- Questions credibility, timing of report
- Says attempt to discredit SJB leader Sajith Premadasa ahead of Parliamentary Election
- Has sought legal advice to help 61 Local Government members kicked out by UNP
By Asiri Fernando
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday rejected allegations of misappropriation of Central Cultural Fund (CCF) monies, calling the investigation a political stunt, timed to discredit SJB leader Sajith Premadasa a week ahead of the Parliamentary Election.
|SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara
“Sajith Premadasa has done nothing wrong. The investigation committee is led by a retired Judge. However, the fact that the committee includes the Legal Advisor to the President is problematic. If this was an impartial investigation, why wasn’t Mr. Premadasa questioned or a statement recorded on the allegations? This is clearly a political stunt aimed at discrediting our leader as we approach closer to the election,” SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara told the Daily FT.
The Prime Minister’s office on Tuesday said that a report delivered by a committee appointed to inquire in to irregularities and misuse of funds at the CCF had found that Rs. 11 billion was allegedly misappropriated during the three-year period from 2016 to 2019. According to the PM’s office, the committee report had revealed that the CCF had opened and maintained 25 current accounts without the approval of the Treasury, and purchased equipment violating fiscal policies, among other irregularities. The PM’s office cites losses of Rs. 3 billion due to recruitment exceeding cadre requirements, among other irregularities.
Speaking at a press conference, Bandara refuted the allegations, and said that Premadasa had used the funds for the benefit of historic religious sites and places of worship, pointing out that all projects were run through State enterprises such as the State Engineering Service. “No funds were given to private enterprises like during the Rajapaksa era,” Bandara charged.
The SJB criticised the Committee for lack of transparency and called the timing of the report’s release as politically motivated.
“This committee lacks transparency. I ask you, shouldn’t an investigation record statements from all parties concerned? They should have questioned and recorded statements from Sajith Premadasa or others. They have released this report one week before the election without following the standard practice. Why?” Bandara questioned.
Bandara said that the SJB rejects this attempt by the “Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe collective” to undermine the credibility of the SJB leader. “We call on the Government to stop mudslinging and talk policy. Today, while releasing these politically-motivated reports, the Prime Minister’s office is trying to cover up the mess made after King Buwanekabahu’s historic court structure was demolished,” Bandara alleged.
“You can see that the UNP is also revoking membership of those who are around the SJB at the same time as this report is launched,” Bandara opined. He stressed that the SJB will not falter before these new allegations and have sought legal advice from a number of top lawyers to provide legal assistance to the 61 Local Government representatives who have lost their UNP membership recently.