3 July, 2022


Rajapaksa And Mujica: Poorest President Of The World!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

I am not first talking about Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, but Jose Mujica of Uruguay. I am not talking about poverty in terms of vision, but modesty in terms of wealth or possession. I am also not saying that Mahinda or other Rajapaksa’s don’t have a ‘vision’ at all, but it has become completely crooked especially after defeating the LTTE. What an opportunity that they have missed to be magnanimous, be reasonable or simply ‘Just’ on the question of the Tamils and other minorities in the country.

The ‘vision’ on the questions of social cleavages, poverty or poor people in the country also has become extremely crooked by catering to the family, the superrich and the political cronies. Divineguma Bill is an example where in the name of the poor and uplifting of their lives, the power and authority in respect of development and a large amount of budgetary allocations are kept within one Ministry and one Minister who is President’s brother. In addition, the Bill disregards the fundamental tenets of the Constitution and the principles of devolution. It is in this context that the example of Jose Mujica of Uruguay is relevant to Sri Lanka.

Jose Mujica

Jose Mujica, the President elect in 2010 in Uruguay, parallel to the ascendancy of President Rajapaksa for the second term in the same year, is still living a frugal life. He donates 90 per cent of his official salary, equivalent to $ 12,000 to charity according to a BBC report quoted by Colombo Telegraph. Born in 1935, he is 10 years senior to President Rajapaksa and different in many respects primarily in terms of ideology and life style. He is simply a committed socialist and a people’s President unlike President Rajapaksa today. If there had been a semblance of ‘people’s affinity’ of the latter before, it has completely vanished. Perhaps even before, it was a fake.

Early in life, Mujica was with the National Party, very much similar to the UNP or the SLFP. But he joined the Tupamaro National Liberation Movement (MLN-T) in 1960 – a movement in several ways similar to the JVP in Sri Lanka. He was inspired by the Cuban revolution in 1959. MLN-T was an urban guerrilla organization which was perhaps necessary under the dictatorial rule in Uruguay, unlike the JVP violence in Sri Lanka in that respect. He was in jail for several times and was finally released in 1985 after the country’s democratic transformation. He renounced violence completely thereafter.

Tupamaro was transformed into an open organization after 1985 and joined with other left organizations the “Movement for Popular Participation (MPP)” was formed. Yet, it worked within the “Broad Front,” a coalition of several democratic forces and organizations. In 1994, Mujica was elected into the House of Representatives and in 1999 and again in 2004 into the Senate. In 2005, he became the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. There were no three ministries (or even more) for these interrelated functions unlike in Sri Lanka.

Throughout years, Mujica’s policies have changed a lot, but not opportunistically. In recent years, he has advocated a more ‘flexible political left’ which can think outside the box. But he has not changed in his main philosophical principles or life style. He maintains good relations with Uruguay’s big neighbour, Argentina, irrespective of some controversial disputes. In predominantly a Catholic country, he remains secular and maintains he is an atheist. He is a radical thinker in many respects.

He lives in his wife’s farmland near Montevideo even helping her in growing flowers for a living, in his spare time. He does not believe that he has to control everything in the country. He has shunned a luxurious official residence in Montevideo continuing his principles of modesty. His main declared personal asset in 2010 was his Volkswagen Beetle valued $ 1,800 and he added half of his wife’s farm assets amounting to $ 215,000. We hope he was truthful unlike our Sri Lankan politicians.

No one would say that all Presidents or all politicians should live like Jose Mujica. He is only an extreme example. His life style, as he admits, is personal to him but not to anyone else. But the point is the contrast between him and others including the President of the US or Sri Lanka. The contrast is a matter of genuine public interest. Do we have to emulate the President of US?

Life Styles

A growing concern world over is the ‘lifestyles’ of politicians that are far removed from the ordinary people of the electorates. This is more so in the case of poor or developing countries like Sri Lanka or Uruguay. The discrepancy between the two has come to alarming proportions in Sri Lanka in the recent past. This was not the case in 1950s or the 1960s. Things have taken a dramatic turn perhaps after the open economy (but closed polity) in 1977 and the political and the electoral systems introduced thereafter. Perhaps this is not a result that even JR Jayewardene expected, as the architect of these changes, because he was living a modest life, even without leaving much to his only son.

Senanayakes (DS and Dudley) or Bandaranaikes (SWRD and Sirimavo) as pioneer leaders of this country in good old days were modest leaders who laid an example for others to emulate. The left leaders were the same (Leslie, Bernard or Phillip in particular) while there were criticisms about some others (NM or Colvin) considering the discrepancy between their advocated principles and life styles. In the electorate of Moratuwa, where I grew up, Meryl Fernando or Wimalasiri De Mel from the LSSP was almost exemplary and even HEP De Mel or Ruskin Fernando from the UNP were modest in life style although they came from the rich.

No one would say that rich people should not become Members of Parliament or people’s representatives in other capacities. But money making through politics should not be allowed to themselves, family or friends. This is a cancer in body politic in Sri Lanka today. The whole argument against ‘western’ democracy by the present Rajapaksa regime is based on their fear of exposure through democratic processes of accountability and transparency. Otherwise, there is no democracy called western or eastern; democracy is democracy.

I have seen in Australia, for example, Nick Greiner (Liberal) before 1995 and Bob Carr (Labour) after 1995, walking to the NSW Parliament alighting from the bus in Sydney when they were elected Premiers. They had modest lifestyles. Even the present Premier, Barry O’Farrell, is reported to travel by train very often.  Of course bus or train travel is not the final criteria of modest living. In Sri Lanka, no one would ask our MPs to travel by bus or train given security and other considerations. Those days are gone when W Dahanayake used to come by train from Gale even as the Prime Minister. But the exorbitant lifestyles are definitely a concern and alleged accumulation of wealth through politics constitutes a crime against the people, to put it rather mildly. Even in countries like Australia, there are politicians who abuse power for monetary or other gains, but those persons are brought to books sooner.

Our Concerns

The question of lifestyle is not the only matter that arises when the example of Jose Mujica is considered. He has a clean slate both on money matters and matters of handling authority and power.

Drawing from that experience, the main concerns for Sri Lankans however are (1) whether the politicians and bureaucrats are misusing public funds and (2) whether they abuse their official powers for pecuniary gains i.e. financial favours, commissions etc. The second aspect of course has to be ascertained more systematically. But on the first matter the situation is almost naked; the misuse of public funds. In respect of bureaucrats, the auditing system and the COPE are there to deal with them, although inadequately, in my opinion, when politicians are involved with the bureaucrats.

There are no mechanisms however to deal with the politicians separately under the present circumstances, except the Bribery Commission and the Supreme Court. The Bribery Commission now appears to be a political tool in the President’s hand under the 18th Amendment. It is quite strange that no politician has so far been charged before the Bribery Commission as if that they are a ‘clean breed’ from all financial infirmities. The last genuine effort to investigate politicians on bribery charges was in 1959 when the Walter Thalgodapitya Commission was appointed.

In Sri Lanka, the President is arguably free from these mechanisms under the present Constitution, while holding office, unless different interpretation is offered by the Supreme Court to bring the President himself before the Supreme Court to face corruption or bribery charges. He simply cannot be above all laws.

There is a growing opinion that the present impeachment charges against the Chief Justice and corruption charges against her husband are pre-emptive strikes before litigation is brought before the Supreme Court against the President or key Ministers or President’s key officers on corruption and bribery. This may sound farfetched considering the unassailable numbers that the ruling coalition has in Parliament to sustain its abuse of power. That is the present predicament of Sri Lanka which needs to be broken with patience and determination.

But there is considerable truth in the previous argument that impeachment is a ‘pre-emptive strike,’ considering the growing concern among the civil society over blatant corruption that is going on in the country which cannot take place without the patronage of the President or his participation. The civil society is sure to strike or rise against this abuse of power sooner than later.  Then the world will know who the poorest President of the world is, in terms of ethics and principles.

