Lalith the fall man
Posted on October 6th, 2017

By Hemantha Warnakulasuriya Courtesy Ceylon Today

I felt saddened by the sentence and heavy fines imposed on Lalith Weeratunga. It is very unfortunate that in our endeavours to arrest, remand and imprison those responsible for stealing the coffers of the Treasury, the first victim of that attempt happened to be Lalith Weeratunga. To my mind and to those of many others who worked with Lalith Weeratunga, I am yet to find a person who claims to know him as being a dishonest predator of public money. Instead of which I have found, that if there is a flaw in Lalith’s character it was that he was very slow in carrying out instructions of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. The ex-President employed a ploy to dismiss supporters and direct them to either Lalith Weeratunga or P.B. Jayasundera.

Both of them knew how to give excuses and diplomatically refuse the applications for various favours. He instructed his subordinates at the Presidential Secretariat to strictly adhere to Administrative Regulations and Financial Regulations.

Many beneficiaries have found fault with Lalith Weeratunga for having failed to carry out the President’s instructions. Mr. Rajapaksa knew that in order to keep his MPs’ happy and contented; he had to please them and agree to their proposals and more often than not, violate the Financial Regulations. Mr. P.B. Jayasundera and Lalith Weeratunga became unpopular with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s supporters as they refused to carry out orders which may not strictly adhere to the rules in the book.

Another journalist told me that he knew for a certainty that Lalith Weeratunga is an honest, absolutely clean officer and one who even handed over the official presents he received from foreign and local dignitaries.

Chandrika vs Mahinda

I remember Mahinda Rajapaksa holding Lalith Weeratunga in a deep depth of gratitude as he and he alone saved him from the tsunami catastrophe that was orchestrated by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda Rajapaksa virtually took a mandate of the SLFP to be nominated as Presidential Candidate. Chandrika was earlier very keen to appoint Lakshman Kadirigamar, the best Foreign Minister this country had produced and who had done a yeoman service to this country in getting the LTTE banned. Even the JVP was very supportive of making Lakshman Kadirgamar the Prime Minister over Mahinda Rajapaksa, who drew the wrath of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. When it was abundantly clear that Lakshman Kadirgamar was to be nominated Prime Minister, it was ironical and paradoxical that the then Secretary of the SLFP and current President Maithripala Sirisena went and pleaded with Chandrika not to appoint Lakshman Kadirgamar as the Prime Minister, as if it happened, there was a strong possibility that the Party would split in two. It is interesting to note that the JVP was totally opposed to Mahinda Rajapaksa, who gave an ultimatum to Chandrika, that unless Lakshman Kadirgamar is appointed as Prime Minister they would sit in the Opposition.

This tickled an antipathy towards the JVP and Nirupama Sen, who was the High Commissioner of India, informed Chandrika that they would prefer Mahinda Rajapaksa to be the Prime Minister. So, much against her own liking, Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and moved to Temple Trees. Lakshman Kadirgamar was sad and despondent that Chandrika did not appoint him as the Prime Minister. Lakshman Kadirgamar wrote a ‘magnum opus’ in the form of a long winded submission expressing regret over Chandrika’s decision. Even great advocates and politicians sometimes become so enamoured by the office, that they have to bend and kneel before officers to get what they think was due to them.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa aspired to be the Presidential Candidate, the first person to publicly endorse his candidature was Wimal Weerawansa the Media Secretary of the JVP. At that time there was another candidate, the Crown Prince of Sri Lanka Anura Bandaranaike.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa was nominated Chandrika thought that Mahinda would be defeated by the UNP. Through fear that Mahinda Rajapaksa would win the election, Chandrika then planned and even conspired with the UNP to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. In the same way that Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Anura Bandaranaike cut the sod under the feet of Hector Kobbekaduwa and defeated him.

Amunugama factor

Mr. Sarath Amunugama, who was a confidante of Chandrika, whispered to her that there was a serious allegation against Mahinda Rajapaksa, that of embezzling the tsunami funds and appropriating it for his own use. He was certain that if a proper investigation was carried out MR’s march towards victory could be thwarted.

A special handpicked CID Team, headed by the Director himself, was instructed to make secret investigations into the alleged tsunami fund fraud and record evidence under the supervision of a very young State Counsel, who was known as a workaholic in the department. It is said that he would come to the department at 4 O’ clock in the morning, and work so that no one knew what was going on about the Tsunami Misappropriation Case. As the election was nearing it was a very close fight. As usual Mahinda Rajapaksa got the Sinhala Buddhist support. The majority population of this country was opposed to the anti-Sinhala Buddhist pro-minority leanings of the Leader of the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe. The last leader who had these qualities was President Ranasinghe Premadasa who had been assassinated.

