Wasting no time since the Port City bill was passed into law and signed by the Speaker of Parliament, President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already appointed the Commission that will govern Colombo Port City, picking a crew of officials already tainted with serious corruption charges.
The appointments to the Colombo Port City Economic Zone Commission have been rushed while the country battles a major coronavirus outbreak and dozens of fatalities every day, with no serious efforts by the Government to manage the situation or secure sufficient vaccines to protect the population.
President Rajapaksa appointed seven members to the Port City Commission, led by President’s Counsel Gamini Marapana.
It bears noting that Marapana PC appears as Counsel for bond-scammer Arjun Aloysius, Director of Perpetual Treasuries.
Priyath Bandu Wickrema, former Ports Authority Chairman who has been implicated in large scale corruption by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry and accused of corruption and a multi-million dollar tax scam in connection with the Carlton Sports Network owned and operated by Yoshitha Rajapaksa. Wickrema is also facing bribery charges over lending 319 Port Authority workers to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election campaign in 2014.
Also on the Port City Commission is former Board of Investment Chairman Saliya Wickremasuriya, who was arrested and investigated in connection with the Tiran-Alles led Rs 169 million Reconstruction And Development Agency (RADA) tsunami fraud. The RADA fraud case was dismissed in 2020, less than a year into the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency. Alles was one of Rajapaksa’s biggest backers.
The other members of the Commissions are Mclarens Chairman Rohan De Silva, whose son served as a director of Yoshitha Rajapaksa’s Carlton Sports Network, Orange Electricals Managing Director Kushan Kodituwakku and Fairview Hotels Chairman/Mercantile Investments Managing Director Gerard George Ondaatjie. Treasury Secretary S.R. Atygalle is also a member of the Port City Commission.
Colombo Telegraph learns the Chinese Government is keen to get the Port City off the ground as soon as possible, making this a condition attached to hefty loans Colombo needs to address a mounting debt crisis.
Many commission members have deep links to Beijing and Chinese companies. The appointment of officials tainted by corruption charges plays into fears by anti-corruption watchdogs including Transparency International that with its separate jurisdiction and lax regulatory framework, the Colombo Port City could become a major black money haven in the Indian Ocean.
Exacerbating these fears, this weekend, Central Bank Governor W.D. Lakshman appointed economist Dr Kenneth De Zilwa as chairman of LankaClear Ltd for three-year period.
LankaClear is Sri Lanka’s National Payment network, that facilitates all domestic interbank payments. The network sees, tracks, processes and manages every domestic inter-bank payment in the island. Dr De Zilwa, a widely respected economist, also serves as Director Investments at China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), the company that built, and will now operate the Colombo Port City. (By Chinthaka De Silva)