BBC Documentary


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Latest comments

  • 0

    The Rajapaksa’s seems to have amassed millions, “bought” real estate in prime locations cheap, and would have been rewarded by grateful contractors for all the construction in all parts of the country.
    Nepotism usually results in such wealth.

    • 0

      Without dillydally just get the list.

      • 0

        Leela, you must be a politician who is sitting on lots of ill gotten wealth. There can’t be any other reason for you not to fault robber baron politicians of mother Lanka

      • 0

        how much you are paid reply for the readers of c t.

      • 0

        Start with the Tsunami funds – Hambug dottha.
        Sir Paul McCarthy called Shrub stingy for not donating and now neither he nor Oxfam will forgive rajaporkistan. Of course all the school kids of the west who broke their piggy banks.
        Never again to SL on account of Tsunami.

      • 0

        The List commences here:-
        Provides Birthday-week reading –

        Helping Hambantota investigation

        (1)The Disappearing Tsunami Millions From The PM’s Fund
        The disappearing tsunami millions from the PM’s fund

        The Presidential directive which was flouted and Shiranthi Rajapakse’s letter to Hatton National Bank

        Amounts claimed to have been received for ‘Helping Hambantota’

        HELPING HAMBANTOTA – The Investigation by the Press:
        “By Sonali Samarasinghe
        Published 03 July 2005: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and a handful of select officials have siphoned off a colossal Rs. 82 million of monies given to the Prime Minister’s Fund as tsunami relief and reconstruction, into a private account called ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank in direct violation of Presidential directives. The actions of the Prime Ministerial team may also raise serious issues, which may border on offences under the Public Property Act, given that the four signatories to the account are private persons not connected to the Prime Minister’s office.
        Signatories to the account
        The signatories to this account are Prof. Epasinghe, a long time friend of the Prime Minister, who does not work in the PM’s office but is paid a salary of Rs. 40,000 plus fuel expenses. Mahinda Gunawardena, another loyalist, Deputy Minister, Plantation Industries and brother of the Prime Minister, Chamal Rajapakse and Udaya Abeyratne of the Road Development Authority who is the chief accountant of the Prime Minister’s ‘Maga Neguma’ Project. The account named ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Rajagiriya branch of the Standard Chartered Bank bears A/C No. 01-1237322-01 and as at June 29, had an account balance of Rs. 103,094, 966 (over Rs. 103 million). The account is still receiving funds and recently a direct cash deposit of Rs. 54,200 was made.
        If there was one time in the history of Sri Lanka that prompted worldwide sympathy and good will towards the nation it was the days after the tsunami. Apart from government to government pledges, private companies, the Sri Lankan diaspora, NGOs and foreign missions literally sent sacks of money to the country to meet the urgent needs of the tsunami affected.
        Many of these donations made its way to Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister of Sri Lanka. Certainly money was flowing in, and steadily. At the time no special accounts

