2019 prez poll: Nagananda denies being British agent, reveals failed bid to contest on JVP ticket



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Presidential candidate attorney-at-law Nagananda Kodituwakku on Saturday (20) denied being a British agent, exploiting the current political crisis to undermine democracy here.

Kodituwakku said that he decided to contest the forthcoming 2019 presidential poll as he felt the two major political parties and those aligned with them as well as the JVP had pathetically failed the country. Kodituwakku said so at a gathering at Kurunduwatte road, Daluwakotuwa.

Among those present were retired public servants and former People’s Alliance MP Ananda Munasinghe.

Kodituwakku was responding to a question raised by a member of the audience after he addressed the gathering. Pointing out continuing US interventions in Sri Lanka, a member of the public asked whether the lawyer served Western interests as a British passport holder.

The presidential candidate recalled as to how the then Solicitor General Dappula de Livera during proceedings in Supreme Court on May 15, 2018 in respect of a case against him (Kodituwakku) over a statement he made before the then Court of Appeal President Justice Vijith Malalgoda in 2015, alleged the lawyer being a British agent bent on destroying the judiciary here.

The Supreme Court issued a restraining order in March 2019 preventing him from practicing as a lawyer for a period of three years.

UK citizenship renounced

Kodituwakku said that he took tangible measures to renounce his British citizenship tn enable him to contest the 2019 presidential election. Kodituwakku explained as to how he informed Secretary of State for the Home Department in writing on Aug 15, 2018 and July 05, 2019 his decision to renounce British citizenship as the Sri Lanka Constitution stipulated that no dual citizen could contest presidential or parliamentary election.

Kodituwakku read out at the Dankotuwa gathering a section of his letter dated July 05, 2019 addressed to Secretary of State for the Home Department. Kodituwakku: "It is estimated that over 170,000 Sri Lankans domiciled in Britain have left the country, which is under siege by corrupt politicians who occupy public office in the legislature and the executive and rob the nation with total impunity while keeping the judiciary under their firm control."

Kodituwakku said that he along with his family fled Sri Lanka and secured British citizenship in 2001 during the Kumaratunga administration as they faced death threats. Kodituwakku said that he was targeted for performing legitimate duties as the then head of the fraud investigation directorate of the Customs Department (Revenue Task Force).

While denying being a British agent, Kodituwakku revealed that he appealed to the Commonwealth Secretary General to pressure the Sri Lankan government to free the judiciary from its grip and allow the functioning of the judiciary in accordance with Latimar House principles. Kodituwakku said that he made this request in late April 2018.

The ex-top customs officer said: "At the beginning of my campaign many expressed concern. They felt it was a herculean task. Some accused me of being an agent of Pohottuwa. Others alleged I served the interests of the UNP. But let me tell you, I’m prepared to go the whole hog."

Call for constitutional revolution

Kodituwakku addressed the gathering after Roshan Karawanella, the National Organizer of his propaganda campaign called for a genuine people’s movement to change the existing corrupt system. Karawanella explained as to how those entrenched in parliament abused, exploited and raped the public for over seven decades. Referring to abortive1971 and 1987-1990 JVP inspired insurgencies, Karawanella said Sri Lanka needed a Constitutional revolution to save the country. Karawanella recollected as to how a smiling minister commented on the Easter Sunday carnage at a media briefing at Temple Trees much to the anger and disappointment of the public. His conduct at that particular media briefing reflected the thinking of those now enjoying power.

At the commencement of the Daluwakotuwa meeting, the participants observed two minute silence in memory of those who perished in April 21 attacks.

Kodituwakku said that President Maithripala Sirisena, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and those responsible for security couldn’t absolve themselves of responsibility for failing to thwart the Easter attacks in spite of having advanced warning. There couldn’t be a better instance to show as to how negligence at the highest level caused death and destruction.

He attributed the rapid deterioration of parliament to an utterly corrupt system that allowed all political parties to accommodate defeated candidates on the National List. The suspended lawyer said that it was one of the primary reasons for sharp drop in parliamentary standards. The JVP, too, contributed to the current situation by accommodating two of its defeated candidates on its National List, he said. Kodituwakku said that the country suffered for want of an administration that upheld the rule of law.

Former AG joins Naga

During the question and answer session, Kodituwakku alleged the JVP squandered an opportunity to field him as its candidate at the 2019 presidential poll. Kodituwakku attributed the JVP’s reluctance to it pursuing an agenda for the benefit of the party. Kodituwakku asserted that the JVP felt threatened by the possibility of it losing even the six parliamentary seats. Perhaps the JVP, too, liked the current corrupt system, Kodituwakku said, revealing that he was in touch with former Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe.

The JVP, twice fielded presidential candidates in 1982 (Rohana Wijeweera) and 1999 (Nandana Gunatilleke). At 2010 and 2015 presidential election, the JVP joined UNP led coalition that backed retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena, respectively.

Kodituwakku said that the JVP could have really taken up this challenge. Instead, it betrayed common cause of the people, he said. However, in spite of the JVP’s absence, Kodituwakku declared growing support from professionals with Gamini Wijesinghe joining the campaign. "We are hoping to launch a fresh initiative in Australia within weeks," Kodituwakku said, adding that there was growing anger among the people over the way the country was being ruined by a set of thieves.

Kodituwakku said that as he had renounced the British citizenship, he would soon apply for Australian visa to launch the campaign there with Gamini Wijesinghe’s participation.

During the question and answer session, Kodituwakku said that some interested parties had alleged he was planning to flee the country after collecting campaign funds amounting to Rs. 750 mn. The former Customs official said that a system was in place to accept campaign funds. "Funds will be received by a bank. During recent campaigning in Italy, Switzerland, Japan and UK funds were not accepted personally."

Naga to go it alone

Responding to another query, Kodituwakku claimed that he wouldn’t under any circumstances pay for a recognized political party to use its symbol. Declaring there were some 70 recognized political parties, Kodituwakku claimed some of those who had registered political parties would trade them for approximately Rs 10 mn. Kodituwakku revealed that there was a continuing dispute over a certain party not paying the promised full amount following taking over of a political party.

Kodituwakku said that the despicable practice could be stopped if the Elections Commission resumed registration of political parties. According to him, registration of new parties was put on hold pending holding of elections to two Local Government authorities. Kodituwakku said that he expected the Election Commission to take tangible measures to stop the corrupt practice.

Asked whether he intended to seek nomination through a registered political party, Kodituwakku said that he didn’t want to be taken for a ride. Kodituwakku indicated that he would contest as an independent.

The presidential contestant said that those who paid homage to Thirupathi deceived all shamelessly.

Responding to social media accusations that he, too, had been a corrupt Customs official, Kodituwakku explained the circumstances he was arrested on false bribe taking charge on Feb 13, 1986. Kodituwakku said as he received death threats, prison authorities held him in a cell used to hold those on the death row. Kodituwakku said that he was cleared of all charges in 1991. Kodituwakku said that he got into serious trouble in 2001 in the wake of the imposition of Rs 4 mn fine on four persons, including two national cricketers following an inquiry into tax fraud. As the then government refused to ensure his security and that of his family, they had no option but to flee the country. Kodituwakku said that they left the country on Sept 21, 2001 and returned in 2009 with the successful conclusion of the conflict.

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