Ports and Civil Aviation Minister Mangala
Samaraweera yesterday admitted that he had used government funds
to mount an elevator in his double-storey official residence,
but said defiantly that he wasnít planning to take it home with
He also denied newspaper reports that it had
cost ten million rupees to install. "It was a Korean lift and
cost less than three million rupees," he told the Sunday
Island. "It was chosen through a tender process and was the
cheapest of three models."
According to reports, Samaraweera (who has often
proved himself very generous with government money) had
installed the convienience for the benefit of his ailing mother,
who found it difficult to go up one floor via the stairs. Asked
whether there wasnít a ground floor room to be found for his
mother, Samaraweera claimed: "Itís wasnít put there only for
mother... itís for my mother and all other mothers after mine."
It wasnít immediately clear whether Samaraweera
believed that all other ministers after him would also bring
their ailing mothers to this official residence and, therefore,
find an elevator to be essential.
Elaborating, Samaraweera said it was his
practice to upgrade even the offices he uses. "I have just
redone my office," he said, cheekily. "Iím sure the Ravaya and
Sunday Leader newspapers will have a supplement on that."
Asked whether it was the right time to spend
scarce money on installing elevators, Samaraweera said: "Why
not? Itís not a huge expense. And since it seems like the
government will go on for another forty years, I may use it when
I grow old."
Samaraweera also contended that the lift was not
a waste because it had been mounted in the official abode
(located at Bauddhaloka Mawatha) and not his personal residence.
"Itís not something I will be taking home with me, when I
leave," he said.
Ravaya reports that the elevator had been bought
from Access International and that it had cost 3.5 million
rupees from the Ports Authorityís petty cash. The steel
structure required to mount it had cost around 5 million rupees
and had been constructed by the Ports Authorityís engineering
division, Ravaya says.
Ports Authority engineers, electricians,
vehicles and other resources had been deployed to execute the
operation. The newspaper also writes that the lift is suited for
use in a building with a minimum of six stories and major
modifications have had to be made in order to fix it at
Samaraweeraís official residence.
In the early post-independence years, Central
Bank Governor N. U. Jayawardena was sacked from his post by Sir
John Kotelwala, one of the reasons being that he had used state
funds to install a lift in his official residence for the
benefit of his wife.