        The cheque for Rs. 82 million transferred from the PM’s fund to the private ‘Helping Hambantota’
        were in existence and the Prime Minister was in control in the absence of the President who was still in London. For a Prime Ministerial team to then arbitrarily decide with no official record of the fact except a verbal assurance by the PM’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga that a large chunk of these moneys was given especially for the reconstruction of Hambantota raises serious issues of public accountability and transparency.
        In any event all donations received by the Prime Minister or by the Prime Minister’s office were donations given to the country as a whole and not to Mahinda Rajapakse to nurse his own constituency for personal political gain to give a generous interpretation to what has taken place. The fact that the monies have not yet been used but kept in an account for future use – and this is admitted to by PM’s Secretary Weeratunga (see box) – makes the action even more heinous, considering the untold suffering that victims in temporary shelters are still going through.
        The Sunday Leader learns that since the commencement of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account, 14 outgoing transactions, each of which was less than a million, have been made totaling a sum of Rs. 9 million. This means the account had over Rs. 112 million. That is Rs. 30 million more than what was initially deposited from the Prime Minister’s ‘Punarjeewana’ fund. However Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga says no money has been deposited to this account after the initial Rs. 82 million and no account movements have occurred. Remember, President Kumaratunga was in England when the tsunami struck and it was the Prime Minister who took over disaster management efforts. Indeed, during those heady post-tsunami days and after her hasty return to the country, President Kumaratunga was to scoff at Rajapakse’s inefficiency publicly and berate his one-man-show attempt privately.
        Be that as it may, from December 26 onwards, monies received by the Prime Minister personally or by the Prime Minister’s office were deposited in the government account called ‘Secretary to the Prime Minister’ as there was no other account available in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
        It is pertinent to note however that following the calamity there was no record to show the amount of money donated and the amount deposited. Simply put, due to various reasons – most of which were logistical – there was zero accountability. Sources at the Prime Minister’s office confirm that monies handed over in the presence of other officials at the office were however documented.
        President’s directive
        On her return from London, President Kumaratunga was quick to notify all ministries concerned that monies received for tsunami relief should be deposited into one account. Therefore, on December 29, 2004 by Presidential Secretariat Circular No. PA/272, President’s Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne sent out a directive to all secretaries of ministries and heads of institutions not scheduled under ministries. It said inter alia: “On the direction of the President, a special bank account has been opened at the head quarters branch of People’s Bank to accept cash donations for relief operations that are now in progress.
        Name of Account: ‘President’s Fund for Disaster Relief’
        Bank : People’s Bank – Head quarter’s branch
        Account No. 204 100 190 136245
        Type of account: Current account
        Swift Code: PSBKLKLX
        Sort cord: 204-7135
        Online transfer: Facility not available
        “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 donation in cash for this very worthy cause.”
        Note this: “In the circumstances, you are kindly advised not to open any separate individual bank accounts to collect funds for relief operations.”
        We do not doubt that the PM’s Secretary, Weeratunga would have received this circular. Notwithstanding, on December 31, 2004, two days after President Kumaratunga’s directive, 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.
        Thereafter, on the same day a sum of Rs. 73,926,516.74 of tsunami relief monies received into the ‘Secretary to the Prime Minister’ government account from December 27, 2004 to December 31, 2004 were deposited into the newly opened Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana account. Other donations were also now being deposited to this account and as at June 09, its account balance was Rs. 2,628,821.90.
        While strictly speaking the opening of this account was a violation of the President’s specific advice “not to open any separate individual accounts,” it is still an official government account with the signatories being officials of the Prime Minister’s office.
        However, the Prime Minister and a select few of his officials including Weeratunga lost no time in also opening a separate private account called ‘Helping Hambantota’ at the Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya without even any proper documentation. A website was also launched calling the project the ‘Hambantota Tsunami Relief and Disaster Programme.’ (See box)
        The project partners named are the government of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister’s office of Sri Lanka, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN agencies, international and national NGOs, the corporate sector, professional bodies, religious institutions and communities of those effected.
        Whatever the site claims as the project’s partners, the board of directors of the project are in fact PM’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga , HNB Chairman, Rienzie Wijetilleke, Shasheendra Rajapakse (son of Chamal Rajapkse and nephew of the Prime Minister), Director, Road Development Authority (RDA), M. Mowjood and Accountant, RDA, Udaya Abeyratne. Its governing council consists of again Shasheendra Rajapakse, Lalith Weeratunga and Rienzie Wijetilleke.
        The Prime Minister and Weeratunga also told the PM’s office staff that of the donations received by the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana fund, a certain sum was received specially for the development of Hambantota only as requested by the donors. These particular donations had been marked in the funds register by Weeratunga.
        On December 27, both Prime Minister Rajapakse and Weeratunga verbally directed that Rs. 106,983,247.70 (over Rs. 106 million) be transferred to this private account. Later the amount to be transferred was changed to Rs. 82,958,247.70 (over Rs. 82 million). Accordingly on January 31, a People’s Bank cheque No. 179127 in the name of ‘The Manager, Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya, A/C No. 01-1237322-01 , Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme’ for the sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 signed by Accountant S. Subasinghe and Weeratunga was issued to facilitate the transfer.
        However, this cheque was returned as the payee’s name was wrong and another People’s Bank cheque No. 179128 dated February 3 was issued for the same amount to be paid to ‘Helping Hambantota A/C No. 01-1237322-01.
        On December 31, 2004, Prime Minister Rajapakse directed his office to send the remaining moneys in the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana fund to the National Fund for Disaster Relief, Central Bank A/C No. 4669. The relatively small sum of Rs. 28,363,135.04 donations received from December 27 2004 to January 5 was accordingly transferred by People’s Bank cheque No. 179126. That was to indicate to the President her directive was being complied with as regards the monies received by the PM’s fund.
        Small driblets
        Thereafter, as all good little boy scouts would do, the Prime Minister’s office kept sending, in comparatively small driblets, a percentage of the funds received by the prime minister’s office to the Central Bank National Relief Fund in keeping with the Presidential directive. For instance on February 8, a sum of Rs. 11,42,780 was sent by People’s Bank cheque No. 179129 and again Rs. 441,618 by cheque No. 947362. On March 16, a sum of Rs. 15,124,891.13 was sent to the Central Bank by People’s Bank cheque No. 179132. These monies were donations received between December 28, 2004 and February 15.
        Meanwhile, for good measure, the Prime Minister’s office ran a full page advertisement in the state media on February 2, publishing a list of 55 donors and randomly dividing them into two sections. Twenty-two donors for Hambantota and 33 for Sri Lanka as a whole.
        By a happy coincidence for the Prime Minister and his select team, those 22 donations were hefty ones amounting to over Rs. 82 million. Donations received to the National Fund though larger in number amounted to only a little over Rs. 28 million. Neither did the advertisement mention the private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank but merely mentioned instead a generalised Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.
        Consider the following:
        The donations arbitrarily and personally selected by Weeratunga as ‘Hambantota only’ donations were in fact received by Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister for Sri Lanka and not as MP for Hambantota. The tsunami was a national disaster not an isolated calamity in the south. In any event the 22 donations identified by Weeratunga as aforesaid were made from December 27, 2004 to January 11. On December 27, 2004, one day after the disaster, no government fund had yet been set up. Neither had this private account called ‘Helping Hambantota.’
        If the Prime Minister’s office says that some monies were given to be used in Hambantota only then as a government body this must be properly documented. There should be written indication of this by the donor. A arbitrary pencil mark by the PM’s Secretary is insufficient. These are monies belonging to the Sri Lankan public and not private funds.
        No proper documentation
