Arjuna alleges SLPA regularly paid nearly a dozen journalists

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday alleged that a section of the media had received regular payments from Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) over a period of time.

Former national cricket captain Ranatunga said nearly a dozen journalists had been on SLPA’s payroll and at least two of them for a long time. The minister was on live Sirasa political programme Pethikada hosted by Bandula Jayasekera.

Ranatunga claimed that those who had fiercely attacked him over

Arjuna…  his brother, Dhammika, being given the post of SLPA Chairman had been bribed by the previous SLPA administration.

The accusation was made close on the heels of Social Empowerment and Welfare Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake alleging that two senior journalists were among 300 persons paid by the disgraced Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS).

Strongly defending Dhammika’s appointment, Gampaha District MP emphasised that the move was meant to ensure a corruption-free administration. The UNPer revealed that he had briefed President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Dhammika’s appointment. Ranatunga quoted President Maithripala Sirisena as having told him that his move would result in heavy media flak. Ranatunga alleged that those who had benefited from the SLPA during the previous administration caused a media furore over his decision.

When the interviewer pointed out that Ranatunga had been among those who accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of nepotism, Ranatunga said that he had opposed a family getting together to indulge in waste, corruption and malpractices.

Ranatunga endorsed former President Rajapaksa naming retired Gajaba Regiment veteran Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the Secretary Defence in the run-up to eelam war IV. Ranatunga, while paying a glowing tribute to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for spearheading the overall war effort said that the same couldn’t be said about the Rajapaksas after the military brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Asked whether any other outsiders had received regular payments from the SLPA in addition to journalists, Ranatunga said that many had benefited. Alleging that trade unions, too, had received various benefits, Ranatunga said that he was making a determined bid to end wasteful practices. The minister insisted that he wouldn’t tolerate past practices and would go all out against those seeking financial gain at the expense of the vital establishment.

Navy-Commander-Wasantha-Karannagoda-Ranatunga claimed that the Hambantota port had been a huge burden on the Colombo port.

The previous administrations had granted substantial increments to workers without taking into consideration the actual financial situation, the minister said. The system would have collapsed if the January change didn’t take place, Ranatunga said.

Asked whether he would take punitive action against Dhammika Ranatunga in case the latter being exposed for wrongdoing Minister Ranatunga said that he may make mistakes but certainly not engage in corrupt practices.

Ranatunga also declared that he wouldn’t contest the Sri Lanka Cricket presidency thereby leaving his brother Nishantha to battle it out with UPFA MP and Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala. Having publicly discussed his candidature in the recent past, Ranatunga endorsed Nishantha’s bid by asserting that Sumathipala couldn’t represent SLC at the world body due to some of the businesses he was involved in.

At the behest of the International Cricket Council, SLC has made arrangements to hold elections on Jan. 3, 2016. Ranatunga said that he would contest for the post of Vice President in Nishantha Ranatunga’s team. Ranatunga will hand over his nomination to Sports Ministry today.