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Piyasiri refuses to answer queries
Says summoned media to only note what he says

Newly appointed NFF non-Cabinet Cultural Minister, Piyasiri Wijenayake yesterday refused to answer queries by journalists at a press briefing on his exorbitant car rental, saying that he had summoned the briefing to get journalists take down what he said, but not to answer their questions.

"I called you here to take down my statement. Your questions could be answered next time. Thank you," he said getting up from the conference at Sethsiripaya to explain the controversy which erupted with latest revelation that Minister Wijenayake`s sedan cost the public purse Rs. 268,650 a month, besides a monthly fuel bill of about Rs. 108,000.

He said that a minister is entitled to three vehicles, but he was using only one. "I had to make four trips to Polonnaruwa to attend the State Literary Festival. If I had taken all three vehicles, the expenditure would have been three times the present amount. I do not have a private telephone and one of the personal computers given to me is broken," Minister Wijenayake said.

He said that there was a conspiracy against the government’s move to create a cultural renaissance and those conspirators were slinging mud at him.

He lamented that even his private secretary had not been given a vehicle and said the actual amount of money spent on fuel for the month of July was some forty thousand. He said that he had other businesses to attend on the day UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera disclosed in Parliament that Minister Wijenayake`s car’s cost was Rs. 268,650 a month, besides a monthly fuel bill of about Rs. 108,000, and therefore did not make a reply in Parliament.

He said that just three days before MP Jayasekera made this public in Parliament, he had written a letter to the Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, that vehicle bearing the number WPGY 0386 assigned to him was consuming a lot of fuel.

Questioned as to why the Minister, who made a speech to the House on the same day two hours after the accusation was levelled against him, did not make this reply in Parliament, the Minister said that he was not there to answer the questions of journalists and the event was not a press conference.

Then the journalists produced the invitation sent to them by the Minister inviting for a press conference. Minister Wijenayake said that he apologised for the error on the Ministry invitation and said that the journalists had been summoned there only to take down his statement, if there were questions, they would be answered some other day.

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