19 October, 2017

Punishment Delayed Is Punishment Denied

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

The appended visual says it all. It depicts former Secretary to President Lalith Weeratunga and former Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Pelpita being led away after their conviction for misuse of state funds amounting to LKR 600 mil belonging to TRC and aiding and abetting the same in spending it. Each of them were sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment (RI) for all the charges besides each being fined LKR 2 million and ordered to pay the TRC LKR 50 million.

The duo, suited, booted and handcuffed to each other, unlike other convicts, did not opt to cover their faces when being led away after sentencing but walked away with smiles on their faces, usually the hallmark of shameless politicians and their minions who are assured of little or no time in jail, regardless of the verdict. There were no signs of contrition or remorse. They insisted right to the end, they had done nothing wrong.  Not being politicians, the duo did not hold up their manacled hands displaying V signs.

Smiling duo being led away after sentencing

Weeratunga, during his long years of public service, especially since commencement of his association with Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2004, is reputed of being a down to earth, approachable and helpful person, accessible to all. It has earned him volumes of capital in goodwill from many, especially in the political arena and bureaucracy, which now seem to be working for him. Immediate transfer to Prison Hospital without even the completion of formalities for convicts and the sympathetic consideration of health and age when considering their bail applications are not considerations available to average citizens.

Both convicts have successfully appealed to the Appeal Court. The Attorney General did not oppose their bail applications. Both have been granted bail. Therefore, both prison sentences and fines will be held in abeyance. In the event of a second conviction in the Appeal Court, it will automatically result in a further appeal to the Supreme Court. All this is bound to drag on for several years.

In the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004, Presidential Secretariat Circular No PA/272 dated December 29, 2004 directed all Secretaries: “On the direction of the President, a special bank account has been opened at the headquarters branch of People’s Bank to accept cash donations for relief operations that are now in progress. You are kindly requested to bring this information to the notice of all your staff of your ministry / institution, and any other institutions coming under your ministry and the general public who wish to make donations in cash for this very worthy cause. In the circumstances, you are kindly advised not to open any separate individual bank accounts to collect funds for relief operations.” Despite the executive order, two days later on December 31, 2004, Weeratunga opened an official account in the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ account No. 014100170136270 at the People’s Bank. The signatories to this account were Weeratunga, Additional Secretary Gamini Senarath, Senior Assistant Secretary Sunil Hewapathirana and Accountant S. Subasinghe. In 2005, investigative journalist Sonali Samarasinghe unearthed the transfer of Rs 82 mil from the ‘Punarjeewana Fund’ to a private account in the name of ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Rajagiriya branch of the Standard Chartered Bank A/C No. 01-1237322-01. Weeratunga, as Secretary to Prime Minister and therefore Chief Accounting Officer of the Prime Minister’s office was fully aware and involved in the opening and operation of ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ in violation of a presidential directive and the transfer Rs 82 mil to a private account. Even though the CID wanted to initiate an investigation, in a case of judicial misadventure (surgeons making mistakes are referred as surgical misadventure, judges making mistakes may be referred as judicial misadventure!), the matter was dropped and Weeratunga and his boss escaped investigation. Similar to the Sil Redi saga, Weeratunga did not use any of the Rs 82 mil for his personal use. Other similarities too are unmistakable.

Due to intervention of former President CBK, funds had to be returned to the state.

What is not known are details of similar acts of abuse / misappropriation of state resources which may have taken place between the Saving Hambantota and Sil Redi episodes.

What need be stated is, this whole saga is bigger than the age and health of two former senior public servants. Firstly, other than the nodding ponies and dumb patriots, many ordinary citizens are eagerly awaiting to see at least a few perpetrators of corruption during previous regime (and present regime) behind bars. It is an election promise of the good governance government. These two stalwarts walking away, free at least for the moment is a grave disappointment for many. It will further erode the already depleted faith in rule of law among the nation’s citizenry. Secondly, it weakens the warning resulting from the verdict and sentence passed by the High Court, to all public servants, to be mindful of what could befall upon them when carrying out illegal directives from their political bosses.

A regular contributor to the media had stated “He (Weeratunga) has been imprisoned and heavily fined for a victimless crime” and gone on to compare the issue with that of the five Cambridge spies Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Cairncross and Blunt. What the writer has overlooked is, why did Burgess and McLean in 1951 and Philby in 1963 flee Britain to rot away in Moscow for the rest of their lives if the establishment would have left them alone? Chances are, they would have been hung at the end of a rope in the Tower of London. Cairncross who confessed in 1951 was dismissed from MI6 but avoided prosecution for some inexplicable reason. Blunt turned crown witness in 1964 in return for immunity. His comparison of Weeratunga with former civil servants such as Godfrey Gunatilleke, Neville Jayaweera, Tissa Devendra and Susil Sirivardhana to say the least, is a travesty. 

