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’, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Supporters of the newspaper and the positions it had taken from all parts of Sri Lanka and even from overseas responded positively to the call of the financially strapped newspaper.
Responding to a query from Colombo Telegraph, 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.
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.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Ivan had in fact demanded Rs 20 Million for 40% of his stake in the newspaper. The Rs 5 Million given to him was therefore a part payment.
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 relevant conditions are enshrined in Section 34 of the Companies Act:
“Where the Registrar is satisfied that an association about to be formed as a company limited by guarantee is to be formed for promoting commerce, art, science, religion, charity, sport, or any other useful object, and intends to apply its profits, if any, or other income in promoting its objects, and to prohibit the payment of any dividend to its members.”
Sections 32-34 are the applicable Sections. And here’s the Section that specifically exempts shares, debentures etc from companies limited by guarantee;
THIRD SCHEDULE [Section 35 (1)] PROVISIONS WHICH DO NOT APPLY TO COMPANIES LIMITED BY GUARANTEE
Part IV (Shares and Debentures)
Sections 93 to 98 (Minority buy-out rights)
Sections 99 to 101 (Interest groups)
Section 123(1)(b) and (c) (Company to maintain share register)
Section 124(1) and (3) (Place of share register)
Sections 198 to 200 (Disclosure of director’s interests in shares)
Section 220 (Duty of directors on serious loss of capital)
Colombo Telegraph has interviewed dozens of people associated with Rāvaya regarding this payment. We have Ivan’s contradictory statements on the issue as well as comments from founder members of the Rāvaya, Rāvaya Solidarity members, supporters of the newspaper and legal experts. We consider this is an ongoing investigation and such comments will be interjected as and when appropriate in our reports.
Colombo Telegraph believes that the majority of the Rāvaya Solidarity members desired to save Rāvaya so that it can remain a critical and independent newspaper. Colombo Telegraph also lent its weight to this effort.
Colombo Telegraph learns that a contributor who has not been given a receipt acknowledging contribution nor given a share certificate for the amount of Rs 100,000 is considering taking legal action against Rāvaya.