23 October, 2017

Absolute Conflict Of Interest: Maithri’s Investigator Weliamuna Must Go

Good governance activists in Sri Lanka urged the Chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka to resign form all posts he currently holds, including the Special Presidential Task Force for the recovery of illegally acquired state assets.

Weliamuna

Weliamuna

“Just saw the Colombo Telegraph story on the Sri Lankan Airlines inquiry – the Weliamuna report. Extremely disappointed myself. I was under the impression that the work done was voluntary – this is what was told to people with links to Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL). For your information, J. C. Weliamuna is the Chairman of TISL – still. Absolute conflict of interest.” an activist and a staff member of the Transparency International Sri Lanka told Colombo Telegraph last night.

“He must resign from all posts” another staff member and a good governance activist said.

Colombo Telegraph carried two stories ( click here and here) describing that Weliamuna was the former Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka. We apologise for the error.

JC Weliamuna is the Chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka, co-convener of the Lawyers Collective, Lawyers for democracy and a  key member of the Friday Forum. On 29th of April, he was appointed as a member of the Special Presidential Task Force for the recovery of illegally acquired state assets by President Maithripala Sirisena.

We asked Weliamuna to reveal the amount he was paid to investigate Sri Lankan Airlines – the first government-commissioned inquiry into the previous Rajapaksa regimes’s corruption and malpractices.

Three days ago Weliamuna speaking to Colombo Telegraph confirmed that he along with his team comprising three other members U.H. Palihakkara, B.A.W. Abeywardane and M.K. Bandara were paid Rs 3.5 million. At that time Colombo Telegraph did request for a breakdown from the chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka, Weliamuna but he was not in a position to do so. A subsequent email was sent to him seeking this information. Weliamuna has not responded to that question as yet. The day before yesterday we emailed Weliamuna once again and requested him to furnish at least the amount he did receive as his fee but he is yet to respond to that question as well.

Previously when we reported the “Colombo Telegraph blockade, the internet provider Dialog Axiata PLC’s and the Jayantha Dhanapala issue“, Weliamuna told Colombo Telegraph, that “Every individual has a right to raise matters of conflict of interest and such matters are generally raised in the public interest (as opposed to private interests). Conflicts can arise in any sphere including private companies and even media organisations and therefore I believe that Colombo Telegraph, like any citizen, has every right to raise it in the public interest.”

TISL website says;

J. C. Weliamuna (Chairman)

Mr. J C Weliamuna is one of Sri Lanka’s leading public interest and Constitutional lawyers, with 24 years active practice. He had appeared in hundreds of leading human rights and constitutional cases including landmark governance related case. He holds a Master of Laws from the University of Colombo, where he served as a visiting lecturer. He is also an Eisenhower and a Senior Ashoka Fellow.

After establishing his legal career in commercial law, Mr. Weliamuna moved into the fields of constitutional and human rights law, and became an active contributor to local and foreign media on governance and human rights challenges in Sri Lanka. He has played a leadership role in several pro democratic movements in the country and in the sub region.

He was TI Sri Lanka’s first Executive Director, where he served from 2002 until 2010. Presently he serves as a director of TI’s Board after being elected by Global membership of TI movement in 2010.

“There ought to be transparency on both the framework set for the inquiry and the basis for charging – the danger is this ends with those involved profiteering without [the public gaining] adequate benefits”, a Finance Ministry official told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.

The final ‘Weliamuna Report’ report was submitted to the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the 31st March 2015 and recommended criminal investigations into the entire re-fleeting process and had noted instances where former chairman Wickramasinghe, a brother-in-law of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and airlines’ CEO, Kapila Chandrasena, should be prosecuted.

Mean while, yesterday, Ruwan F. Guruge, the owner of Sri Lanka Mirror emailed the following story [of his own website carried] to the editor of Colombo Telegraph, copying to J.C. Weliamuna, Krishantha Cooray, one of the UNP exco members and the head of the UNP media unit and also to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera. His email reads as follows:

An organised mudslinging campaign targeting Attorney-At-Law – J.C. Weliamuna has commenced after investigations have commenced on the Weliamuna report committee with regard to the irregularities at Sri Lankan Airlines.

It is said that an advance payment of Rs. 12 million has been made for the mudslinging campaign.

The former chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines was non other than the brother of former first lady – Shiranthi Rajapaksa.

The Weliamuna report has revealed of staggering financial irregularities and corruption that has taken place between 2006 – 2014.