A former civil servant had advocated mercy in view of Weeratunga’s previous service record. This writer begs to differ. Every financial transaction of Weeeratunga’s, right from the ‘Saving Hambantota’ episode narrated earlier should be investigated prior to coming to such a conclusion. Secretary to the President is the head of the public service and expected to conduct himself in an exemplary manner, for emulation by his juniors. Unfortunately, Weeratunga has conducted himself differently and defecated on the image of the public service, a finer point overlooked by many of Weeratunga’s defendants. Would the erudite former civil servant recommend new comers to the public service, emulation of the former top public servant Lalith Weeratunga? 

Never before has the need been felt for a Criminal Justice Commission similar to CJC 2 set up in 1970s to punish those responsible for fraud, corruption and misuse of funds, expeditiously. The judiciary, after decades, is showing signs of asserting its independence and authority and should be up to the task.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a legal maxim meaning that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.

Punishment delayed is punishment denied may be understood as, if guilt of an accused party has been established beyond reasonable doubt, but punishment is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as no punishment at all. 

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Mr. Rajeewa Jayaweera: This convict Mr. Weeratunga, never pleaded that he “obeyed” the orders of his “Boss”, although that “Boss” went public in stating that he (Weeratunga) followed his “orders”. He, the convicted also told a lie in stating that the Board of Members of the Regulatory Authority approved the payment of Rs. 600 million, when in fact the Secretary to that Board stated in evidence that there was no record of such a “approval”. Both the convicted have violated the provisions of that Regulatory Authority and that fact was well established in courts without been subjected to questioning. The two suppliers of the “Sil Redi” who gave evidence unquestionably established the purchases done by the two convicted. So very unlikely a chance to reverse the judgement; but as you said, both the convicted will “enjoy” freedom on bail for many years to come and most likely expecting a “RETURN” of the “BOSS”. This man’s (Weeratunga) high handed attitude and actions were well documented as in the case of “Helping Hambantota” case, although some choose to admire him to be a “CLEAN” and “WHITE LILLY” civil servant. One more case you have forgotten but not excusable as an ex airline employee. This convict, Weeratunga was the man who gave written direction to Chairman of SriLankan Airlines to release a “Stewardess” to work at the “Presidential Secretariat” and handed over her to work for MP Namal Rajapakse in his pet project of “Thurunu Saviya”. This “Stewardess” was “Hand Picked” and paid from both the Presidential Secretariat and the SriLankan Airlines that included “Flying Allowances PLUS”. Her total earnings amounted to Rs. 1.4 million and that fact was stated in the Walimuna Report. In simple terms this CONVICT acted as a “PIMP” – (that is in my opinion) How do you view it?

    • 5
      1

      Douglas

      Thanks for the explanation and summary of the sordid events.

      Given Weeratunga’s longevity in government service don’t you think the FCID should have gone at least 20 years back into his carrier. FCID might have found more skeletons in his cupboard.

      As a member of the powerful triumvirate (troika) who kept in touch closely with Hindian triumvirate (troika) during the war what was Weeratunga’s role in war crime?

      As the author selectively says “Justice delayed is justice denied” Weeratunga needs to be produced in any war crime investigation as a key witness. What sort of orders did he receive from the Hindian masters and how far was he able to implement them during the war.

  • 0
    1

    I wonder if the two top leaders of our country at least have a glimpse or a cursory glance of what is being reported in the media about the gross violations of their party representatives in Parliament. At their deafening silence one may construe they are both aiding and abetting the culprits, if not why on earth are they dumb founded or are they trying to appease their conscience by saying their stock praise
    that they fully respect the independence of the Judiciary. With that false assumption they cannot hoodwink the nation who trusted them at the last two Elections. It is well to remember that there is a limit to everything and it is high time
    that the two leaders agree to put an end to this deception and respect and honour the the pledge they made to the Nation instead of being hell bent on protecting the
    party representatives who are a disgrace to our Country. We are sitting on a time bomb and time is clicking fast.” Men become wiser” they say, but we do not see any signs in the two leaders.

  • 4
    1

    Mr Rajeewa Jayaweera,

    Excellent piece and timely.

    Like you say, Lalith Weeratunga is no saint …. people can get taken in by a person’s demeanour ……. he may not have taken monetary advantage but would have profited in many other ways.

    I don’t think this pilfering monies from TRC is an isolated incident. I was told by some “higher ups” (appointed by Mahinda himself) in the Lotteries Board that a certain percentage of the income had to go to Rajapakse nominated “accounts” regularly. And some employees – although paid by the Board – were working not in the Lotteries Board but in other Rajapakse designated “projects.”

