Sapphire gate: Wimal will
produce irrefutable evidence

Muslim presidential candidate,
presidential advisor implicated

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, yesterday said that he had both photographic and audio evidence to implicate UNP National List and Muslim presidential candidate, MP Myown Mustapha, and presidential advisor Nazeer Ahmed in an attempt to bribe NFF member, M. Musammil, MP.

Mustapha quit the presidential race last Friday (Jan 15) to throw his weight behind the Opposition presidential candidate General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka.

At a press conference called by the NFF yesterday, Weerawansa produced a CD which contained conversations involving Mustapha, Musammil and two others, including a UNP MP. Releasing copies of the CD to print and electronic media at yesterday’s briefing, Weerawansa said that this was only a fraction of what Musammil had recorded over the past several days. He said that their lawyers had advised them not to release the entire lot as it could be detrimental to legal proceedings.

Weerawansa said that the NFF would go before the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption within the next few days. "We’ll produce everything, including wads and wads of money received by Musammil from Mustapha before the Bribery Commission," he said. Responding to media queries, he said that they did not want to alert the Bribery Commission to ensure that there wouldn’t be any leak about their ‘operation.’

The former JVP heavyweight said that his colleague had taken a huge personal risk by exposing a clandestine operation targeting government MPs ahead of the presidential polls. "What he did was amazing. He had obtained irrefutable evidence to prove a conspiracy to bribe MPs," he said while emphasising the importance of bringing in the required Constitutional Amendments to prevent MPs switching their allegiance for personal gain. He said that there was nothing wrong in lawmakers joining another party over serious differences of opinion but it would be nothing but a crime to accept money or any other perks and privileges to change sides. He emphasised that Musammil exposed the Opposition operation for the sake of the country.

Weerawansa urged the media not to play politics with the issue but to report facts. Referring to yesterday’s The Sunday Island lead story The mud continues to fly, the MP stressed that their operation could not be considered a mud slinging campaign.

Musammil said that Mustapha invited him to join the Fonseka camp on January 5 in Parliament. "I immediately brought this to the notice of Weerawansa, who wanted me to put everything in writing. Once that was done, we responded to Mustapha’s proposals, positively and gradually won his confidence," he said. The UPFA National List MP said that they had haggled over the payment the Opposition was willing to pay him. Ultimately, the Opposition had agreed on a Rs. 30 million payment, he said, revealing Mustapha went to the extent of arranging a meeting between him and a top UNP official on the night of Thaipongal. The MP said that he was accompanied by Mustapha and Nazeer Ahmed and there had been another person.

Weerawansa also released a section of the conversation which had taken place at the UNP official’s residence. Musammil said that during the discussion there, he was asked to discredit Weerawansa the following day by disputing two major allegations levelled against Opposition presidential candidate General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka. "They asked me to dispute damaging allegation on a secret deal between the UNP-JVP combine and the TNA and accusations of alleged Hicorp deals," he said. Musammil said that he used a special recording device to record the conversation.

Turning towards Weerawansa, Musammil said that he had to criticise the party leader in his conversation with the Opposition to win their confidence.

Musammil said that at one point Mustapha and the UNP official disagreed on the venue where he (Musammil) was going to meet the media. "Then the official contacted a UNP MP over the phone and discussed the venue," he said. The CD released by the NFF contained the discussion among the official, the MP and Mustapha. In all conversations, Musammil’s voice was clearly audible.

"We agreed to meet at the Hotel Sapphire the following day," he said.

According to him, the NFF had secretly videoed when the bag containing money changed hands. Both Mustapha and Nazeer Ahmed are pictured with Musammil in Room 205 in another CD released by the NFF. The MP said that at the time of the transaction, Mustapha and Ahmed had not quit the government. He revealed that Mustapha had booked Room 205 and 202 to finalise the deal.

Musammil said that as agreed he accompanied Mustapha to a major Opposition media briefing on Friday to allow the media to record his presence among Opposition members before fleeing the premises. "They pursued me. I had to run a quite a distance before getting into a three wheeler near the UN in Colombo," he said.

A laughing Musammil said that the management of the Hotel Sapphire had subsequently contacted him asking for Mustapha’s contact numbers as he had not settled the payment for two rooms.

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