The report was handed over to the President and the Sri Lankan Airlines chairman on March 30.

A lawyer tasked with the campaign against the report and Weliamuna, has been paid an advance of Rs. 10 million. According to sources, a trade union of Sri Lankan Airlines has been tasked with the mudslinging campaign and for this purpose an advance payment of Rs. 02 million has been made.

The mission, which is headed by a prominent official of the Rajapaksa government is also joined by a group of officials facing charges by the Weliamuna committee report.

Editor’s note – “Weliamuna has been a great contributor to Colombo Telegraph, a friend but moreover he is my private lawyer who is representing me in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. CT did ask Weliamuna a simple question for the benefit of our readers – the question was pertaining to the fee the Weliamuna team had been paid. When Weliamuna was contacted over the phone he did confirm the fee to be a sum of Rs 3.5million in total but he was not in a position to provide a break down at that time. CT did write to him subsequently but he is yet to reply us.”

Wiliamuna TIS

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Latest comments

  • 5
    3

    I can accept Nagananda Kodituwakku accepting a Rs. 3.5m fee.
    Also can accept J.C.Weliamuna accepting a Rs.3.5 fee.

    Where is the transparency of the TISL Boss ???
    Please publish YOUR INVOICE? You need to account Mister. Thats what you practice.

    Then, what about the following incidentals ?
    1. Who paid for this facility?
    2. How much did it cost?
    3. Who paid for the staff and equipment?
    4. Is this expense in addition to the 3.5 million or part of it?
    5. Why was this most exuberant location chosen in real right royal Rajapaksa style of lavish when HE the President MS himself set the example saving public funds by having a Rs.7500/- swearing in ceremony?
    6. Does international definition of corruption encompass waste of public resources.
    7. What is the annual salary of a SC judge?
    8. When will the Board of Directors of SL Airlines and its Auditors be summoned to the FCID if the recommendations of the corruption report are sensible?

    Weliamuna, you are suppose to be a man of integrity. Show up.

  • 7
    2

    I think CT with the UPFA /RRR ARE STALKING WELI! He did a case for me free!!! I think it is the government that should reveal how much they paid and give a breakdown of payments. I think they worked for 40+ full days without doing any practice? How much do you expect a man to sacrifice!!!
    There would have been accountants, lawyers and aviation consultants.
    Supposing they worked 8 hour minimum 3 lawyers for 40 days, supposing 2 accountants worked only 20 days (would have been more) and the aviation people worked 10 out of the 40+ days, still there would be 40×3×8
    =960, 20×8×2=320, 10×8×2=160 APPROXIMATELY 1440 MAN HOURS OF EXPERTS LEAVING ASIDE the clerical and other staff which would be approximately 2500 Rs per man hour??? This is peanuts for highly experienced lawyers or consultants. I once paid 350,000 for a consultation of 1 hour to one lawyer?? A specialist doctor who sees even 10 patients per hour will earn 1500×10=15,000 per hour. A surgeon may get 50,000 + per 1 hour surgery?? How much does a high profile computer programmer, or media artist earn. Please stop harassing this man!!! Government please explain!

    I THINK this is a WITCH-HUNT similar to white vans. any reasonable person could understand!

    • 5
      0

      Remember JCW was not working for 40 full days..! In mid February 2015 he was having a joy ride in the US visiting Washington DC and New York, spending nights in hotel rooms costing over 4000USD, drinking and partying together with an accused who is indicted for a foreign exchange fraud in the High Court of Colombo, who is ironically none other than the Minister of Finance of this wonderland, whose collaborating partner of the same foreign exchange fraud is now serving a prison sentence in the US.

      These are our so called “INDEPENDENT” democracy and transparency crusaders…! Now we see with whom they sleep wine, dine and who picks the bill of their lavish lifestyle.

      The issue here is: JCW was paid by the people, hence we have an inherent right to know it!

      Remember what was paid to him transcends all benchmarks of payments stipulated for similar government assignments. This is far more than what a member of a “Presidential Commission” is paid for an equivalent period or the entire annual salary of a Supreme Court judge for a tedious, painstaking responsible job!

      JCW was given the assignment not through a transparent process of selection based on merit, but through cronyism.

      Now I would also be interested to know how much Central Bank Bond inquiring UNP lawyers have charged from the tax payers of this country?