        When the monies were transferred to the account, ‘Helping Hambantota’ was not a properly registered and/or constituted trust, partnership, company or NGO (see box). When the private account was set up at the Standard Chartered Bank it was done so without proper documentation and only on the verbal assurances of the Prime Minister’s office. The bank had not insisted on the proper documentation usually required to open a bank account of this nature. However, the identity cards of the aforesaid four signatories were perused and the account opened merely on the instructions of the PM’s office.
        This account, which contains public money, is now in the hands of private individuals and has been moved away from the control of public officials. It is not subject to financial regulations and other governmental directives and circulars that govern public money. Furthermore, if this money is to be used for reconstruction, then proper tender procedures must be followed. Is this not a misappropriation of public property and a criminal breach of trust? But happily for the Prime Minister’s office, these government funds are now in a private account.
        The very fact the Willie Gamage (see box) finds is necessary to hide the fact that Chamal Rajapakse is a signatory to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account and insists there are only three signatories shows that a game may be afoot. Even though Gamage states there is only a balance of Rs. 67 million, The Sunday Leader reliably learns that as at June 28, the balance was over Rs. 103 million.
        By giving this exercise a veneer of legitimacy with a large newspaper advertisement, select officials of the Prime Minister’s office have opened this private account to direct transfers of moneys. Certainly the account has swelled considerably since February this year. As at June 28, its balance was already over Rs. 103 million.
        The Rs. 82 million question
        The Rs. 82 million question is also this – If the money was indeed for tsunami relief and reconstruction of Hambantota, why pray, is it, that six months after the tsunami, when victims are still languishing in tents and makeshift structures, has the money not been used? Is it being saved for some other purpose over which the government has no control since it is managed by private individuals?
        It is reliably learnt that the money has now been deposited into a call deposit to generate interest. While this money purportedly to help tsunami victims is generating interest, thousands of victims are still living in harsh conditions.
        Surely politicians who receive donations on behalf of the state as a whole after a national disaster cannot set up private accounts for various districts such as ‘Helping Galle’ or ‘Helping Batticaloa’ depending on their area of interest for personal or political gain? And who knows at the end of the day where this money will end up?
        If, for example, Rajapakse is no longer Prime Minister tomorrow, the state will have no control over this money and the private individuals controlling it can for all intents and purposes use it to buy houses in the Bahamas.
        Case of the missing moneyThat money was lying around the Rajapakse residence was evident. Come February this year the Rajapakse family was in a dither. Rs. 400,000 had gone missing from the premises and the alleged prime suspect was a Tamil servant woman called Chandra who had recently left the home not only in a huff due to a matter of the heart involving another Prime Ministerial minor employee but also with a pocket stuffed with Rs. 400,000 allegedly stolen from the Prime Ministerial residence. Having found out about the alleged theft, Rajapakse’s wife Shiranthi lost no time in writing a letter marked ‘Urgent’ dated February 3, to the manager, Hatton National Bank in Colombo 8, requesting him to freeze the account of the servant woman as a police investigation had already commenced. (See box) On the strength of this letter when the servant woman went to the bank to withdraw a small amount, the bank informed the police and she was arrested. However, the Prime Minister intervened and she was released before the incident about the money could leak out to the press. The only salient question here in the public interest is this. Why would Rs. 400,000 be lying around in the Prime Minister’s home in the first place? And why was the police investigation subsequently dropped?* * *PM’s Secretary responds…Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lalith Weeratunga admitted that no monies from the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund had been used as yet. When asked why that was the case even six months after the tsunami, he said many donors had come to construct houses and give relief and thus it was not necessary. He also said this money may be used at a later date for community centres and infrastructure development. He revealed the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account had approximately Rs. 80 million in it and also stated no more monies had been sent to it. Weeratunga also said in deference to donors wishes they had to separate the moneys as donors approached them wanting to help Hambantota specifically and / or to help Ampara or another area specifically. When asked whether separate accounts were also opened for Ampara and other areas he stated the PM’s office did not receive such donations as donors were aware of the Prime Minister’s connection to Hambantota.* * *Helping Hambantota, PM’s office styleThe Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme has launched an impressive website – http://www.helphambantota.org. The objective of the project is stated as follows: “To bring together and combine the strengths of the government, the corporate sector, religious institutions, the UN community, international and national NGOs, professional bodies and the communities of those affected in bringing relief to the people of the district and in bringing about sustained development in the area. To facilitate, support and synergise the rehabilitation plans for the district, and to coordinate with relevant state agencies in order to expedite relief and development work.” What may well distress bona fide donors is also this. The site names as its many grandiose rebuilding projects, the following: Andaragasyaya Housing Project, ASPIC Village Housing Project, Cine Oska Village Housing Project, Haritha Housing Project, Helping House Housing Project, Kelani Temple Houses Housing Project, Kirindagama Housing Project, Obesekaralabima Walloya Housing Project, Porondugama Red Cross Housing Project, Samadigama Housing Project, Siribopura Housing project, Temp. Houses Kirindagama Housing Project and Tissapura Housing Project. Each is accompanied by pictures of houses under construction. However, Weeratunga told The Sunday Leader that none of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ funds had been used and that donors and aid agencies were building houses and therefore the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project was keeping the money for possible infrastructure development at a later date. This brings the credibility of this website into serious doubt. If the website is already claiming to have completed so many projects and even shows pictures of these ongoing projects, the Prime Minister’s office may be guilty of duping donors into sending money into an account that does not do anything. However, the website very passionately calls for donors to ‘Help Hambantota NOW.’ The site invites donors to feel free to write immediately and gives the following details. Programme name: Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme; Address: Prime Minister’s office, Temple Trees, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka; Telephone: +94 11 2 32 14 06 ; Fax: +94 11 2 2 54 29 18; E-mail: info@helphambantota.org, and gives the account details for money transfer as ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No. 01-1237322-01 ; Bank: Standard Charted Bank, Sri Lanka; Branch: Rajagiriya; Swift Code: SCBLLKLX. It also states that online donation facilities via Visa or Master would be available soon.* * *Gamage gives PM a helping handSenior Advisor to the Prime Minister and Desk Officer for ‘Helping Hambantota.’ Willie Gamage told The Sunday Leader that ‘Helping Hambantota’ was a temporary programme to handle tsunami relief and was a fund management programme. On asked whether it has been registered Gamage replied in the negative. Excerpts of the interview follow: Q: Is it part of the PM’s office? A: Not really but it is supported by the PM’s office. It is a temporary programme to manage funds earmarked for Hambantota. (He also stated that except for Lalith Weeratunga and Shasheendra Rajapakse all other members of the governing council of this programme were private members.) Q: Who are the signatories? A: Udaya Abeyratne is an accountant, Prof. Epasinghe is from the academic field and M. Gunawardena is a private person. Q: Only three signatories? A: Yes. (Of the Rs. 82 million deposited in the account Gamage said that approximately Rs. 15 million has been spent on kitchen utensils, construction of 15 permanent houses and incidental expenses such as project surveys.) Q: Has any more money been put to the account? A: No. As at June 15, we have spent Rs. 15 million. Q: What is the balance now? A: The balance is Rs. 67 million. Q: When was this account started? A: Early January, I think. Q: Were you not in violation of the Presidential directive not to maintain separate accounts issued on December 29, 2004? A: We were not in violation. Anyway, direct those questions to the secretary. Q: You say these were monies earmarked for Hambantota. Who earmarked them, was it the donors and was it in writing? A: It was in writing. For instance, Plan International was one. I am not authorised to give you the other donors. Q: But you took out a full page advertisement in the state media on February 2, where you listed 22 donors. The list names the Korean Ambassador. Did he give you a request in writing? A: Yes Q: Could you give me some letters of donors in the list who have requested that their monies go to Hambantota? A: Those are with the secretary but even I may be able to find one or two letters. I’m out of office, I can give them to you on Monday.* * *Accountant refuses to commentThe Sunday Leader contacted Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s office, S.Subasinghe for his comments on the transfer of over Rs. 82 million from the Prime Minister’s fund to a private account. Subasinghe declined to comment stating he was a public official and that all questions should be directed to Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lalith Weeratunga.

