Pathetic End To Weerawansa’s Second ‘Show’
by Nirmala Kannangara (Sunday Leader)
There is no law as such to give bail to a fraudster just because his daughter will be sitting for the O/L examination
He may have thought that President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe will come with a glass of king coconut water. If he really wanted to go on the hunger strike he should have stopped drinking water as well
Weerawansa in his first ‘fast unto death’ drama in July 2010 in front of UN Headquarters in Colombo
The second show performed by the renegade Marxist Weerasangilige Wimal Weerawansa, this time for nine consecutive days to pressurize the country’s judiciary to get bail, had to be called off for the simple reason that no respectable citizen took any interest of him.
Weerawansa, who staged his first ‘fast unto death’ drama in July 2010 in front of UN Headquarters in Colombo to force the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop human rights allegations levelled against Sri Lanka, gave up his ‘acting’ after three days on the request of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Cartoon from Ceylon Today
Although the then government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa was concerned about Weerawansa, it is alleged that the pontificating National Freedom Front Leader may have thought that the present government too would come to save him. Neither the government nor the Joint Opposition, other than a very few, was concerned about Weerawansa.
“He may have thought that President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will come with a glass of king coconut water to make a request to give up the hunger strike. As no one was bothered, he had no other options but to give up the hunger strike after nine days. Unlike in 2010, we assume that he could not hide lemon puff biscuits underneath his pillow as this time there were so many prisoners around him in the cell. Although it says that he continued the hunger strike for nine days, he cannot claim as such as he was given saline at the prison hospital which is a food substitute. If he really wanted to go on the hunger strike he should have stopped drinking water as well,” a prison official said on condition of anonymity.
Weerawansa, who is known to be ‘famous’ for breast-beating displays of patriotism on political platforms to gain cheap publicity, commenced the hunger strike on March 22 following the rejection of his revision bail application the day before by Colombo High Court Judge Vikum Kaluarachchi. He accused the government for witch hunting and claimed that ‘political revenge’ has been perpetrated against him.
“It is interesting to note how Weerawansa off springs too are following their father’s footsteps to get the public empathy. Weerawansa was arrested because he had misappropriated funds to which he has to get the punishment. Now certain politicians in the joint opposition come on TV and shred crocodile tears claiming that they feel sorry for Weerawansa’s children who are longing to get their father back to them from prison. Haven’t they forgotten what they did to Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeth Eknaligoda, Wasim Thajudeen and several others? What was the reason to kill them? When Wickrematunge’s and Eknaligoda’s children were weeping for losing their fathers forever, why couldn’t these politicians talk on their behalf? The suffering of Wasim Thajudeen’s parents – who is there to give them solace. When Sarath Fonseka was dragged to the prison- what would have been his two daughters’ situation. At least Weerawansa is alive for his children to go and see him in prison, but for Thajudeen’s parents, Wickrematunge and Eknaligoda’s children- their fathers are no more in this world,” a legal luminary said on condition of anonymity.
The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) arrested Weerawansa on January 10, under the Public Property Act for misusing state funds to the tune of Rs. 90 million during his tenure as Minister of Housing and Construction from 2011 to 2014.
“On what grounds did Weerawansa protested? He was put behind bars not for any political reason but for his direct involvement in misusing over Rs. 90 million state funds from the State Engineering Corporation. He should also be charged for giving super luxury houses for his and his spouse’s kith and kin for less than Rs. 1 million each although the actual market price is more than Rs. 10 million. In the prison there were few that helped Weerawansa but the majority in his cell kept an eye on him to see whether he takes any food like how he did in front of the UN Office in Colombo few years ago. Although his party claims that he gave up the fast after a request from the Malwathu and Asgiri temples, we never saw the Mahanayaka Theros of these two chapters making any request nor even have issued any statement. Other than a few MPs in the Joint Opposition, no one else even visited him in prison,” the prison official said.