    I suppose it carried on in the new administration ……… that would have been one reason for the Lotteries Board – which I suspect is one of the biggest cash cows in SL – to be assigned to a crook like Ravi even after he had forfeited the Finance portfolio.

    Mahinda and his cronies sitting down with the other humbug Ranil, soon after Weeratunga and the other bloke was put in gaol, and the subsequent favoured treatment of the culprits, shows that whatever the hue there is a special political-class that look after one another and the foolish people who buy in to the manufactured differences between the politicians/parties are left to fend for themselves …….. in every sphere imaginable – health, education, justice, ………

  • 6
    1

    Our legal system is flawed.

    If we are to move forward, this is critical.

    No chance under the present political system where President simply appoints Appeal Court and Supreme Court judges.

    Even the system at the lower courts is appalling.

    • 3
      1

      Jagath Fernando

      “Our legal system is flawed.”

      We were told this island was a failed state when LTTE was an active non state actor. Since the 30 year war was brought to an end “single-handedly” by Dr Mahinda, Dr Gota, General Kamal Gunaratne, ………………Champika Ranawake, Wimal Sangili Karuppan, ….. we the lay people believed everything had been fine and Dr Mahinda had fixed every aspect of the our daily life, including law and order.

      Did the clan, cronies and their b***s carries really fix the state?

      It appears the country is still a broken/failed state. Actually the country started to break/break down when battle cry was first made to rally round Pancha Maha Balavegaya. Previously the public racist Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala was heard whimpering in his dead bed about a war, probably with himself.

      • 0
        0

        Native : well said

  • 5
    0

    Lalith Weeratunga (LW) is the first civil servant to become a political servant. At every election he came on TV and praised MR work and asked people to vote for him. There are many other misdeeds. The worst and most corrupt civil servant in Sri Lanka history.

    The last Presidential Election MR wanted to air a TV mreessage “Janapathi Oba amathai” 2 days before the election, which was stopped by court order. That program later aired on TNL showed MR with selected journalist and secretaries. LW, Wijersiri (RDA), Bandu (Port) etc. The program was to counter the main Corruption allegations on MR. That interview LW refutes all the corruption allegations and states “ we are the Government servants, We sign all cheques, we do not allow corruption”

    Sri Lankan airlines enquiry showed LW transferred the air hostess to Namal office with a massive salary and perks. The 2000 Vehicles in the Presidential Secretariat- 1000 still missing. LW assigned them. Sil redi 600mn from TRC- we still do not know how much was used to buy sil redi (though illegal) and how much was pocketed by the 100% honest civil servant.

    The way LW was taken to prison hospital, appeal for bail not objected by AG- it shows a deal between Ranail and MR to cover up and crush the guilty verdict through the appeal

    • 1
      0

      Sam Paditha,

      ridiculously enough as we got to see, LW was not at all in media in the last 10 months or so. There, his master had not been caring him even if his court cases tightened the rope around his neck. Nor had any other big mouths uttered a single vote defending the slaved LW:
      To me, going back to telecasts where LW led licking the balls of MR tyranny, were disgusting. He sounded very self dispritive. Not just as a secretary of the former president, but he was a real politicians, even travelled around to the world as if he was beyond SECRETARY to the former president. All these were made by Rajapakshe adminsitration. LW can be a king of fools among all other fools close to former Rajapakshe rule.
      There are no just one single but thousands of evidence to prove that LW was a politician.
      Current men in power should do their job properly in tightening the rope around the neck of all the high criminals without waiting further.
      Longer they wait, the people stance that theythe criminals have been creating will bigger. God bless srilanka.

  • 1
    1

    Will the author advocate the same for those in the north waiting for justice ?

    I doubt it given his past writings…..

  • 2
    0

    Some cloths worn by the X’mas day 2004 Tsunami Aid Diversion Team are getting washed here. Long long long overdue and Boy do they stink?
    Some may remember another detail. In 2004 there were some dedicated public servants. An SSP investigated the ‘diversion’ and let out a tsunami of what was going on with the aid pouring in. This led to the ‘diverted aid’ to be returned. (How much returned is anybody’s guess). The SSP was subsequently charged in courts, fined a million SLR and ordered to pay this amount personally. Chandrika could only stand and stare!
    Will Rajeewa be able to unravel some details please before this gets buried in history?

  • 0
    1

    Although the masses in the Country choose to admire Rakneel to be a “CLEAN” and “WHITE LILLY”
    the Bond Scam made him Dirty & Ugly.
    So… Ranil has been hoodwinking everyone through out his political career.

