By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera informed Parliament that the unrest at the Independent Television Network (ITN) was settled amicably, with a discussion held with the concerned parties.
Delivering a ministerial notice, the Minister held that the Unity Government was not involved in frauds and financial misappropriations which led the ITN into difficulties. Minister Samaraweera, also rejecting the charges of political interventions, held that the Government only wanted to re-establish the status quo which existed before the constitutional crisis.
Explaining the steps taken to solve the issues, the Minister said: “My media secretary, President’s Advisor and Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, along with ITN Chairman Thilaka Jayasundara held discussions with the parties involved. They were able to find a solution for the issues. Those who were engaged in the protest have disrupted ITN’s routine programs and have prevented the organisation from meeting its daily income, while tarnishing the image of the establishment and disrupting the popularity growth.”
According to Minister Samaraweera, ITN continued to climb up on the ratings after January 2015, instead of being used as a Government mouthpiece as seen during the Rajapaksa regime. “But we did not take revenge from any of those who supported the previous regime when we came into power. Nobody lost jobs or broke limbs, but continued to work. I went to Rupavahini with the Ministers Rajitha Senaratne and Ranjith Madduma Bandara to make a special statement. But the UPFA supporters stopped the transmission and attacked us. Even though we didn’t touch them after January 2015, their true colours came out with the constitutional crisis. But now we will take disciplinary action against those who are responsible. We will need a long debate to talk about Sudarman Radhaliyagoda and his alleged frauds. He is not a friend of mine but was a one-time employee,” explained the Minister.
Minister Samaraweera, addressing the issues relating to a deposit amounting to Rs. 677 million, held that the current General Manager has issued a letter explaining how the money was spent to shoulder the day-to-day expenses of ITN, rather being used for political agendas under the Unity Government. However, Minister Samaraweera stressed the right to appoint any suitable employee to ITN based on the requirements and necessities of the television station.
Escalating the issue of an ad-hoc organisation established by ITN protestors claiming to protect the channel, the Minister held that the concerned parties were silent during the Rajapaksa era when the frauds took place. According to Minister Samaraweera, ITN is nothing but a den of thieves, where employees earn unsolicited income by registering advertising agencies.
“The Presidential Commission appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena has published the last report. In this report, Hewage Anura Siriwardane, the current General Manager Wiejsinghe Pandithage Anura Murthi Wijesinghe, Jayasinghe Arachchige Upali Ranjith, Dilip Priyantha Wickramasingha, former Minister Keheliya Bandaranayake Dissanayaka Rambukwella, and former President and MP Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa are found responsible for the losses incurred by the station and the frauds. Almost all employees have private agencies, and they start earning commissions placing advertisements. There are 358 registered agencies,” he said.
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