By Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe countered accusations made by Opposition lawmaker Dinesh Gunwardena that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was being ill-treated by listing the facilities he had been provided with.
According to the Presidents Entitlements Act No. 4 of 1986 and the 503/2005 FR Supreme Court petition, a former President is entitled to two official residences and one safe house.
“President Maithripala Sirisena has decided not to use the President’s House in Fort. Instead he will use the house at No. 61 Paget Road, Colombo 07. So the current house he is using at Vijayarama Mawatha could be given to former President Rajapaksa. We can provide the former President with a different house if he has any concerns. So we need to know his preference,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe told the Parliament yesterday, responding to the questions Gunawardena raised through Parliament Standing Orders 23-2.
Even though it is unethical to reveal the strength of the security provided to a VVIP, the Prime Minister’s response included the breakdown of the personal security cadre and vehicles allocated to the former President.
According to the list, former President Rajapaksa has been allocated 105 policemen, including three assistant superintendents, two chief inspectors, seven inspectors, eight sub-inspectors, one female sub-inspector and 21 police sergeants. Apart from these, 14 military officers and 90 other ranked personnel are included in the former President’s security detail, which falls under the direct command of a Colonel who is responsible for these 103 military personnel from all three forces,” stressed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who revealed that both President Sirisena and himself had fewer security measures.
“As for the vehicles, there are three motorcycles, one car, three Land Cruiser jeeps, three Defender jeeps, two double cabs, two single cabs, one Isuzu double cab, one hardtop Land Rover and a Toyota Land Cruiser jeep, four trucks and two buses. We are more than willing to provide him with an additional bus or truck if he requires it.
“In addition, we have given him two Benz cars. One of these cars is the best high security Benz car in Sri Lanka along with 750 litres of fuel quota a month. He took this particular Benz car with him on the way out and we didn’t ask him to return it. In addition, he has another high security BMW jeep. President Sirisena is using vehicles that are much older than those used by the former President. I just use my private car,” Wickremesinghe added.
Apart from these vehicles, former President Rajapaksa has an X-ray machine, service gates, mine detectors, explosive detectors and many more state-of-the-art detectors, the names of which were not mentioned for security reasons. “Most of this equipment he took on his way out and the current President doesn’t have any of these for his security.
“However, as per the instructions of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we have provided security for LTTE leader KP and we haven’t removed any of it for fear that it would leave him at risk. As long as former President Rajapaksa is not asking for the President’s House we can come to an agreement with regards to his official residence. I will talk with the President and if he wants a different house we can accommodate this request. If he wants more protection during the election, we are willing to provide that too,” the Premier stated.