    Ranil Wickkamasinghe is no saint nor clean…. people can get taken in by a person’s demeanour ……. he may not have taken monetary advantage but certainly was the mastermind behind the Bond & EPF Scams and certainly would have profited in many other ways.

    How do we point the finger at MR when the yahapalanaya with a mandate to clean up swindles the Central Bank coffers within 40 days and Ranil is identified as the mastermind.
    And within (01) years rocks the EPF………….

    latest… the central highway construction tender issues …

    Yahapalanaya is stinking and Sirisena and Ranil are revelling in this rot.

  • 1
    1

    The current political system is not favourable for good governance. When I say current, I mean from the day the power handed to Sinhala politicians. Democracy will only work if there is a system of law to control power of the power. I don’t see any difference between dictatorship and democracy in this country. The institutions that are suppose to provide law & order are not above the Buddhists and in the name of Buddhism you can do any crime without punishment. You may ask then how these two Buddhist Sinhala were punished. In fact, it was not punishment. It is a revenge. Mahinda put Sarath in jail to take revenge, he put Chief justice take revenge and now other party took a revenge. The system did not work in its own. It is the power of the power that decides, not the system. The system is dead in 1956.

  • 0
    0

    We had few honest politicians in the past but not any more, we cannot even hope for one even in the near future. Corruption in the country is stinking tom high haven. There are how many more undisclosed corruption cases are there kept air tight! Are we all stupid to go and listen to these rogues whenever they call a public meeting? But we boast our literacy rate is one of the highest in Asia!

  • 0
    1

    When the directive to channel all the donations to one account was issued CBK was not even in the country. It was MR who was in charge of helping the victims of the tsunami. Every body knows how Chandrika bungled tsunami assistance once she was back in the country,.
    Rajeewa seems to have written this with a vengeance against Lalith Weeratunga because he has completely, just as the high court judge has,over looked the fact that money was only loaned to the Presidents fund and minutes have been made to that effect and instructions has been given on its reimbursement.

    Why shouldn’t they laugh at such a decision.

    It was the Commissioner of elections who should have initiated legal action, instead of giving evidence in this case, for violating the election laws.

    • 0
      0

      NAK
      Let me assure you, I have no issues with Lalith Weeeratunga to ‘write with a vengeance’ as described by you. I have neither spoken nor met this person……….
      It is all a matter of how one analyses the issue. Obviously the learned High Court judge and I take a different view from that taken by you and Mr CA Chandraprema, Political Editor of Sunday Island (also author of book ‘Gota’s War’, to name one other, who wrote a lengthy piece on Sunday, 01 October defending Weeratunga and Pelpita……..When you state, “money was only loaned to the President’s fund and minutes have been made to that effect and instructions has been given on its reimbursement”, in my humble opinion, you are overlooking other vital details. 1) Funds were transferred on December 04 prior to TRC Board Approval granted on December 15. 2) The Social Responsibility Budget of TRC was Rs 100 mil. We are not talking of pea nuts. It involves Rs 600 mil., the cost of 3 Pet Scan Machines so desperately required at the Maharagama Cancer Hospital. How was TRC Social Responsibility budget increased by 600% overnight to coincide with requirement for Sil Redi?…………
      It is indeed a crying shame, we have lived with large scale corruption for so long that we, or at least some of us, are no longer able to differentiate between right and wrong / good and bad / woods from the trees.

      • 0
        0

        NAK
        I overlooked to mention what I wrote a few days earlier………….Consequent to the distribution of ‘Sil Redi’ on Binara full moon poya day on September 08, 2014, the
        Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, vide his letter PCE/2014/19/General dated September 11, 2014 addressed to UPFA General Secretary Susil Premayanahtha, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, and SLFP Treasurer Dulles Alahaperuma, has stated the following……………………”The distribution of dry rations as drought relief, cash and food parcels constitute an abuse of state
        resources, and if sil cloth is distributed out of state funds that too falls into the same category. Sil cloth distribution may be carried out via the private funds of an individual, but during the period of elections, if candidates or politicians come forward and distribute them displaying the name of the candidate or symbol, those are unlawful, and needs no reminding.” Don’t you think, based on contents of EC Commissioner’s letter , Weeratunga should have refrained from doing what he did? For my full article in The Island on September 18, please visit http://island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=171846

  • 2
    0

    Judge Gihan Kulatunga gave a hallmark judgement in the case against Weeratunga and Pelpita. The cheesy smiles in the picture of the two being led away shows their callous indiferrence to their plight. They are confident that unseen hands will ensure that they escape their punishment. They even look forward to the day when their ‘Godfather’ will pardon them and restore them to their old power and glory.

    The unanswered question is what about charging the others involved; Yes, the big cat with the kurakkan smile too.

    This is the nonsense that we endure in Sri Lanka.

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