged under section 296 of the Penal Code for conspiring to commit the murder owing to his questionable role. The CID also told the former DIG had instructed the former Crimes and Traffic OICs of Narahenpita Police that the investigation into the Thajudeen’s death should be proceeded as a fatal road accident. The suspect had intimidated the witnesses in the case, the CID further alleged.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva appearing for the suspect contended that his client cannot be charged for conspiring to commit a murder without sufficient evidence against him. The Defence Counsel alleged that police are applying murder charges against his client for the mere fact that they want to remand a suspect. He moved Court that the former DIG be released on conditional bail. The Magistrate, however, ordered to remand the suspect, taking the seriousness of the case into consideration.

Meanwhile, top Police sources also said that several other senior Police officers too would be arrested in the near future over the killing of the Rugby player.

“The prime objective of the investigation is to identify who gave the order to kill the Rugby player. That’s why the investigation has taken a step-by-step approach when it comes to arresting suspects,” a highly placed Police source told the Daily News.

Achini takes on Rohitha

Former Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, on Tuesday, was present before the Colombo High Court in connection with a case filed by the Bribery Commission. He was indicted for alleged undeclared wealth amounting to Rs. 4.3 million.

Hours before he was present before court, former Minister Ediriweera Premaratne’s daughter, Achini Ediriweera, launched a scathing attack on the former minister on web and social media platforms.

Ediriweera Premaratne, former Deputy Minister of Buddha Sasana, was the ‘mentor’ of Abeygunaratne when the latter first entered politics in the late 90s.

In her article, Achini Ediriweera, a lawyer domiciled in Perth, Australia, questioned as to how the person who used to be her father’s driver, riding a push cycle, amassed wealth within 10 years after coming to politics.

She said her father made a monumental blunder by bringing Abeygunawardena into politics.

Excerpts from Achini Ediriweera’s article:

“Being my driver isn’t the case, but the point is he fooled my father into thinking he is a good person. My father, who didn’t bring his wife or sons into politics, or give relatives any positions at his office or ministry, due to his principles, gave this man the opportunity. He told my father how much he loved to be in Politics, and how he admired my father’s views. My father appointed HIM instead of my older brother or mother! He made HIM the chairman of the Beruwala council! As the chief organiser for Beruwala/ Kaluthara District, he gave HIM the ticket for the next election at the provincial council, and my father told Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who refused to give him a chance at the parliamentary election, that “Here is my resignation letter, If you don’t give this man the chance in my district!.” Sadly my father didn’t see what Chandrika Kumaratunga saw that moment! There are many who were present when this happened, who can prove this! My father then gave him the seat of Beruwala and said “it would be best if you took my seat, Beruwala, because I have set this up for you now and made you here, and I will move to Agalawatte.”

This was done by my beloved father, because he believed you don’t need to come from a rich background to be what you want! You don’t have to inherit the right to become a politician, you need to have only the “passion” and “hunger to serve the people” and he thought a poor man would know BEST; like my father did, when he came in as a 13 year old. Can you think of any minister who would get on a stage and liken his driver to a son He got on the stage and said, “This is my son in politics” “I see you making your sons and wives a political career, but, This here is my son! Vote for him! I recommend him for you, my Beruwala people!”

His success was not something my father would ever be jealous of because that is what my father gave him, without giving it to even his own son or his wife, like many others did! My oldest brother’s dear friend was already in the parliament back then, and today he is the secretary to the SLFP, whilst my father chose to stand by his principles. Prathipaththi, and trust. He thought this Raththaran would never steal from the nation!”

The Daily News also contacted Minister Abeygunawardena, on Tuesday afternoon, to know if he wished to respond to the content of the article.

Commenting on the matter, Abeygunawardena said he did not read the article, but got to know about it from various sources.

“I don’t want to respond to such a ‘dirty article’. If I decide to respond to ‘dirty articles’, I too will have to resort to dirt,” Abeygunawardena, a staunch Rajapaksa ally, said. 

 


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