By Colombo Telegraph –
The BBC World Service London employee who applied for the Sri Lankan government’s RS 1.2 million ten year interest free vehicle loan, was favoured by the Government of Sri Lanka the Colombo Telegraph can exclusively reveal today.
According to published eligibility criteria for an interest free loan offered to journalists by the Government of Sri Lanka, applicants have to be in possession of the Accreditation/Identity card issued by the Department of Government Information. BBC World Service’s producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara, however, had no valid Accreditation/Identity card issued by the Department of Government Information. The only accreditation he possessed was one issued by the Department in 1999 for a short period while he was on a BBC assignment in Sri Lanka (See the copy of his accreditation below).
“I have no idea how he was granted this loan” said Director General, Government Information department, Dr Ariyaratne Athugala, when asked whether the applicant was favoured above other candidates. He said that the loan disbursement had been handled by the ministry. When pointed out that all BBC letters of recommendations were addressed to him, the Director General said he wasn’t aware of such letters.( See the letter below) He acknowledged, however, that if Bandara had only one old press accreditation, it was wrong decision made by whoever was responsible because criteria had not been fulfilled. Colombo Telegraph made several attempts to contact Secretary, Media Ministry, to no avail.
Colombo Telegraph investigation team can reveal that the BBC applicant Chandana Bandara only had one Accreditation/Identity card issued by the Department of Government Information, issued on July 20, 1999. All applicants were asked to produce current accreditation as well as old accreditation prior to interview. Last month when the newly appointed office bearers of the journalists welfare outfit, the Working Journalists Association met the Secretary, Media Ministry, the Vice President of the Association, Kanchan Marasingha complained that more than 30 eligible applicants had not received the loan. Responding to the complaint the Secretary asked them to appeal. The Colombo Telegraph is in a possession of a list of more than 20 rejected applicants which include some with more than 40 years of experience in journalism with valid press accreditation.
According to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information website the objective of the loan scheme is to recognise the services rendered by media personnel towards national development and to enhance their productivity and quality of service.
According to the Ministry of Fianance and Planning website, Senior Journalists, Artists and Authors are now able to obtain a maximum amount of Rs. 1,200,000/- as an interest free loan from the state banks to purchase cars or vans. If the value of the vehicle exceeds the limit of Rs. 1,200,000/- the balance can be obtained from the relevant state bank under normal interest rates. The Treasury will grant the interest due to the state banks for the interest free loan amount of Rs.1,200,000/-.
BBCs Bandara has been receiving around Sri Lankan Rupees 8,528,200 as his annual salary (£41,000/-)