Meanwhile questions have been raised as to why strict action cannot be taken against those who engage in hunger strikes within the prison without any reasonable cause. “First Weerawansa sought bail claiming his daughter is studying for her O/L examination this year and his arrest would cause her mental depress. There is no law as such to give bail to a fraudster just because his daughter will be sitting for the O/L examination. How many mothers and fathers are there in the remand custody whose children are studying for their O/L and A/L examinations? If each and every suspect files bail application seeking bail, bail should be granted. Now Weerawansa is claiming that he being kept behind bars unreasonably as a part of government political witch hunting. Had he not committed any crime and if he is a clean politician as he claims on political platforms, he will be granted bail without any issue. The reason why he started the hunger strike was to pressure the country’s judiciary to secure his release,” sources said.
Although the charges levelled against Weerawansa is the misuse of state funds to a staggering Rs. 90 million to lease luxury vehicles for his and his spouse’s siblings, friends and party members, in the ‘B’ report the FCID has filed in courts, Weerawansa in his statement had stated that he was not aware that neither his relatives nor his friends and party members were given vehicles out of State Engineering Corporation (SEC) funds. However, according to the SEC Sectional Heads, these vehicles had been given to Weerawansa siblings and friends in the guise of assigning to the sectional heads.
However according to the SEC documentary evidence, the 40 vehicles in question, had been hired from 2012 and for year 2014 alone, the SEC had paid Rs. 41.073 million as the monthly rental, fuel, driver’s allowances, overtime and incidental expenses. “Quotations were never called to obtain these vehicles on lease but were taken from Weerawansa’s friends. The family members who were benefited from these vehicles to go on joy rides were:
Ridma Vimukthi Weerawansa (GP-4894 youngest son of Sumanawathi Weerawansa who is Wimal Weerawansa’s eldest sister).
Bombuwala Disawage Ananda Ashoka Kumara ( KI-4648, HQ- 4964, GR- 5774, KA- 7440, KB-6038 and GR 5774 Shahsi Weerawansa’s eldest sister Thanuja Nishanthi’s husband).
Palleperu Gamage Ananda Priyadarshana (GY-4635 Wimal Weerawansa’s youngest sister Nilani Weerawansa’s husband).
Lalith Pushpakumara (KD-4049, GK- 5073, KB- 7053, KW- 6956, GK- 5073 and KP- 4802, Weerawansa’s eldest sister Sumanawathi Weerawansa’s eldest son).
Nalini Weerawansa (JL-8058, Weerawansa’s youngest sister).
Lalith Pushpakumara (KD-4049, GK- 5073, KB- 7053, KW- 6956, GK- 5073 and KP- 4802 Weerawansa’s eldest sister Sumanawathi Weerawansa’s eldest son).
Meanwhile it is also learnt as to how Weerawansa openly flouted government procurement guidelines and offered to the highest bidder – Ceylon Steel Corporation which is allegedly owned by a family member of a powerful politician in the previous regime.
Sources who wished to remain anonymous said how tenders were offered to Ceylon Steel Corporation, which is a foreign company with 6.25% shares owned by Sri Lankans. Although Section 7, sub sections 7.9.5 and 7.9.6 of the Procurement Guideline of 2006, states that when offering tenders, the first preference should be given to the companies that have major shares for Sri Lankans. If the tenderer is the sole owner of the company, the owner should be a Sri Lankan. If it is a joint venture, 50% shares should be owned by Sri Lankan nationals and the company should be registered in Sri Lanka. However on the instructions of Weerawansa, all tenders have been offered to Ceylon Steel Corporation, in which the Sri Lankan ownership is 6.25% while 93.75% is owned by a foreign company – Onyx Heavy Industries and Constructions (Pvt.) Ltd. registered in British Virgin Islands. “This company has clearly mentioned that it is not a Sri Lankan company in its 2013/2014 annual report although Weerawansa wanted his officials to offer all the tenders to them without allowing the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) to follow the procurement guidelines. Whenever tenders were called to supply steel to State Engineering Corporation (SEC), only four bidders – the Ceylon Steel Corporation, Melwire Rolling (Pvt.) Ltd., Indu Sri (Pvt.) Ltd. and G.T.B. Private Limited sent their bids. Other than Melwire Rolling (Pvt.) Ltd., which is a 100% Sri Lankan company, other three bidders were foreign companies. Without considering the local company, the tenders were always offered to the highest bidder – the company that has a link to the powerful politician in the previous regime,” sources added.
According to the SEC Internal Auditors the loss incurred due to bypassing government procurement guidelines are over several millions.
