Sajin De Vass Gunawardena the former Monitoring MP of the External Affairs Ministry of the Rajapaksa regime, paid a tip of Rs 62,000 (US $ 450) of public funds, at a restaurant he wined and dined on one of his official trips to New York on the 20th of September 2014, Foreign Ministry officials told Colombo Telegraph.
This mind boggling figure for a mere a restaurant tip is equivalent to the monthly salary that Victor Ivan claimed as a “poorly paid” editor of the Ravaya, in his venomous article full of inaccuracies published recently.
“All this lavish spending was claimed by Vass Gunawardena under the budget line used as the Monitoring MP’s miscellaneous expenditure,” confirmed an official of the Foreign Ministry.
If that revelation was startling, then a closer look at the bills will show that Sajin De Vass Gunawardena also paid Rs 27,000 (US $ 195) for a single shot of an expensive Brandy too. This particular brand of very expensive Cognac is known as Remy Martin Louis X111. The cognac is manufactured using wine grapes from the Grande Champagne territory of Cognac, France where it is aged in oak barrels, and is over 100 years old. It was probably so good he then had decided to fork out another Rs 27,000 for an extra shot.
What had Foreign Ministry officials up in the air is the fact that Vass Gunawardena had also polished four bottles of expensive wine which in Rupees is embarrassing to mention. But for the record the figure was approximately Rs 130,000. The break down was two bottles of the extravagant French brand Didier Dagueneau, wine from the Loire Valley made of Sauvignon blanc grapes from the Pouilly Fumé region for Rs 30,000 or US $ 220 each . The other two bottles were the Italian wine named Ciacci Reserva priced at Rs. 34,000 each or US $ 246.
At the famous BLT Steak House in Washington another four bottles of the expensive Italian Banfi Brunello Di Montelac wines were consumed for the staggering price of Rs 85,000 or US $ 616. However with the bill for this restaurant totaling Rs 430,000 or US $ 3120, Vass Gunawardena has nevertheless claimed US $ 3500. It is not confirmed though if the difference of US $ 380 or Rs 53,000 was also given as a tip at this restaurant.
The bills are attached for the benefit of readers to see how the country’s public funds were wined and dined away by Vass Gunawardena at Mortons and BLT the famous steak houses in the United States of America.
A person who incidentally knows both Vass Gunawardena and Ivan said that there is no major difference between the two.
Whilst the now remanded Vass Gunawardena was a known fraudster before he became an MP, Victor Ivan was a known marijuana and hashish dealer who ran a small eatery that catered to the local public and tourist hippies down south in the early 80’s. Coincidentally both Vass Gunawardena and Ivan hail from the same area on the southern coastline.
Multiple sources including a Professor, who are well known to both Ivan and the late leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, confirmed yesterday that Victor Ivan was kicked out from the Lanka Sama Samaja Party when it was discovered that he was involved in he illicit business of selling and distributing Hashish and Marijuana in the 80’s prior to heroin entering the market.
“Ivan used members of the party, including those who were inspectors of the Ceylon Transport Board, to carry parcels for him that contained these drugs from Colombo to his eatery. When we found out about his illegal trade the party took a policy decision to to kick him out of our political party, but comrade Bernard Soysa insisted that we should not go public. Just as he had ‘saved’ Anura Bastians who was involved in illicit tradings in Narahenpita. Even after Bastians joined the UNP, he had helped Soysa financially in every elections.
Bankrupt Ivan later went begging to Sarvodaya Chairman Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne for a job. Ariyaratne gave him a job and also asked him to edit the Ravaya with a group of others. Despite being granted employment Ivan still went on to complain that the Sarvodaya Chairman was raking in Rs 50,000 as a salary whilst he was paid a measly sum of Rs 5,000, and then he broke away with a few of the group and established another non profit venture called Ravaya Publishers (Guarantee) limited, a highly placed source who knows Ivan well told Colombo Telegraph. When Colombo Telegraph contacted Ivan today to ask about these allegations, he said “you can write anything” and disconnected the 47 second call.
The founding editor of the Sinhala weekly newspaper ‘Rāvaya‘ and the chairman of the Ravaya Publishers (Guarantee) limited ‘ Victor Ivan has pocketed Rs 5 Million out of a total Rs 12.7 million that had been collected to ‘keep Rāvaya afloat’. Responding to a query from Colombo Telegraph on June 18th, Ivan acknowledged that he had in fact taken Rs 5 Million, but clarified that this was payment for the sale of his 20% stake in the newspaper.”
When contacted by Colombo Telegraph, its News Editor Lasantha Ruhunage said he was not aware of any such transaction.
Ravaya, which has been a strong advocate of accountability and transparency, never disclosed in its appeal to supporters that Rs 5 Million of the funds collected would be given to any individual.
Contradicting Victor Ivan’s claim about Ravaya employees’ share value, a founder director and the former deputy editor Upali Colombage said he was given only Rs. 1000 for his total of 100 shares (Rs 10 per share), when he was asked how much he was paid for his shares.
However, Rāvaya being a Company limited by guarantee and operating as a not-for-profit organization, much like an NGO, does not and cannot have provision for Ivan or anyone else to claim monies that have been collected for a fund of this kind. The Fraud Bureau has yesterday launched an investigation against abusing of the funds collected from public.
Last week Victor Ivan wrote a venemous article in his Ravaya newspaper to cover his Rs 5 million fraud and gain the sympathy of his readers. In it he claimed to be a “poorly paid” editor. “The truth of the matter is that there is no comparison to his claim, as all other editors of weekly or weekend newspapers have come up the ranks, where they even joined as cub reporters at the inception and have received multiple training over the years. Also the responsibility of these editors far outweigh Ivan, as their newspapers have much more pages and a larger circulation, compared to Ivan’s Ravaya weekly newspaper that has a volume of less than 5000 newspapers. Sadly, there is absolutely no justification to Ivan’s logic here” said a retired editor who claimed anonymity after he had read Ivan’s venemous article. He said he did not want to get abusive emails and a defamatory attack from Victor Ivan.
“All those greedy for money share very similar mental traits and mindsets and there is hardly any difference between these two individuals” said a Professor of Psychiatry on condition of anonymity as she did not wish to receive threatening emails and defamatory claims form Ivan.
When asked for a comment about greediness Prof Carlo Fonseka said he could do no better than repeat the old saying of Horace; ‘Money by right means if you can, if not, by any means, money.’