- Probe called by the UNP
by Nirmala Kannangara
According to the Minister of Mass Media Gayantha Karunathilake, once the investigation is concluded, the entire country will come to know how the Rajapaksas, who boasted of being patriots, had allegedly strengthened the LTTE by funding them with billions of taxpayers’ money. Following a request made recently by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and a group of UNP backbenchers from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to initiate an investigation into the alleged money transactions, which led to the defeat of the then Presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government is to make a request to further investigate the matter as to how the Rajapaksa regime had allegedly given money to the LTTE.
The secret transaction was first exposed by campaign manager of former Presidnet Mahinda Rajapaksa during the 2005 Presidential election, the late MP Sripathy Suriyarachchi. He revealed details into this alleged multi-million-rupee transaction in Parliament on July 26, 2007. He was followed by former MP Tiran Alles, who also came out openly on how he had allegedly got Emil Kanthan, who was one of his business partners to support the Rajapaksa’s 2005 presidential election campaign. Alles revealed this after his residence came under a bomb attack. However, soon after the SLFP dissident Suriyarachchi exposed the Rajapaksa-LTTE deal, he was killed in an allegedly freak accident on February 9, 2008 while on his way back to Colombo from Anuradhapura.
According to Suriyarachchi, after obtaining nominations as the presidential candidate, the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had allegedly made a request from some of his loyalists to get the LTTE support to boycott the election in the Northern Province as his opponent UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe had a good response in the North. Hence, Suriyarachchi and former Minister Basil Rajapaksa together with the former Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara and former Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge had allegedly met LTTE front liner Emil Kanthan, who was closely known to Tiran Alles at the latter’s office in Rosmead Place, to find out as to how the LTTE could support Rajapaksa win the 2005 presidential election.
As a result, UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe was defeated by Mahinda Rajapaksa with a slim margin of 186,000 votes. According to the statement made by Suriyarachchi, when Emil Kanthan had allegedly agreed to prevent the Tamils from voting to support the Rajapaksa campaign, Basil Rajapaksa had allegedly wanted Emil Kanthan to ask any favour in return to which Emil Kanthan had told that his organization needed Rs.180 million to purchase boats. Basil Rajapaksa had allegedly promptly agreed to provide the money.
Hence, the first ‘installment’ of Rs.180 million was allegedly piled in several suitcases and handed over to Emil Kanthan before the elections promising to seal the deal after Rajapkasa victory. The rest of the money had allegedly been siphoned to the LTTE through Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) through two construction companies in the North that were allegedly owned by LTTE loyalists. Meanwhile, according to a former audit officer attached to the Auditor General’s Department, who wished to remain anonymous, he was a member of the audit team that carried out the RADA audits in 2007. The officer said how they had found out many financial discrepancies that had taken place at RADA when releasing funds to the two construction companies to build 1,200 houses for those who had lost houses due to the tsunami and the war. Sources also claimed how shocking it was to hear the former Acting Auditor General informing the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in July this year that the Auditor General’s Department had not carried out any audits at RADA.
“When this case came up, the CID wanted the Auditor General’s Department to submit the government audit reports to them to find out the scams that had taken place after the 2005 presidential election. To our utter surprise, the former acting auditor general had said that the department had not carried out any audits in order to cover up the Rajapaksa,” sources said. The sources said that it was not true and that if a proper investigation is carried out, the CID will be able to take all the RADA audit files where audit queries, answers sent for the queries and the final audit report could be found. “When a statement is made that no government audits had been done at RADA, it could result in many questions. Either the former acting auditor general may have destroyed those files, which is illegal or may have hidden them somewhere,” sources claimed. According to sources, although there are details that payments had been made to two construction companies, there was no proper evidence as to what purpose those payments had been made.
“All our attempts to get details into most of the payments were averted as the RADA management did not corporate with us. As a final attempt, we wanted to visit this project and see how many houses have been built and gather an idea as to how much it would have cost as construction expenses. When we made a request to go to the north to physically check the developments, we were stopped claiming that the Ministry of Defence does not allow anyone to travel beyond Omanthai checkpoint and prevented us from carrying out our duty,” sources said. Sources further said that RADA knew that if the government audit officers were allowed to travel to the north, it would have revealed that not a single house had been built although the tax payers’ money had been siphoned off to an unknown party. Meanwhile, a former officer attached to RADA, on grounds of anonymity said that the institution was formed soon after the 2004 December tsunami in order to construct houses for those who lost their houses to the tidal waves.
“The housing project to build houses in the north was called – Jayalanka Housing Project and two companies B&K Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. in Vavuniya and Everest Civil Engineering Services, Vavuniya were offered the contract to build the houses,” sources added. Sources further said as to how the RADA staff was surprised when these two construction companies, which were allegedly owned by the LTTE, were selected when they were not even registered under the Institution of Construction Training and Development (ICTAD), which is mandatory when giving contracts to projects valued over Rs. 100 million.
“For this project, there wasn’t a cabinet procurement committee approval nor was the ICTAD registration as these two companies were alleged to have got incorporated a few weeks after Rajapaksa was sworn in as the President in 2005. We were also told the reason why this contract was offered to these bogus construction companies because their quotations were the cheapest. I can vaguely remember that both these two companies is said to have quoted the same price for a housing unit and B&K Holdings and Everest Civil Engineering Services were given the task to construct 400 housing units each while another 400 housing units were to be constructed in an unidentified location in the Northern Province,” sources said.
Attempts by The Sunday Leader to get a comment from Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake about the alleged conspiracy in 2005 that resulted in Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the 2005 presidential election failed.