“The tender procedures were not followed after Weerawansa took over office. If the tenders were offered to the lowest bidder – Melwire Rolling (Pvt.) Ltd., the corporation would have saved Rs. 37.275 million,” sources said. According to the Internal Audit report, tender (SDQ/ S-2/ 39,37/ 2011) to purchase steel, Melwire Rolling (Pvt.) Ltd. had submitted their rates as Rs. 92,000 per M/Ton (without VAT and NBT) and Ceylon Steel Corporation Limited Rs.101,200 per M/Ton. Despite of the TEC recommendation, the then Chairman Jagath Kumara Perera had allegedly offered the tender to Ceylon Steel Corporation claiming it is a local company.
“It was the same procedure that had been followed in 2012 as well. When tenders (SDO/S-2/45/2012) were called to supply steel for year 2012, GTB (Pvt.) Limited, Ceylon Steel Corporation, Indu Sri (Pvt.) Ltd. and Melwire Rolling (Pvt.) Ltd. submitted their prices but the TEC rejected Melwire application for technical issues. Instead of offering to the lowest bidder, the then Chairman had offered the tender to Ceylon Steel Corporation once again claiming it to be a pure Sri Lankan venture. How could Perera claim as such when there were reports that this is a foreign company and only 6.25% shares are owned by Sri Lankans,” sources claimed. Sources further said how the SEC purchased steel without calling for tenders in 2013 and 2014 from Ceylon Steel Corporation.
“Although tenders were called (No: SDQ/ S-2/ 45/ 2012) to supply 150 M/Tons and as its value was over Rs. 50 million, and a ministry officials should have been a member of the Procurement Committee, only the Chairman and the Deputy General Manager had given the approval to the highest bidder. As a result of these malpractices with the direct involvement of Weerawansa, the country has lost millions of rupees,” sources added.
Weerawansa is also under fire for misusing a sum exceeding Rs. 60 million to gift houses for his and his wife’s siblings from Kahathuduwa and Mattegoda Housing Schemes for a mere three to ten percent value of the total cost and waiving off the balance. These luxury houses have taken back by the owners – Ocean View Development (Pvt.) Ltd., – a 57% share is owned by the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) and 43% by the Urban Development Authority (UDA).
According to the spokesman of the Ocean View Development (Pvt.) Ltd., these houses had been constructed using the best building materials as from the initial stage it was planned to hand over to Weerawansa kith and kin. After the change of regime, when the Weerawansa siblings who were occupying these houses were instructed to pay the balance and to get the ownership, they had refused to pay claiming that they do not have money.
“When their identity cards were checked, Weerawansa’s brother’s designation was given as a mason. So how can a mason own a Rs. 15 million house if not for the government sponsored ‘gift’. However we were able to get the houses back but failed to sell them as we cannot sell them for a lesser amount considering its floor area and the best materials that were used for the construction,” the spokesman said.
According to the spokesman the sale price of lot 16-D house at the Mattegoda Housing Scheme given to Vadachcharige Hemasiri, Weerawansa’s sister’s husband, was Rs. 9.954 million, Lot 10-B given to Palleperuwa Gamage Ananda Priyadharshana, husband of Weerawansa’s another sister, was Rs. 10.178 million. The sale prices of the Kahatuduwa Housing Scheme Lot 10-B4 given to Isuru Tharangamala Muthu Ranaweera, Weerawansa’s brother’s wife, was Rs. 8.5 million, Lot 5-B4 given to Vadachcharige Hemasiri, Weerawansa’s sister’s husband Rs. 8.5 million, Lot 35-B3 given to Palathegedara Vasantha Rupasinghe, Shahsi Weerawansa’s brother’s wife was Rs. 9.8 million, Lot No: 5-B5 given to Hewa Geeganage Wathsala Kumarasinghe, Weerawansa’s eldest sister’s son’s wife was Rs. 9.5 million.
“We have documents to say how these parties have sent small pieces of paper to the then Chairman, Ocean View Development Company requesting to grant them houses. Interestingly, these requests have been granted within less than two weeks without even checking whether these parties are financially sound to pay back the money within 24 months. If the Developer sold these houses following the government procedure, then the company should have entered into agreements with the parties and should have asked them to pay the monthly installments which they have never complied with,” sources alleged.