Jayaratne rejects responsibility for SriLankan Catering losses

Thursday, 29 October 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  National Airline’s former Chairman to be questioned on Friday 
  •  Rajapaksa returns to PRECIFAC for public hearing today  
  •  High Court judges to hear from former top officials

By Shanika Sriyananda

The former Chairman and Board of Directors of Srilankan Airlines should be questioned regarding allegations of mismanagement at SriLankan Airlines Catering, said State Minister for Law and Order Priyankara Jayaratne when he was summoned before a Government anti-corruption body yesterday. 

“I was asked to give a statement as I was the Minister of Aviation during the previous regime but I have no responsibility,” he told the media.

He was summoned before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources, and Privileges (PRECIFAC), on Friday, but following his request to the Commission, Minister Jayaratne was given the opportunity to make his statement on Wednesday.

Jayaratne, who is the first serving Minister to appear before PRECIFAC, said that the Commission should question the former Chairman of SriLankan Airlines and its Board of Directors over the allegation.

“I gave my fullest corporation to the investigators. I also cleared my position with regard to another allegation over supplying food for the Puttalam District Coordination Committee at an event hosted by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2014,” he said, adding that the District Secretary and the officials of the President Secretariat should be questioned in this second matter.

“I have no responsibility over the event and the allegation and we have already paid all expenses for this event,” said Jayaratne.

Meanwhile, former SriLankan Airlines Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe, the brother of former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa, will also be questioned on Friday by the Commission over the allegations relating to SriLankan Airlines Catering during the previous regime.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been asked to be present for a two-day public hearing of the PRECIFAC, which starts today at the BMICH.

The alleged financial losses worth of Rs. 200 million incurred by Independent Television Network (ITN) during the 2015 presidential elections will be taken up again at the public hearing.

PRECIFAC is investigating why the previous Government had failed to settle a bill of Rs. 115 million it owed ITN for advertisements during the presidential campaign of Rajapaksa.

The high-profile investigation will also probe another complaint regarding the return of Rs. 89 million to President Maithripala Sirisena as ITN had not carried his advertisements during the presidential election campaign.

Former Media Minister Keheliya Rambukkwella, former ITN Chairman Anura Siriwardena and other top officials of the Marketing Division of ITN will also appear at the public hearing to be held before the PRECIFAC Commissioners – High Court Judges Padman Surasena, Amendra Seneviratna, Vikum Kaluarachchi and Gihan Kulatunga and former Auditor General B.A. Premathilake.

The Police investigators of PRECIFAC had launched an ‘on-board’ investigation of the MV Avant Garde vessel in Galle Port yesterday to probe the connection between MV Avant Garde that belongs to Avant Garde Maritime Services Ltd. (AGMSL) and Rakna Arakshana Lanka Ltd. (RALL).

PRECIFAC Secretary Lacille De Silva told the Daily FT that the Police investigators would look into whether there was any connection between AGMSL’s vessel and RALL.

“There is a suspicion that RALL had given weapons and ammunition to MV Avant Garde,” de Silva said.

According to De Silva, the PRECIFAC Police investigators, who had obtained permission from IGP N.K. Illangakoon to board the vessel, will take an account of all weapons and ammunitions aboard.

Meanwhile, actor Jackson Anthony will be questioned next week by PRECIFAC investigators over spending a massive amount of money on the opening ceremony of the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in Hambantota in 2010.

PRECIFAC, following a complaint, is probing how Rs. 15 million was spent on the opening ceremony, of which Anthony was the Creative Director.