Offering alleged inducement to Balapatabendi: Businessman says truth has finally prevailed

Challenges JVP’s Handunetti for an open public debate


Harsha de Silva


With the Bribery Commission dismissing the JVP’s complaint against its Chairman, the businessman accused of offering an inducement to Justice Jagath Balapatabendi, broke his silence last week to declare that the "truth has finally surfaced".

"I am now prepared to come out with the story as the probe into the JVP’s complaint has been concluded by the Commission and the Chairman now stands exonerated", says Harsha de Silva, Chairman, Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Limited.This means the JVP’s complaint has been investigated, and Balapatabendi cleared of any wrong-doing, he explained. "The whole episode smacks of a vendetta to discredit and disgrace an eminent legal luminary, who retired as a Supreme Court (SC) Judge".

"It was ridiculous to assert that I had given a motor car to him to secure a judgment in my favor at the time he served as a SC Judge in 2008, when this vehicle (KG-9321) was originally sold to one C. S. P. Fernando of Mt. Lavinia on September 12, 2006", De Silva told a news conference at the Colombo Hilton.

He said that Vehicles Lanka is a BOI-approved company, which locally assembles and sells automobiles under the make and model ‘Emperor’. In 2006, the Transport Minister prohibited the registration of these vehicles through a Gazette notification. This order was challenged and the Court of Appeal granted interim relief during which period 145 vehicles were registered by the Commissioner General of Motor Traffic.

The petrol motor car in question was amongst that lot, he said, showing journalists a copy of the certificate of registration issued by the Motor Traffic Department for KG-9321. The ‘date of first registration’ was given as June 10, 2008.

Subsequent to the judicial directive annulling the Gazette notification concerned and permitting the registration of vehicles, the Attorney General (AG) in 2008 appealed to the SC against the Court of Appeal judgment, he recalled.

Balapatabendi was a member of the bench headed by then CJ Sarath N. Silva, which allowed the appeal and set aside the Court of Appeal judgment. The AG agreed to the registration of 145 vehicles done earlier, but 410 other vehicles could not be registered at that juncture as a result of this order, De Silva explained. "So, how can this judgment be described as favorable to me?"

Producing relevant documentation, including copies of the judgments, to prove his point, he said that he could not have been aware in advance, unless he had prophetic vision, that the AG would be filing an appeal and Balapatabendi would be hearing it in the SC on a day the case listed before a bench that he happened to be a member.

He said the appeal was called before the SC on two occasions and the final judgment was given by the then CJ Sarath N. Silva and Justices Sripavan and Nihal Gamini Ameratunge.

"After using the vehicle for five years, the owner (Fernando) had transferred it to Balapatabendi on January 13, 2011. There is clear documentary evidence that I sold this vehicle in 2006 and had nothing to do with it thereafter as it was no longer my property", the company’s Chairman noted.

This motor car was registered in terms of an application submitted by Fernando in 2006 and continued to remain under his name until January 2011, he clarified. "At no stage was this motor car given by me to Balapatabendi nor did I sell it to him".

Producing a certified copy of the list of vehicles sold/assembled dated February 10, 2014, he highlighted the buyer’s name (Fernando) with ‘Yes’ in the cage ‘Registration Application Submitted’.

Asked how much this vehicle was worth at that time, he replied, "Rs. 1.5 million. Can a vehicle of that value be offered as an inducement to a SC Judge?"

De Silva denied the assertion that some containers imported by him to assemble vehicles locally had been seized by the Customs. "Therefore, we had no reason to seek the intervention of the SC to release the consignment nor has Balapatabendi participated in any such judgment".

"I am prepared to go to jail if anybody can prove that I offered an inducement to obtain a court order in my favor", De Silva stressed. "It was an attempt by those with vested interests to sling mud".

He challenged JVP parliamentarian, Sunil Handunetti for an open public debate as he had filed a complaint with the Bribery Commission implicating him in this issue. "He should take up this challenge, express regret and retract his statement to the media within two weeks or face legal action".

Responding to charges leveled against him by an MP in Parliament, he said, "I cannot do anything about it as the speeches are covered by parliamentary privilege. I will take recourse to the law if these allegations are made outside the House".

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