      Remember JCW was a strong critic of the corrupt practices of the former regime. We did not change govts to let the critics make a quick buck. He has an interest in the matter. He was involved in the so called anti corruption issue. Where are your principles? Shouldn’t this be inquired by someone whose independence has not been called into question?

      What is the basis of paying someone far beyond a Commissioner of a Presidential Inquiry? If it was a legal job of lawyers, then why do we have an Attorney General’s Department maintained at the expenses of the poor tax payer?

      If all these norms are transgressed and the tax payers are called to pick up the bill, I have right to know….!!!

      Speak up and face the world – Respect our right…!

    • 2
      3

      I agree – it is a witch hunt. I am wondering why no action is being taken on the report. Is the CT articles part of the conspiracy to focus on trivialities so that the public loses interest in the content of the report. If we read the comments in the two articles appearing in CT, most felt that 3.5 million is not too much and there is no necessity to get how much Weliammuna was paid. Why is CT that I respect so much is doing this to Weliamuna

    • 0
      0

      You are correct a pure witch hunt. JCW sacrificed a lot to bring in the new Government to power. He deserves more. The amount paid to him fo 40 odd days is a pea nut. JCW should not be demean. JCW, let the dogs bark, you carry on your good work. It is the Government which appointed you and paid you.

  • 6
    10

    I think, some one should investigate how Weliamuna charged that big money fore this investigation.

    White collar thieves should be investigated.

    they steal public property and give exorbitant prices and that should be exposed.

  • 4
    1

    One of the findings of the weliamuna report was the 4.5 million paid

    to an air stewardess to keep Namal baby happy.

    The report says this money should be returned or recovered.

    The report has already covered its costs.

    Real value for money.

  • 2
    3

    The Hunter is Now been Hunted. Now appoint a commission to investigate “The Hunter” and pay them 7 million.

  • 2
    3

    There is a well do guy in Sri Lanka. He is a small-time consultant with a local entity. We asked him to travel to a rural area to look at a few issues. He flatly refused it, suggesting that he earns over 18,000 rupees a day in payment and other perks in Colombo, and he would miss out that if he were to travel to undertake the set task. I like to know what happened for 3.5 million rupees, but I am happy wait for the cost break-don before persecuting everyone in the ‘faceless media’.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 6
    2

    This is shooting the messenger because the message is unpalatable!

  • 5
    2

    If you have money you can do anything.

    The Rajapaksa treasure trove of filthy lucre is advancing into all corners and some hitherto reliable websites are also succumbing to the pressure. What the ex mafia family can’t do with the white vans today, they are doing with the billions of ill erned money. It is so easy to buy benign faced howlers.

  • 6
    2

    I can’t understand why Mr Weliamuna refusing to disclose this information to the people. This request has been made for the benifit of the people who has a right to know about these dealings.

    Come on Weliamuna, if you won’t comply people will presume to appropriate the lion share gave others peanuts.

    Respect the people’s right to know the truth about this payment made out of public funds.

  • 2
    0

    The common man in Sri Lanka does not know that in our country there are MD’s and CEO’s in some private sector companies who are paid well over a million rupees as monthly salary.This is reality though I too am not supportive of that.

  • 3
    0

    Whatever money that we have to pay weliamune and co should be withheld until mangala safely deposits the 18 billion USD into our consolidated revenue fund in treasury.Wow ,then not only weliamune all the other people such as sir desmond de silva who was raking in 60000 british pounds a month for two years can be paid for another 2 years,to continue to fight valiantly against the US,EU,India coalition.

    i’am sure weliamune will understand the cash strapped country which CBK said yesterday cannot pay the public servants has to wait a bit till mangala floods the treasury with money.Oh mangala,mangala,mangalam

  • 3
    0

    If at all Conflict of interest is being pointed out then that should be against appointing Welliamuna in the first place to the commission since he had been an ardent critique of the Previous regime due to their very obvious corruption as well as human rights violation, not because that he was paid for the service .

  • 0
    0

    Ayyo CT forget this, Weliamuna is “ape minima” (Our Man) !

    Remember our boss Rajapaksa said in an inimitably candid statement of his idea of governance – it boils down to “ape minihava beraganna oney” and therefore it is “shape kerala ganna” all the way.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/cjs-husband-was-our-man-we-quietly-covered-it-up-but-unp-wanted-impeach-cj-mr/

  • 0
    0

    Generally, most if not all professionals decline to reveal the fees they were paid for particular services.
    This is a matter of ethics of each profession.
    The total fee of the group of professionals who investigated the airlines has been revealed.
    This is sufficient for the general public.
    I am sure that Weliamuna will reveal his fee in his Return Of Income to the Dept. of Inland Revenue.