        (2) Cabinet note and documents that damn PM’s defence

        The Rs. 82 million cheque sent on January 31 t a private account before the cabinet note, Cheque for Rs. 28 million sent to Central Bank, Cheque for Rs. 82 million sent to private bank account, Voucher transferring funds from PM’s Fund to the Central bank as per the President’s directive, The minute detailing the PM’s instructions to transfer the money to the private account, Voucher transferring funds from the PM’s Fund to the private account, Rajapakse’s cabinet note and Mahinda Rajapakse are in the picture

        By Sonali Samarasinghe
        PUBLISHED 10 JULY 2005: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s attempt to defend the siphoning off of a colossal Rs. 82,958,247.70 of tsunami funds into a private account has proved futile, with the defense turning out to merely exacerbate the offence.
        Last week The Sunday Leader exclusively broke the story of how Prime Minister Rajapakse and a coterie of select officials in the Prime Minister’s office transferred over Rs. 82 million of tsunami donations from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund specially set up to collect tsunami relief into a private account controlled by private signatories, including his brother Chamal, held at the Standard Chartered Bank.
        Consequently, Prime Minister Rajapakse publicly took up the position that he had in fact presented to cabinet a note on February 2 regarding the deposit of these funds before the account was opened and had also published the names of the donors in several English and Sinhala newspapers.
        Cabinet note
        However, a perusal of the cabinet note and several documents in the possession of this newspaper reveal that the Prime Minister has not only misled cabinet but has also been involved in an exercise of subterfuge, as it becomes abundantly clear that he personally transferred these tsunami funds into a private account at a private bank even before he presented the cabinet note on the matter.
        This fact is further revealed in a minute signed by the Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s Office, S.A.N.R. Subasinghe, a voucher approved by Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga and the very cheque that was issued in order to make this transfer. (Documents reproduced elsewhere on this page)
        Furthermore, the voucher written by Subasinghe and approved by Weeratunga clearly states that the funds in question were in fact transferred from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund – an official account controlled by government financial regulations – into the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account. They are not, as the Prime Minister attempts to assert, donations that came in especially for Hambantota and therefore needed a separate account. (See box)
        Meanwhile, a top Finance Ministry official confirmed to The Sunday Leader that details of this account did not reach the Ministry, no approval was given to establish this account, it has been set up outside government regulations and is not under its control.
        Master of his trade
        Smoke screens and red herrings, artifice and stratagem are familiar stuff to politicians and Prime Minister Rajapakse is often considered a master of his trade. Alas, however, this time Rajapakse’s cabinet note cover up is in fact rather décolleté.
        Another vital distinction has to be made at the outset. The significant difference between a cabinet note and a cabinet memorandum. A note is merely dissemination of information and has no approval or consent from other members of the cabinet. A memorandum is different. It is discussed, approval is sort for and granted after consideration and the contents thereof ratified within two weeks. It then becomes a cabinet approved decision.
        Cabinet meets every Wednesday. This note was presented to cabinet on Wednesday, February 2. Cabinet would meet again only on February 9 and then again on February 16. Make no mistake. There was no approval sought and none was given. This was only a cabinet note.
        Meanwhile, the opposition is likely to raise the issue, accusing the Prime Minister of not only misleading cabinet but also parliament following the tabling of an adjournment motion on July 7 by UNP MP, John Amaratunge and seconded by Dayasiri Wijesekera.
        Consider the PM’s defence:
        The Prime Minister’s position on the disappearing tsunami funds is this. That he presented a cabinet note on the subject of disbursement of tsunami funds on February 2. This was a Wednesday and the cabinet secretary received it also on the same day. The PM says this account is not a secret account and neither is it his private account.
        He also states he presented to cabinet details of tsunami relief funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office. The cabinet had taken cognizance of the fact that this was published in the newspapers and that all funds had been duly accounted for. The next day cabinet had accepted this position. He also states he only started this account after first informing cabinet. (See box for the PM’s position)
        The facts
        Now consider the facts:
        Firstly the Prime Minister says the account maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank is neither secret nor private.
        Wiser men may think otherwise. The four signatories to this account are private persons, namely, Prof. Epasinghe – a long time friend of the Prime Minister, Mahinda Gunawardena – a loyalist, Chamal Rajapakse – brother of the Prime Minister and Udaya Abeyratne – chief accountant, Road Development Authority.
        The account, named ‘Helping Hambantota’ is maintained at a private bank – Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya Branch – and bears account number 01-1237322-01 . As at June 29 it had an account balance of Rs. 103,094,966. But more on what happened to the money later.
        This account and the monies in it are as private as a shy curate’s underwear and we will tell you why. The moment this large amount of public money was transferred into the Standard Chartered Bank account, the government lost control of it. The money was now not subject to financial regulations and in the confusion that followed the disaster, once spirited away it was soon to be forgotten.
        Remember this. The money was donated to the nation, not to the Prime Minister in his private capacity as Mahinda Rajapakse of Hambantota. There are procedures in place, quite rightly, to decide how donations should be disbursed and spent or where they should be deposited.
        One thing is certain – all donations must be subject to government procedures. But with one stroke of a pen on January 27, the Prime Minister transferred this astronomical sum of money out of government control and into private hands, all the time publishing accuracy-challenged advertisements in a number of newspapers to blow smoke screens around what had in fact happened.
        Secondly, the Prime Minister asserts the account is not secret. But in the advertisements placed – and we refer particularly to The Daily News publication of February 2 to which the Prime Minister himself alludes in his public defense of the issue – the advertisement does not mention the private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at Standard Chartered Bank . It merely mentions a generalised Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.
        In the cabinet note he presented on the same day (reproduced elsewhere on this page) again he appears to be misleading cabinet by being economical with the truth. The cabinet note deals with monies received by the Prime Minister’s Office up to January 2.
        It states a sum of Rs. 113,262,539.89 by international money transfers and cheques was received by the Prime Minister’s Office. It also gives sketchy details of a sum of foreign currency that was received and states that donations received through the website, http://www.emerge-ncydonations.gov.lk, deposited in the Sampath Bank account amounted to Rs. 5,438,299.
        How the money was disbursed
        The cabinet note then sets out how the Rs. 113 million stated above was disbursed.
        National Disaster Relief Fund (Central Bank A/C 4669) – Rs. 28,363,135.04.
        On account of the special requests of the donors the money deposited in the Hambantota Disaster Relief Fund – Rs. 82,958,247.70.
        Funds allocated to be sent to the National Disaster Relief Fund (Central Bank A/c 4669) – Rs. 1,941,157,15.
        This amounts to a total of Rs. 113,262,539.
        The note states all these monies have been duly accounted for and Mahinda Rajapakse signs the note.
        Now let’s look at the cabinet note.
        What strikes one immediately is that the Prime Minister is being very diligent when giving details of the other accounts but is reticent in even providing the most basic details about the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account. While generous with information about the Central Bank account numbers, he does not reveal to cabinet that the lion’s share is really going into a private account.
        Indeed he does not mention anything except that it is going into a Hambantota relief fund. No mention of the fact that it is going into a private bank and no mention of the account number as with the other monies. This appears to be selective secrecy.
        Out of government control
        Even if donors requested these moneys be used for Hambantota, it must necessarily be done through the proper financial channels and be under the control of the government. It cannot be siphoned off and taken out of the purview and umbrella of government control.
        Nor does the Prime Minister think it fit to set down details of the donors who gave these monies supposedly for Hambantota. Last week when questioned by The Sunday Leader, Desk Officer, Hambantota Fund and Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister, Willie Gamage stated that donors had given this request in writing. He stated he may be able to find one or two of these written requests. We wait with bated breath.
        Certainly the newspaper publications list out a number of donors as having requested that their money only go to Hambantota. Among them the Ambassador, Korean Embassy, Lanka Bell (Pvt) Ltd., Keangnam Enterprises Ltd., Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd. and Samsung Networks among 22 others. But this is neither here nor there.
        What is on the button is the lack of accountability by the Prime Minister with regard to Rs. 82 million of the nation’s funds. Funds not yet utilised while tsunami victims all over Sri Lanka are still living in makeshift camps.
        Is it the Prime Minister’s position that if he is given a donation as prime minister of Sri Lanka of a sum of Rs. 100 million with a special request that he build a house in London with it, he would be able to do that with impunity? Obviously not. Same principle. Nor does publicising a wrong in a newspaper make it magically right.
        Even heads of state who receive gifts by visiting dignitaries cannot treat these gifts as their own. They belong to the state and are under the control of the state. Likewise with funds received after the tsunami.
        Thirdly, the Prime Minister is adamant these were funds specifically given for Hambantota. Let us take the Prime Minister’s own documents on the issue.
        The voucher
        The Prime Minister’s Office voucher (reproduced elsewhere on this page) dated January 26, clearly states a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 is payable to ‘The Manager Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya Branch – A/C No. 01-1237322-01 Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.’
        Note this well. In the description column of the voucher it states thus: ‘Donations received for the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund being deposited into the Hambantota Tsunami Relief Fund.’ This voucher was approved and signed by Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga. If there was any discrepancy in the description of what the funds were for, he could have changed it. He did not do so. Also note the January 26 date. That is well before the February 2 cabinet memo.
        Furthermore, smaller amounts of money from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund that were in fact duly transferred to the Central Bank National Relief Fund attracted similar wording in vouchers relating to them. For instance, on March 14, a voucher was prepared for Rs. 15,124,891.13 payable to the National Fund For Disaster Relief, Central Bank and the description on the voucher was identical as above except for the name of the receiving bank and account.
        If, as the Prime Minister states, there was a difference in the Rs. 83 million, why did the sum also attract the identical voucher description?
        Now let us take the minute made on January 27 by Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s Office, S.A.N.R. Subasinghe. It states thus:
        “The donors have made a request to the Prime Minister that of the funds received into the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund, a certain amount is allocated only for the development of Hambantota. The Secretary to the Prime Minister has indicated what these funds are in the Funds Register.
        Therefore, on the verbal instructions of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Secretary, I seek approval to transfer a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund into the Hambantota Relief Fund” (see box). Secretary Lalith Weeratunga gave signed approval for this transfer on January 27.
        Another minute on the same page rather forlornly states:
        “While a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from the funds received by the PM’s Punarajeewana Fund has been transferred to the Hambantota Development Fund, approval is sought to deposit the balance available (Rs. 28,363,135.04) in the National Disaster Fund at the Central Bank.” Again Weeratunga has given signed approval.
        It appears then that Prime Minister Rajapakse – a man known for his frugality – has been equally frugal with the truth. His own office documentation contradicts his explanation, and casts doubts on the contents of his cabinet note. It is clear from these documents that funds from the official Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund were in fact siphoned off without any cabinet approval to a private account.
        Fourthly, the Prime Minister states the said Standard Chartered Bank account was opened only after cabinet approval was granted. We have already established there was no cabinet approval as this was only an information note with a veneer of legitimacy due to a lack of information on the crucial said account.
        Now consider the following dates. Before that, recall that the cabinet note was presented on February 2.
        January 11: The private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No.01-1237322-01 at Standard Chartered Bank with four private signatories unrelated to the Prime Minister’s Office was opened under a trust set up in the name of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s father, D.A. Rajapakse. The Rs. 83 million that was transferred from tsunami funds, according to documents from the Prime Ministers Office, were those received from donors between December 27, 2004 and January 11, this year.
        January 26: A voucher was presented and approved by Secretary Weeratunga for the Rs. 83 million to be transferred to this private Standard Chartered Bank account.
        January 27: A voucher was prepared to transfer the remainder Rs. 28 million in the PM’s Punarjeewana Fund into the Official Central Bank Disaster Relief Fund.
        As The Sunday Leader revealed last week, the decision was to transfer Rs. 106,983,247.70 at first but this was suddenly changed. The gesture was no doubt prudent as in that case only a mere pittance of not even Rs. 7 million would have reached government coffers. This may have raised too many eyebrows too soon. (See minute reproduced elsewhere on this page)
        The Prime Minister himself in his cabinet note states his office up to January 2 received a sum of Rs. 113,262,539.89.
        January 31: A cheque was issued for the transfer of Rs. 83 million into the Standard Chartered Bank A/C No. 01-12373-22-01 while on the same day another cheque was made out for the remainder of Rs. 28 million into the Central Bank Disaster Relief Fund. However, Standard Chartered Bank returned the cheque stating the payee name was wrong.
        February 3: A fresh cheque with the correct payee name of ‘Helping Hambantota’ was issued and sent to the bank.
        Superficial spin
        The Prime Minister appears to be master of superficial spin for long before the cabinet note was presented to cabinet, the said account had been opened and the money deposited.
        Therefore, has the Prime Minister not mislead cabinet by presenting a note of deliberate insipidity on February 2 when his own office documentation and bank details show that he had every intention of sending this money out into a private account outside the control of the government of Sri Lanka?
        Is Rajapakse, who now aspires to be the president of this country, only to be the president of Hambantota? Certainly in his capacity as Prime Minister, he seems to have confined himself to his own constituency.
        That is if one is to give a generous interpretation to the establishment of the account notwithstanding the fact these monies were not used for the benefit of the tsunami victims even six months after the disaster.
        Fifthly, the Prime Minister states he has travelled to Batticaloa, Ampara, Point Pedro and Jaffna after the disaster. Whatever his own views on the matter, one presumes that he was appointed Prime Minister of the nation as a whole. He may surely have received monies where donors expressed some interest in other areas of the country. Did he set up separate accounts for these areas too? Such as, for instance, ‘Helping Ampara,’ ‘Helping Batticaloa’ and ‘Helping Jaffna.’
        It sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous. This is akin to President Kumaratunga, (not that we say she has) deciding to open up separate accounts for every district if a donor at the recently concluded donor forum held in Kandy made a comment in passing that they would like this money to be used for a particular purpose or area.
        Speaking of the Head of State, Kumaratunga’s silence on this issue is deafening. It is up to her to call for a full inquiry. In fact it is she who publicly announced that not even five cents of aid had been received by the country. The Treasury too made no bones about how little had arrived.
        The Prime Minister cannot absolve himself by stating that newspaper advertisements were placed. Sherlock Holmes was once to observe in cracking the case of the Naval Treaty that it was often the obvious that goes unnoticed. And there is a quiet subtlety in publicising half-truths in a cavalier manner in order to cover up the big lie.

