Wijeyadasa hits back at Fonseka

Alleges SF’s son-in-law sought release of Rs. 887 mn held by govt

Reveals bid to take over Avant Garde’s lucrative business


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, yesterday alleged that the on-going onslaught on the Avant Garde Maritime Services was meant to pave the way for another local venture to take over the lucrative business.

Minister Rajapakse alleged that the present government was under heavy pressure to move against Avant Garde Maritime Services to enable a takeover.

The Justice Minister was responding to the spate of allegations directed at him by Democratic Party Leader and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, at a special media briefing held at his main party office at Pelawatte, Battaramulla on Thursday. The former Army Chief also accused Law and Order and Prisons Reforms Minister Tilak Marapana and Public Administration Minister Vajira Abeywardena of having clandestine relationship with the company under a cloud.

Fonseka accused Rajapakse of receiving money from Avant Garde owner retired Major Nissanka Senadhipathy, formerly of the Army Commando Regiment.

Reiterating that he hadn’t taken anything from Avant Garde, Rajapakse insisted that a law suit would be soon filed against the Field Marshal seeking damages to the tune of Rs. 500 mn. Recalling JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s accusations regarding his alleged relationship with Avant Garde, Rajapakshe challenged his critics to prove the much-touted claims. The Justice Minister promised to quit politics if accusations against him were proved.

The Justice Minister declared that there was absolutely no basis for allegations that the Avant Garde project in any way threatened or undermined national security. An attempt was being made to portray him, the minister in charge of the police (Marapana), Attorney General as well as the Solicitor General as persons ignorant of the law, the Justice Minister said.

When The Island reminded the President’s Counsel that those who had campaigned against President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last presidential election had repeatedly described Avant Garde project as one of the most corrupt deals done by the Rajapaksas, the Justice Minister said that there had been many corrupt deals though the Avant Garde wasn’t one of them. The minister said that he had strongly opposed the arrest of former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in connection with the Avant Garde investigation. The Justice Minister alleged that Fonseka had pushed for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s arrest regardless of consequences. The former Army Chief was among those who used the Avant Garde inquiry to take the former Defence Secretary into police custody, the Minister alleged.

The minister said that the Avant Garde had brought in foreign exchange to the tune of Rs. 16,000 mn over the years. Of that amount, the government had received foreign exchange to the tune of Rs. 3,500 mn. The minister said that the AG had instructed the IGP to examine allegations pertaining to money laundering.

When it was pointed out that Ministers, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Dr Rajitha Senaratne, too, had backed the allegations against Avant Garde, the Justice Minister said that whatever the interpretations, everything would depend on the AG’s ruling.

Rajapakshe accused Fonseka of pursuing a personal vendetta in spite of him being his lawyer during the 2010 presidential election campaign. The minister revealed that Fonseka had received Rs. 5 mn from persons known to him (Rajapakshe) at his Nawala residence. "My associates provided over Rs. 100 mn to Fonseka and he received donations to the tune of over Rs. 2,000."

Calling Fonseka an ungrateful, revengeful person, the Justice Minister declared that the former Common candidate hadn’t spent a single cent out of his pocket on his presidential election campaign. Rajapakse said that his residence at Kirulapona, too, was allowed to be used as Fonseka’s campaign office in Colombo. "In fact, the UNP provided clothes required by the then Common candidate. I took the clothes to him. Today, he accuses me of taking money from Avant Garde."

Having provided an operating theatre to the Maharagama Cancer Hospital with his own funds, there was no need for him to depend on any clandestine relationship to secure funds, the Justice Minister said.

According to Rajapakse, Fonseka had a list of persons to be arrested immediately after the change of government he (Rajapakse) however resisted taking any indiscriminate action. "The people never voted us into power to cook up cases against those who had been in power," the Justice Minister said.

Rajapakse attributed his declaration that there hadn’t been any computer jilmmaat (fraud) at the January 2010 presidential election infuriated the unsuccessful candidate. The minister said that there had never been an attempt to manipulate the final result though the loser kept on propagating lies.

Fonseka also reacted angrily to his refusal to immediately release Rs. 887 mn held by the government in connection with the Hi Corp case, the minister said. Fonseka’s son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne had sought the release of the funds with the knowledge of the former army commander, the minister said, adding that funds wouldn’t be released without further inquiries.

The minister emphasised that the Field Marshal couldn’t have his way. Alleging that the former Army commander didn’t know at least how to address people properly, the Justice Minister said that he had mistakenly thought Fonseka would mend his ways after being appointed Field Marshal. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been the case, the minister said.

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