United National Party (UNP) General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam yesterday rejected allegations regarding misappropriation of funds at the Central Cultural Fund (CCF), arguing that there was no plan between the UNP and the Government to discredit Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa ahead of next week’s General Election.
Speaking at a press conference, Kariyawasam also stated that he was not aware of any misuse of funds at the CCF while he was a member off the Central Cultural Fund Administrative Council.
“We did not do anything using the fund without the approval of the administrative council. The previous Government spent a lot on preserving some of the sites. Rs. 80 million were spent to develop Deegawapi,” Kariyawasam stated, pointing out that during his tenure, he managed to bring up the saving at the CCF to $ 150,000, in a dollar account which was established. “There was Rs. 4.5 billion in the Central Cultural fund when I handed it over to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. There was only Rs. 300 million when I took over the Ministry. There was $ 150,000 in the dollar account which we opened. Daily revenue from Sigiriya exceeded Rs. 10 million during my time,” he said. Kariyawasam explained that during his tenure, he brought reforms to the CCF and streamlined revenue collection, with online ticket booking options for tourists.
Echoing remarks made by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara on the allegations, Kariyawasam said the previous Government spent monies from the fund to benefit many places of worship, and to renovate and update facilities at many cultural sites. However, when questioned, Kariyawasam denied any knowledge of the CCF’s functions while under the purview of Premadasa, and further questioned, did not assign blame to Premadasa. He stated that he was unaware that the committee appointed by Prime Minister Rajapaksa to look in the CCF had made allegations against Premadasa. Responding to a question, Kariyawasam denied the SJB’s charge that there was a ‘deal’ between the UNP and the Government to discredit Premadasa with the General Elections around the bend.
“We have not got into a deal with the Government to get Premadasa arrested. There would have been a deal between the ruling party and the SJB, as it is the SLPP which will benefit from the division among the UNP,” Kariyawasam argued.