        The Prime Minister’s position
        The Prime Minister’s position on the disappearing tsunami funds is this. He says this account is not a secret account and neither is it his private account. He also states he presented to cabinet details of tsunami relief funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Cabinet had taken cognizance of the fact this was published in the newspapers and that all funds had been duly accounted for. The next day cabinet had accepted this position. Therefore, he says he only started this account after first informing cabinet.
        He also says he informed cabinet in the note that on account of donors’ special requests he deposited monies in a separate Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund. He states thus: “When the donors requested him to use these monies for Hambantota I gave these monies to the Secretary for the Prime Minister. Normally the money went into the general Prime Minister’s account. It is because of donor requests that I had to open this separate account. What donations I received as Prime Minister generally, I deposited into the National Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank 4669. On the same day I presented the cabinet note on February 2, I also published these facts in the newspapers. I wish to state that under the ‘Helping Hambantota’ scheme even Sajith Premadasa has signed agreements to build houses. So this is not an account opened for me to secretly squander.
        “We have dedicated ourselves on behalf of those victims of the disaster. We have done our maximum. I am not confined only to Hambantota. I went to Batticaloa and Ampara Districts as well. I went to Jaffna with former Minister Anura Dissanayake and Wimal Weerawansa. We went to Velvetithurai and to Point Pedro. We went to Trincomalee. We were attacked. Those are not problems. But we will not take advantage of people’s disaster. I say this has been done very openly and the programme has gone to cabinet and has been approved by cabinet. The beauty of it is this. I am also asked why I have not spent this money. On the other hand, questions are raised in other instances when money comes in, that it was spent on this and that or it was stolen. I think this has been done solely to throw mud at me. I am thankful to the newspapers for bringing this out so I can explain it. I will be more thankful if they also said I had got cabinet approval,” he said.
        Ins and outs of the pvt. account
        The ‘Helping Hambantota’ bank account at Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya branch bears A/C No. 01-1237322-01 .
        On July 1, no sooner the Prime Minister’s Office became aware this newspaper had the issue under investigation, a sum of Rs. 82,958,250 was transferred into a call deposit at the same bank at a low interest rate of four percent whereas the government interest rate is 8-9 percent. Therefore, by keeping these public funds in a private account, the Prime Minister is also losing interest which belongs to the public of this country.
        Recent transactions are as follows:
        January 12: Rs. 3 million was transferred to this account from the Bank of Ceylon Parliament Branch.
        January 20: KIA Motors deposited Rs. 8,777,549 into the account.
        March 21: Rs. 3 million was withdrawn from the account.
        April 27: Rs. 2 million was withdrawn from the account.
        May 20: Rs. 1.5 million was paid to W.W. Gamage.
        Willie Gamage is senior advisor to the PM and desk officer for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ programme, which he himself told The Sunday Leader was a temporary programme to handle tsunami relief funds.
        The balance in the account at the time of going to print was Rs. 19,125,056.00.

        (3) Funds transferred in violation of cabinet decision
        Mahinda has misled cabinet and parliament
        Cabinet fixes PM on tsunami scam
        By Sonali Samarasinghe
        PUBLISHED 17 JULY 2005:Evidence has surfaced that the cabinet of ministers had rejected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s cabinet note on the disbursement of tsunami funds contrary to claims he made that cabinet approval was obtained.
        Rajapakse, on July 5 answering charges he had siphoned off over Rs. 82 million of tsunami funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office into a private account at Standard Chartered Bank, claimed he had received cabinet approval to do so on the basis of a cabinet note submitted by him on February 2.
        The minutes of the cabinet meeting of February 10 revealed that cabinet, having taken into consideration the Prime Minister’s cabinet note had unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received both locally and internationally should be deposited in the official Disaster Relief Fund established at the Central Bank.
        This was in keeping with the circular issued by the President through Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne on December 29, 2004 that no separate account for tsunami funds was to be established.
        The cabinet decision rejecting the Prime Minister’s cabinet note on the issue had been communicated in writing to the Prime Minister’s Secretary for action by Cabinet Secretary, D. Wijesinghe and Additional Secretary, P. Hapangama on February 17. Copies were also sent to the President’s Secretary, Finance and Planning Ministry Secretary and to the Auditor General.
        The Prime Minister, who received large sums of money following the December 26 tsunami disaster, is accused of opening an account named ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ on December 31, 2004 at the People’s Bank and depositing over Rs. 73 million in contravention of a Presidential directive dated December 29, 2004 not to open any separate bank accounts but to credit all monies received to the President’s Fund for Disaster Relief, maintained at the Central Bank.
        The Prime Minister and Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga had subsequently directed Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe to transfer Rs. 82,958,247.70 to a private account established at the Standard Chartered Bank in Rajagiriya on January 29 this year, under the name ‘Helping Hambantota.’
        The original cheque dated January 31 was returned due to a wrong payee name and a fresh cheque dated February 3 signed by Weeratunga and Subasinghe was issued with the amended payee name ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No. 011-237322-01 .
        The signatories to the private account included Prime Minister Rajapakse’s brother Chamal Rajapakse, a close associate, Mahinda Gunawardena and another confidant Professor Epasinghe.
        Following The Sunday Leader exposing details of the private bank account, the Prime Minister informed parliament on July 5 that he submitted a cabinet note and had obtained approval. However, even in that cabinet note there was no disclosure of the private account that was established at Standard Chartered Bank or the transfer of monies to it from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund.
        The Prime Minister’s cabinet note was dated February 2, while the private account was opened on January 11, and the first cheque deposited on January 31.
        The cabinet rejected Prime Minister Rajapakse’s note on February 10, and communicated the decision in writing on February 17 by circular number AMP/05/0155/002/002.
        It is now revealed that despite the cabinet decision on February 10, the large sum of tsunami funds continued to remain in the private account outside the control of government and state financial regulations. On July 1 these monies were transferred into a call deposit at the same Standard Chartered Bank at Rajagiriya on a fixed interest rate.
        The cabinet decision communicated to the Prime Minister’s Secretary on February 17, specifically said action should be taken in terms of the February 10 decision to transfer all monies received by the Prime Minister to the Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank.
        However, the Prime Minister and his officials did not implement this decision but instead transferred the monies at the Standard Chartered Bank to a call deposit in the same bank.
        The cabinet circular in Sinhala dated February 17 states a decision taken at the cabinet meeting of February 10 is attached for necessary action.
        It then goes on to set out specifically item (c) 40 in the cabinet agenda stating that cabinet has take due cognizance of the Prime Minister’s cabinet note dated February 2 number 05/0155/002/002 titled ‘Description of tsunami relief funds at the Prime Minister’s Office,’ which says that details of all donations have been published in the newspapers and that all donations have been duly deposited into accounts.
        The cabinet of ministers unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received locally and internationally should be deposited in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the minutes also state. The cabinet circular calls for the action of the Prime Minister’s Secretary on this matter.

