Rajapaksas, magistrates and politicos told to release wild elephants or face consequences


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ven. Ulapone Sumangala thera has warned those having wild elephants illegally to hand them over to wildlife authorities or face the consequences.

 Ven. Sumangala was addressing the media on Tuesday (Jan 20) at the National Library and Documentation Services Board on behalf of an anti-corruption watchdog affiliated to the new government.

 Displaying a set of documents pertaining to wild elephants allegedly held by various persons, Ven. Sumangala said that he was having a list of elephant owners.

 "Among the elephant owners are four Rajapaksas, magistrates, members of parliament and businessmen," the monk said. Referring to certain statements attributed to the then wildlife minister Vijith Vijithamuni Zoysa, Ven. Sumangala threatened to expose illegal elephant owners unless they surrendered the poor animals on their own.

 Members of the watchdog committee, President’s Coordinating Secretary Shiral Lakthilake, JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe and attorney-at-law Maiththree Gunaratne directed a series of allegations at the previous administration.

 Alleging that the Media Ministry had received a massive Rs. 1.1 bn allocation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013, the watchdog urged new Media Secretary Karunaratne Paranavithana to inquire into the disbursement of those funds.

 Commenting on painstaking investigations undertaken by the Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) under the leadership of the then senior minister and General Secretary of the Communist Party D.E.W. Gunasekera, the watchdog said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption could use reports made available by the parliamentary watchdog committee.  

When The Island pointed out that present Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, in his previous capacity as Chairman of COPE during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as the President successfully probed a series of corrupt deals, including the sale of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) and sent all reports to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the new government’s watchdog acknowledged the need to inquire into all allegations.

 Attorney-at-law Lakthilake alleged that the previous government had suppressed investigations into the conduct of two ministers representing Kalutara district and Central Province. Lakthilake pointed out that the Commission to Investigate to Allegations of Bribery or Corruption could resume investigations in the wake of the UPFA’s defeat. The watchdog would intervene unless the investigations got underway, Lakthilake warned. "We’ll wait for about a month before taking action."

The watchdog also revealed an instance a top official had obtained a loan after having mortgaged public property for a private purpose. For want of  proper internal audit and effective mechanism to curb fraud, some officials had squandered funds and generally abused state property.

 The watchdog emphasized that all likely suspects, including associates of the Rajapaksas should be investigated. Those who had portrayed themselves as pious Buddhists were in fact thieves. Referring to recent media reports pertaining to the Presidential Secretariat during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure having a fleet of 1,500 vehicles, the watchdog said that the government would have to make sure the vehicles were returned with genuine engines.

 The body  also urged new Governor of the Central Bank Arjun Mahendran to inquire into reports that massive stock of Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 notes had been printed in the run-up to the last presidential poll at the behest of the Central Bank. The group acknowledged that it couldn’t justify allegations and expected the new CB administration to inquire into relevant transactions.


Distribute MR promotional items

An anti-corruption watchdog working closely with the government has urged relevant authorities to explore ways and means of distributing various items seized since the conclusion of the presidential election. JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe said that a range of items which were to be distributed among the electorate in support of UPFA presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa had been recovered from various parts of the country. Among the recovered items were sil clothes, tea sets and wall clocks. If those items were produced in court, they would be wasted; therefore it was better to work out a mechanism to distribute them among the needy.

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