Govt. chided over Welisara corona eruption, Thonda’s funeral

Kiriella: ‘We are wealthy, won’t rob ...’


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Kandy District Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) candidate Lakshman Kiriella said that his family had more than enough funds and assets, and, therefore, there was no need to indulge in corruption. Responding to a query on ‘Salakuna’ TV programme, the former Leader of the House said that he had declared that the Kiriella family was having Rs 500 mn some time back.

Claiming that neither he nor his daughter, who served on his staff, had received kickbacks during the previous administration, Kiriella said that his family and his wife’s family owned 25,000 acres.

Hiru raised the issue in the wake of former minister Kiriella strongly denying any sort of impropriety as regards the much discussed though not fully implemented Central Highway project.

The former minister claimed that he was the lawmaker to make such a declaration in Parliament.

Kiriella said that during the previous administration they were able to launch only the second phase of the project (Mirigama-Pothuhera stretch). He claimed that of the 40 km stretch, contractors had been able to finish 37 kms so far, ex-lawmaker said that the first phase (Kadawatha-Mirigama stretch)for which the previous Rajapaksa administration had signed an agreement with China couldn’t be launched as the funding was not made available to the UNP government.

Kiriella claimed that the third phase (Pothuhera-Galagedara) couldn’t be implemented in spite of no less a person than the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe finalizing a funding agreement with Japan. The former minister said that they couldn’t go ahead with the project as the Attorney General’s Department objected to what he called tough conditions laid down by the Japanese.

When one of the interviewers sought an explanation as to why Kiriella remained quiet in the wake of Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016 until he switched allegiance to the SJB, the former MP said that he couldn’t deny what was pointed out to him.

Referring to the Presidential Commission on Treasury Bond scams, the former UNPer said that the losses caused by the first had been estimated at Rs 11 bn. However, Rs 16 bn belonging to the Perpetual Treasuries Limited were held by the banks, therefore losses could be recovered, the former minister said.

The former Leader of the House on several occasions clashed with the panel of journalists with the leading interviewer Chamuditha Samarawickrema offering to switch seats with the SJB heavyweight.

 Kiriella alleged that the country was in turmoil with the SLPP administration struggling to cope up with the situation. Pointing out that the government found it difficult to pay the salaries of public sector workers in the wake of economic downturn caused by corona epidemic, Kiriella challenged the media to tell what the new administration had achieved since the last presidential poll.

The interviewer pointed out that the continuing corona crisis was a global issue not a domestic problem as pointed out by the former minister.

Kiriella and interviewers clashed over allegations and counter-accusations regarding suppressing of data pertaining to coronavirus epidemic. The former lawmaker questioned the credibility of the figures released by the government.

He claimed that the country had to pay a very heavy price due to the failure on the part of the government to take sufficient precautions as soon as threat posed by corona was brought to its notice. The former minister pointed out that their leader Sajith Premadasa warned of the impending threat as early as January 24 though the government delayed required response till late March.

Kiriella questioned the way the government handled the crisis at Welisara Navy base as well as the funeral of late Arumugam Thondaman. In spite of vowing to ensure strict compliance with quarantine measures as the government allowed the resumption of economic activity, organizers of VIP funeral were allowed a free hand. The police disappeared as the late CWC leader’s people violated measures in place to curb the highly contagious disease.

Kiriella said that if 60,000 had been arrested for violating curfew, 50,000 should have been taken in for violations committed since Tuesday (26), the day Arumugam Thondaman died and the funeral on Sunday (31).

Responding to another query, Kiriella said that the time was not conducive to conduct parliamentary polls. The former minister said that in case the polls were held before normalcy was restored, voting percentage could be as low as 40 to 45 per cent.

When the media pointed out that South Korea held national elections at the height of corona epidemic, the former minister said that the situation here couldn’t be compared with developed South Korea under any circumstances. Kiriella said that a substantial number of South Koreans voted online and their polling booths were fully equipped to meet the health threat.

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