        (4) For PM, charity begins at home

        Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Chamal Rajapakse and Unilever’s letter addressed to Ranil Wickremesinghe
        By Sonali Samarasinghe
        Published 24 July 2005 : More damning facts have come to light on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s private account into which he siphoned off under a thick mantle of secrecy, an astronomical sum of over Rs. 82 million of funds donated for the tsunami victims in the aftermath of the disaster.
        It is now revealed that the address of the Helping Hambantota account given to the Standard Chartered Bank when it was originally opened was No.166/A, Pangiriwatte Road, Mirihana, Nugegoda.

        This is the residential address of the Prime Minister’s sister, Gandhini. Pangiriwatte Road is dotted all over with the residential abodes of the Rajapakse family. While there is no offence in the Rajapakse clan wanting to form a Pangiriwatte click, certainly there is an offence in giving the private address of his sister for a fund into which the Prime Minister had stashed away public monies. Mind you a private account of which the Prime Minister’s brother Chamal including three other close confidants, were made signatories.
        Meanwhile President Chandrika Kumaratunga last Wednesday summoned Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, directing him to bring her all the files pertaining to the account. Following a scrutiny of the files, she summoned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and informed him that an inquiry must proceed on the matter.
        On Friday the CID went into Temple Trees to commence investigations on the Helping Hambantota bank account scam. Secretary to the Prime Minister Lalith Weeratunga was quizzed by the CID officials in the morning and asked to produce all files pertaining to the account. Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe was questioned that evening.
        Consider the extent of fault. Not only does the Premier illegally transfer large sums of public money into a private account, but also gives the account the residential address of his sister and makes his brother a signatory to it.
        Note this. Chamal Rajapakse is also the deputy minister for plantation industries. By making himself a party to the Helping Hambantota account he positions himself in a conflict of interest situation.
        Article 91(1)(e) of the Constitution states that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of parliament if he has any interest in a contract made by or on behalf of the state or a public corporation as parliament shall prescribe by law.
        Not above the law
        Some years ago a judgment was made against Rajitha Senaratne, MP under this same provision for his involvement in a dental supplies contract. Chamal Rajapakse as a deputy minister in this government is not above the law.
        The Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga himself earlier told The Sunday Leader that the monies may be

        Lalith Weeratunge
        used for infrastructure development of Hambantota at a later date. Construction and development would require contractual dealings that may be prohibited by law.
        Furthermore if the Helping Hambantota account was an official account of the Prime Minister’s Office then why was it that the Prime Ministerial Secretary was not appointed as a signatory to the account? The Secretary is by law also the chief accounting officer.
        In fact by contrast the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund was opened by his office on December 31, 2004. This fund was opened at the People’s Bank and the signatories are all public officials attached to the Prime Minister’s office. It is from this account which in any event went against the Presidential directive of December 29, 2004 not to open any accounts at all but deposit monies in a National Disaster Relief Fund, that the PM siphoned off the said monies.
        The Prime Minister, to give the fund a veneer of legitimacy, also appointed a board of directors which includes his nephew Shasheendra Rajapakse. The others are Secretary to the PM, Lalith Weeratunga, Chairman HNB, Rienzie Wijetilleke, Director/Road Development Authority (RDA), M. Mowjood and Accountant, RDA, Udaya Abeyratne.
        The question is this. Under what law or authority was the board set up since no legal documentation existed either in the form of a certificate of incorporation of a company and a subsequent resolution, trust deed etc.
        The Annual Report 2001 of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka gives banks guidelines on customer due diligence and

        Rajitha Senaratne
        ‘know your customer’ procedures. It advises all licensed, commercial banks and specialised banks to follow strict procedures in order to prevent the unchecked use of the financial system for money laundering and transactions related to terrorism and subversive activities.
        The report states the bank should insist on a certificate of incorporation, memorandum and articles of association, a partnership agreement, to establish the legal status of the customer. The documents must also include a resolution to open the account by the directors.
        Meanwhile, despite the Prime Minister’s protests that the monies were specifically handed over by the donors for Hambantota, large donors like Unilever who gave a colossal sum of Rs. 25 million have denied the prime minister’s claims in writing and have instead stated that the monies were given for the National Disaster Fund and not for a particular area.
        Another donor, Tania Polonowita of Gemunu Mawatha, Subathipura, Battaramulla transferred a sum of Rs. 1 million into the Helping Hambantota account at the STB from an account maintained at Pan Asia Bank called the Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief Fund.
        Polonowita subsequently told The Sunday Leader that she transferred Rs.1 million into the Helping Hambantota Fund for bona fide housing projects in the Hambantota area but was unaware at the time it was a private account and not under government control.
        Last week The Sunday Leader exclusively reported that the Prime Minister’s Cabinet note regarding the accounts dated February 2, 2005 had been unanimously rejected by cabinet on February 10 and communicated in writing to the Prime Minister’s Secretary for appropriate action on February 17.
        Today The Sunday Leader looks at the legal aspects of this astonishing case that has plunged a nation already reeling from a natural disaster into an abyss of desperation.
        The Constitution
        Chapter XVII of the Constitution deals with finance matters. Article 148 states that parliament shall have full control of public finance. Under the constitution two funds could be maintained.
        a. The Consolidated Fund
        b. The Contingencies Fund
        Article 149(1) states that public funds not allocated by law to any specific purpose shall form one consolidated fund

        Rienzie Wijetilleka
        into which shall be paid the produce of all taxes, imposts, rates and duties and all other revenues.
        According to Article 150 (1), neither can any sum be withdrawn from this account except under the authority of a warrant under the hand of the minister in charge of the subject of finance.
        Article 151(1) provides for the Contingencies Fund, which parliament may create for the purpose of providing for urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
        However withdrawals from this fund is quite a process. The finance minister if satisfied that there is need for any such expenditure and that no provision for such expenditure exists may with the consent of the president, authorise an advance from this fund.
        Apart for the above two funds, others may exist only if allocated by law under special acts for special purposes.
        Thus there is a President’s Fund into which the Development Lottery monies are deposited for example. This fund is a special fund from which withdrawals are made for scholarships, medical operations etc. Likewise there could be a Prime Minister’s Fund. But these have to be constituted by law, by a special act.
        The Finance Act
        Part IV of the Act No 38 of 1971 deals with the establishment of special funds to receive voluntary contributions in money made to the government for charitable purposes.
        Section 25(1) states that any voluntary contribution made to the government for a special purpose may be held in deposit in one or more accounts in the General Treasury or in any such kachcheri in the island as may be determined by the minister of finance. In any event Section 26 provides that payments from such account may be made by the deputy secretary Treasury subject to the control of the minister of finance.
        Sources at the Finance Ministry have confirmed to The Sunday Leader that no approvals warrants or endorsements of any kind have been made by the Ministry on the Helping Hambantota Fund which was rejected by cabinet in any event.
        Financial regulations
        Let’s look at Section 870 on the subject of State Gifts. It clearly states that gifts received by a minister, member of parliament or a public officer, from a head or representative of a foreign state, should be regarded as received by him solely in his capacity as a representative of the Government of Sri Lanka. The disposal of such a gift attracts a number of checks and balances.
        Firstly, the gift must be reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the recipient feels he received the gift in his personal rather than official capacity he should present his case in writing to the Foreign Ministry. All gifts must in any event be valued by the director general of customs. Gifts valued at Rs. 150 or less should be returned to the recipient while the recipient will have the option to purchase the gift if valued over Rs. 150 at the assessed price. If not the gift should be transferred to the National Museum.
        This is the hard road public officials and politicians have to tread under the financial regulations even with regard to gifts. A road that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, by his ingenuity and prestidigitation has with regard to donations, transformed into a cakewalk.
        Gifts of money
        Take a hard look at this. F.R. 170(2) deals with Gifts of Money. The importance of this section warrants that it is reproduced in full.
        “When a department receives gifts of money from members of the public with requests that the gifts should be used for specific purposes, the amount received should be temporarily held in a deposit account and the donors informed politely, under registered cover, that the proposed expenditure can be incurred only with parliamentary approval, and that therefore no assurance can be given that their proposals will ultimately be implemented.
        They should be made aware that if the donations are accepted, they have to be credited to the revenue, and no refund could be made thereafter, even if the parliament disapproves the proposals.”
        If the donors are agreeable to the conditions, the amounts would be credited to the revenue or otherwise refunded to them. If no replies are received by the donors reminders must be sent stating that if there is no reply within two weeks the money will be accepted into revenue.
        F.R.170(b) states that “when gifts of money are credited to revenue in terms of (a) above, provisions may be made in the draft estimates of the following Financial Year for implementing the specific proposals for which the donations were received subject to approval.
        (c ) Gifts of Money received, other than for a specific purpose, should be credited to revenue.
        The section also sets out how monies credited to revenue should be classified and in F.R.170(e) states that the following particulars (1) The name and address of the donor, (2) Amount of gifts, (3) Date of credit to revenue, (4) Purpose if any, for which it is donated, and (5) If donated for a specific purpose, which action has been taken, should be notified to the director general, Department of State Accounts, Treasury, without delay so that he could include same in the statement relating to gift of money received during the financial year which is published along with annual accounts.
        F.R. 170 is abundantly clear. Even if a donor requests that a donation should be used for a specific purpose this cannot be done and there is provision to inform the donor of the financial regulations on this issue. Instead all monies must go into either the Consolidated Fund or the Contingencies Fund as government revenue.
        No steps can be taken without parliamentary approval. The public has known for the past two weeks and Prime Minister Rajapakse has known for a hefty six months that he did not have parliamentary approval for his dodgy Hambantota account, which in any event has not even gone to help Hambantota. (See next page)
        State banks
        The Prime Minister we presume, being a seasoned politician is a man well versed in the financial regulations of this country. He would also be aware that all public monies must be deposited in one of the three state banks. The Central Bank, People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon. Ditto for his secretary, Lalith Weeratunga.
        F.R.381 provides for the opening of bank accounts. In order to open a bank account an application must first be made to the Treasury. The application to open an official bank account should be made through the chief ac

