Court jails top former MR officials

Friday, 8 September 2017 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and previous TRC head Anusha Pelpita found guilty in ‘Sil Redi’ case 
  • Sentenced to three years in jail, Rs. 2 million fine and Rs. 50 million each as compensation   
  • Lawyer says duo will appeal 


The High Court yesterday jailed and fined former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and former Telecom Regulatory Commission Director General Anusha Pelpita, when delivering the verdict of the ‘Sil Redi’ case.

Both former officials were sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment by the Colombo High Court, and ordered to pay Rs. 2 million each as a fine and Rs. 50 million each as compensation. They were accused of misappropriating Rs. 620 million in public funds to distribute ‘sil redi’, a cloth used by Buddhist devotees in religious observances, to voters during the 2015 Presidential Elections.

The two top officials in former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government are the first convictions in a series of investigations into official corruption.

The government of President Maithripala Sirisena unseated Rajapaksa in 2015 on the promise of exposing corruption and is under pressure to follow through.

Sirisena’s administration has been probing money laundering and misappropriation of state property in more than 50 cases, but no one had been convicted until Thursday, Reuters reported. 

Election monitors had complained that the state fund was used to influence voters ahead of 2015 presidential polls. Kalinga Indratissa, the lawyer who appeared on behalf of Weeratunga and Palpita, told Reuters the two would appeal.

Two of Rajapaksa’s sons, Namal and Yoshitha, have been arrested and released on bail over money laundering allegations.

His brother, Basil, who headed the economic development ministry, has also been arrested at least three times - twice over suspicion of misuse of anti-poverty funds and a once over suspicion of laundering money and was released on bail.

Rajapaksa and his family deny any wrongdoing.

Rajapaksa was president for a decade until January 2015 and is popular among ethnic majority Sinhala Buddhists who credit him with ending the 26-year war against minority Tamil separatist rebels in 2009.