  • 3
    0

    Nothing like a dignified thief disguised as a sheep to catch a bunch of crude beasts…. the joke that is sri lanka…. no one has the interests of the country at heart…. all our out to make a buck at the expense of the ordinary citizen…. Chandrika did it, Ranil did it, rajapaksa did it, and the incumbent is no angel…..

  • 2
    0

    This kind of practice by any professional can’t be justified. If we justify that it means we help the ideology of last ruling in the country. No limits to earn by hook or crook.What sort of practice is this?

  • 2
    0

    Welliamuna is an AHRC lacky.

  • 0
    1

    I hold Mr. Weliamuna in my highest esteem, especially because he took such risks for the common good of us all during the Rajapakse era. He is a brave man. There is no question.

    It is unfortunate that Mr. Weliamuna charged so much for the inquiries; inquiries he effectively demanded as the head of Transparency International. When principles bring in money, that undermines the very principles one is advancing. I am sure the government felt his charges were fair payment as many have argued in Colombo Telegraph. But accepting that payment undermined the principles for which Mr. Weliamuna so selflessly risked his life. He should have either waived his fees or, if devoting time to the inquiry would have diminished his income by being away from his usual caseload in court, he should have given someone else the chance to lead the inquiry. If indeed it is true that what he was paid is the rate of pay for his normal work, then good sense should have told him to continue with his normal work. This tiny mistake has unfortunately made people question the integrity of a great man.

    As advice to Mr. Weliamuna, I say this as a friend: “You are no ordinary man. Extraordinary men are not allowed to do that which ordinary men may. Remember. While it was lawful for any citizen to rub shoulders with former President Rajapakse when he was president, recall the angry reaction from the public when the Cardinal and the Chief Justice did that. The principle is that great men, even when they do nothing wrong, must not give grounds for suspicious speculation because that undermines the institutions for which they are the pubic face. You Mr. Weliamuna represent Transparency International and not just yourself.”

  • 0
    0

    Very poor performance by CT, with all this outcry you failed to build up an openion among public against Weliamuna report about Sri Lankan. [Edited out]

  • 1
    0

    But political will translated into political decisions cannot be justified along with partisan politicking. Politicking rubs the whole issue the wrong side up and devalues the political will and its action. Most investigations taking place don’t seem to prove such political will is being turned into impartial inquiry. Weliamuna investigation is one such bad instance. Apart from transparency and accountability issues raised by Colombo Telegraph (CT) and Amrit Muttukumaru, the very appointment of J. C. Weliamuna for investigations on SriLankan airlines smacked of “green” politics. For over three years, Weliamuna was a prominent campaigner against the Rajapaksa regime on “Platform for Freedom” with then Leader of Opposition and UNP leader Wickremesinghe and other UNP stalwarts. He was also a very conspicuous presence in most other UNP led protests. He is quite openly, “UNP in politics”. And from what Chandra Jayaratne had responded to CT on Weliamuna investigations the implied truth is, that investigation lacked expertise to handle the responsibility given. Therefore he volunteered with his expertise. It’s another aberration, for these high profile investigations are not mandated to have volunteers in the panel of investigators. If Weliamuna investigation lacked expertise, Jayaratne’s volunteerism should have been made public. Political colour and incompetency together with undisclosed volunteer investigators violates social trust, a supreme necessity in today’s political context of many uncertainties.

    Kusal Perera

    read more;
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/political-necessity-used-for-politicking-negates-independent-commissions/

  • 2
    0

    Dear Friends

    If the fee is paid by public funds, it is their right to find the breakdown for this enormous sum charged, otherwise would have been done voluntarily as an activist and leader of the movement against corruption. Excessive charge from public funds is corruption. In the UK it is just a letter to the Law Society to compel the Solicitor to give the break down. In Sri Lanka too any private citizen may make an application to the Supreme Court or the Bar Association of Sri Lanka on a legitimate complaint on a grievance by a citizen. People in public domain should be whiter than white especially when large sums of funds are imported to Sri Lanka for public duties. Conduct and the transactions of the leaders against corruption and transparency should be open and clean. One can imagine and presume the large sums of the INGOs and NGOs are utilized One who fights against greed should not be greedy especially accumulation of public funds. It is a sorry state of affairs and we welcome your response for our benefit.

    Kodi London

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