The position of the Director General of the government information department has become ethically untenable after his department was caught red-handedly lying about the alleged bond scammer Arjuna Mahendran.
On January 24th, the Government Information Department in a statement denied that Mahendran holds any position in the Government. However the very Information Department had published a news item on July 31, 2016 saying that Mahendran was part of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s official delegation to Indonesia to take part in the Islamic Economic Summit as the ‘Head of the Sri Lanka Five Year Development Plan’.
Meanwhile the allegedly corrupt Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media, Nimal Bopage has announced that he would launch an investigation over a statement issued by the Director General of the Government Information Department Ranga Kalansooriya, with regard to ex-Governor of Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran holding a position within the Government.
According to Bopage, he was unaware of the statement issued by Kalansooriya on Tuesday, and as per protocol such statements can only be issued through the Secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media. He had said that Kalansooriya’s statement may have been his own personal opinion but steps will be taken to find the person responsible for issuing such a statement.
The Government Information Department statement also criticized MTV/Sirasa television channel saying they were slinging mud and trying to misguide the public by showing old pictures as new ones. It also added that even Minister Malik Samarawickrama had confirmed in Parliament on Tuesday that Mahendran had no role to play in the government.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has also issued a statement on Tuesday denying Mahendran was holding any position within the ministry.
However, both the Finance Ministry and the Information Department under Kalansooriya have both been caught red handed for lying on behalf of Mahendran.
The Anti-Corruption Front (ACF) addressing a press conference claimed that they had evidence to prove that Mahendran continued to play an active role in the Government. Keerthi Teennakoon said that ACF has evidence which proves that Mahendran had attended several meetings under the patronage of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The Front has also written to the Secretary of the Ministry seeking an explanation as to how Mahendran continued to be part of certain high level Finance Ministry meetings.
“Is Mahendran more powerful than even the Finance Ministry Secretary that he can sit at meetings without the secretary himself not being aware of Mahendran’s presence at meetings by the ministry?,” ACF Chairman Ven. Ulapane Sumangala questioned.
In July 2016, Colombo Telegraph reported as to how Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe shunned public perception and brought back Mahendran as the ‘Head of the Sri Lanka’s Five Year Development Plan,’ soon after his undignified exit as the 13th Governor of the Central Bank. Mahendran was also part of Wickremesinghe’s official delegation to Singapore in 2016, which took place after he resigned from Central Bank.
Soon after Colombo Telegraph reported that Mahendran had made a comeback as Head of Sri Lanka’s Development Plan, he himself shared the Colombo Telegraph news item on his official Facebook Page, acknowledging his appointment.
Mahendran has still not been cleared from corruption charges committed at the Central Bank whilst he was the Governor.
Mahendran, a citizen of Singapore, was found guilty by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) over his involvement in the bond scandal which resulted in the country losing a staggering Rs. 1.6 billion. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament yesterday that the COPE report will be handed over to the Attorney General for action.
On Sunday, President Maithripala Sirisena also announced that he will appoint a special presidential commission to inquire into the bond scam this week.
Last year in May, Bopage himself received an earful from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after he criticized journalists and media organisations for giving publicity to the Joint Opposition, and said that giving publicity to the group was ‘illegal’ and they should not misuse the media freedom given under the Yahapalanaya government.
Wickremesinghe had blasted Bopage at a meeting, asking him to not take decisions according to his whims and fancies, and ordered him to in future follow protocol and obtain approval for all media statements from subject minister Gayantha Karunathilaka before releasing it to the media. Soon after Bopage’s statement, Minister Karunathilaka was quick to react to it claiming that it was the ministry secretary’s ‘personal stand and not the view of the government,’ even though the statement was issued on the letterhead of the Ministry of Parliamentary Reform and Mass Media. Bopage is a close ally of President Maithripala Sirisena.
As Colombo Telegraph reported last September he is facing a fresh crisis over his alleged involvement in a corruption case amounting to Rs.100 million.