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          This response will wrap my Leelo like an apron string :)

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          Now that the former CJ has publicly disclosed that he fixed the verdict in this case, can it be revisited and taken up to a conclusion. Sarath Silva can be the prime wittness to the prosecution.

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          OMG! Too long to read. Need time to read other contributions and comments in the CT.

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          Veddah Diaspora, What did you do to Leela? I am sure the bugger must be still trying to digest what you have written, unable to comprehend?

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        Leela – Now that you have a small part of the abuses, are you satisfied? Any change in your views?? Or are you the ‘loyalist at any cost’, regardless of the crimes committed???

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      There is a difference between us Sri Lankans and people of Uruguay.

      Unlike we Sri Lankans, people of Uruguay are not so gullible.

      Sri Lankans think MR is a man of the poor. He is not. That is just his deceptive image. He loves power and wealth. MR is shamefully busy building a dynasty.

      Marcos, Suharto and Mugabe deceived people exactly the same way.

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    Why not a copy of this is posted to each and every member of Parliament of the ruling party specially to Dinesh Nimal Siripala.

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      those pigs canot understand what is modest living.
      no use of bathing ducks.

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      They all got buffalo hide specialty of humbug dotha.

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    The difference with Rajapaksha is he has used his political-craftmanship with a backing of 90 odd “Ministers” who are more
    than satisfied with the fortune unforseen when the contested.
    Hence MR is operating on a live and let live basis!

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    For a start we should have all members of parliment and those holding high public office declare their assets. Like in the US they should also declare how much taxes they paid etc. They should also declare how many free car permits they received and what they have done with these.

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      Where are the Public Interest people or Friday Forum, T.I etc
      who should persue this matter in Courts in respect of all M.PP
      who have not filed a Declaration of Asset form with those concerned.

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    I certainly remember those days how civilized those politicians were, there was no violence or any force. I also grew up in Moratuwa and I remember Merril Fernando, Wimalasiri De Mel and Ruskin Fernando but purpose of their political life was different, they were honest and did not become rich. It is true late 1970 was the turning point, now we have a weak constitution and more politicians but most of them are corrupted.

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      Only revolutions have bought about republican constitutions for the people by the people eg. USA and France. While SL got its first republican constitution when the country was facing the economic embargo and the cold war was at its height- public not knowing what was happening except suddha ganawaha :) while Sirima sold the gift from Indira” Diego Garcia” for £50k to the US/UK.
      But still begging for GOP+, IMF (UK), WB/ADB(US) you can name it all in the name of unborn folks.

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    once I met Late Mr Wijayananda Dahanayake, at the old pass port office close to Colombo harbour behind present president’s house at Colombo fort.
    he came to the counter with Queue, to hand over a passport application and one officer invited him inside and mr Dahanayake ask our permission, if it is ok for him to allow to hand over his application.
    we all allowed him to, as he was a well know gentleman and respected one month prime minister.
    Present days,We do not have that type of politicians.
    Only selfish Desha paaluwos and kudu dealers as politicians .

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      Yes, exactly today lankens have only bunch low grade politicians…in the parliament see, how MERVIN acts – nobody has guts to say anything against him – …


      I personally believe, that President allocate some funds asking Mervin to speak in this way…

      See how uncivilised he gives his talk to the press … :(

      Have we seen this kind of speeches in the past – where Dahanayakes were in the parliament… ?

      For me as one who lived out the country for the last 2 decades, all these are unthinkable…. :(

      I listened to a you tube yesterday in which he says – let others to starve but he would buy Lamboginis to their sons..

      Any right thinking would feel – how could Mervin or other politicians to have owned that amounts of millions within a short period of time (most likely sine 2005)? How can the school teachers or masters teach their childreen if young ones would raise the question – these rulers only pave the way to an another somalia in the south asian region.

      Above all, what angers me is – there are still significant masses, who would say nothing against the bugger MR- just because they are forced to believe that MR^s magical tactics leberated country from LTTE terror.
      At the time Dr Dahanayakes were in the parliament – we had more democratic values for the folks. They the noble politicians did not even chase after people ^s funds. No doubts, those were the days that our folks enjoyed dignity and respectful lives.

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    Thank you Leader Publication for exposing this heinous crime. How can these villains from the secretary LW and Rajapakse clan get a sound sleep?This is why the Right to Information Bill is mulled.Atawisi pujas, 84000 pahan poojas, Dhane for thosand of priests can not turn these darsterdly acts into meritorious deeds.All those crooks and partners in crime will have to pay sooner or later.

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    In my opinion credit/blame for the rot in our country should go to JRJ for DEMOCRATISING ABUSE OF POWER, BRIBERY and CORRUPTION…
    In short A B C.

    According to Laksiri he was not corrupt(? what about the piece of prime coconut land he exchanged?).

    He condoned the A B C.

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      Wijedasa, do you know that JRJ has donated most of his wealth to the Public Trustee. Besides what you are trying to highlight is exchange of land to land at Mudukatuwe and not robbing land as others have done. If you can not understand the difference, you were not fit to act as Pres Sec anyway.

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    My heart goes to Lasantha Wickramatunge and all other journalists who were murdered by the Governing Parliament MAFIA crooks for bringing these to the attention of public.This is all happening while the opposition is sleeping.That’s why MR murder Journalists.
    This Helping humbantota case should be re-opened and should bring justice both to the internationl and local donors,mostly middle class families, children and all other groups who sent their little savings for the purpose of bringing relief for people who lost everything. Also MR should publish how this donated money was spent with the use of a reputed audit firm. Also CJ should take steps never to happen these roberies in future.
    Also allocating 45% of the budget to 3 MARA brothers is wrong. If divineguma bill of 80 Billion also added, it will be 50% of the budget. THIS IS YOU ARE MAKING A GANGESTER OF ROBBERS. CJ should immediately stop this.
    What is other 220 members in the parliament going to do with the rest of the 50% other than sleeping…. Good night.

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    Its funny how they are writing positive things about Mahinda in the Mahawansa. All people in the future have to do is Google Mahinda Rajapakse and find about the real character

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