Thereafter, with the ascension of Ranil Wickremesinghe to the leadership of the UNP, even the practice, very strictly observed by his predecessor, Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa, for Buddhists to observe Pansil and others to observe their own religious observances before the commencement of the day’s work, was done away with. The pleasure of the minority UNP member was huge at abandoning this practice which had been created by Ranasinghe Premadasa. The Jaffna vote was crucial, but the Eastern Province seemed to be equally divided. Chandrika dreaded the thought of Mahinda becoming the leader of this country.

One night, I got a call from my good friend Sarath Kongahage and he told me some very disturbing news. He told me that everything had been arranged to arrest Mahinda Rajapaksa produce him in Court and get him remanded on charges of misappropriation of public property, involving tsunami funding. A campaign had already been brought to the fore by the UNP on the misappropriation of the tsunami money handed over by foreigners to Rajapaksa, as then, he was acting for the President who was abroad during the catastrophe. The money that was collected by Mahinda Rajapaksa came from well wishers here and abroad who gave the money to alleviate the suffering of the Coastal Fishermen, which would directly help them to reconstruct their houses and boats and provide them with fishing nets.

The moment I heard this information from Mr. Kongahage I rushed to Temple Trees and gave Mahinda Rajapaksa the bad news. He told me that my information was absolutely false and that nothing of that sort could happen as the AG’s Department would never agree as Mahinda’s good friend, C.R. de Silva (Bulla) was in charge of criminal prosecutions. I told him I don’t know the veracity of his information, but there is no reason to disbelieve Mr. Kongahage because according to him everything had been arranged to arrest and produce him in Court, and even the Fort Magistrate had been informed of this. Even if Mr. Rajapaksa retained the best of lawyers, nothing could save him as the ‘B’ report would allege that he has committed an act chargeable under the offences against the Public Property Act and that the Magistrate is thereby deprived of the power to grant bail. Mr. Rajapaksa as the then Prime Minister immediately phoned Mr. C.R. de Silva who assured him that there was no investigation on any matter concerning the tsunami funds against him, but he agreed to reconfirm this in one hour’s time. We waited for one hour, which was the most anxious time for both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Lalith Weeratunga, who was also present. As there was no response, I returned home.

Tsunami funds

Thereafter, I got a call from Mr. Weeratunga who confirmed that what I said about the arrest of Mahinda Rajapaksa was true, and that they would be coming to see me at my chambers. After a long consultation with Mr. Weeratunga, we decided that the only alternative left was to file a Fundamental Rights case in the Supreme Court, requesting the Court to issue an order preventing the arrest of Mahinda Rajapaksa and we decided to retain President’s Counsel Mr. D.S. Wijesinghe, who was the Chief Legal Adviser to Mahinda for a very long time.What transpired in Court and also at consultation was that the monies were remitted to a fund specially set up to assist the people in the Southern Province, but, not a single cent was withdrawn from the fund as Lalith Weeratunga made certain important strictures to prevent any unlawful withdrawal of the money. Though Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of stealing money from the poor, who had lost everything due to the tsunami, and it was used as a political slogan, it was proved that the monies were in fact intact in the Bank, even when the matter went to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Weeratunga explained to me how he had ensured that this money was not misappropriated as it was an uphill task to fulfil all the stipulations set out by the Secretary to the Prime Minister.

When Mr. Willie Gamage, one of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cronies, withdrew Rupees Three Million (Rs. 3,000,000), without the proper procedure being followed, when the Accountant reported this matter to Mr. Weeratunga, he insisted and ensured that the money was deposited back into the account. These measures stood in good stead and the Supreme Court nullified the on-going investigations conducted at the behest of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, and Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President of Sri Lanka to the detriment of the LTTE. Therefore, the whole episode of distributing Sil Redi, and charging Mr. Weeratunga with criminal misappropriation, is something that I could not comprehend. I thought, one of the elements of criminal misappropriation is converting someone else’s property which you have got innocently, and subsequently, converting it towards your own use. I remember my Criminal Law Lecturer, Mr. L.A.T. Williams teaching us by example, when a person has committed a crime of criminal misappropriation, he said, “if you borrow my book and then after sometime if you go and sell it, and pocket the money, you have committed Criminal Misappropriation”. From what was reported in the papers, Mr. Weeratunga is supposed to have got Anusha Palpita, the CEO of the TRC, to transfer Rs.600,000,000 (Rupees Six Hundred Million) to an account maintained by the Secretary to the President, and other witnesses have said the moneys were utilized to obtain Sil Redi and that a proper tender procedure was adopted and the tender was given to the lowest bidder and the items were distributed to the temples and to the devotees at the temples who had observed Sil on that day. The learned High Court Judge has said that as he was satisfied that no monies were taken by both accused and therefore, is convicting them and ordering a lenient sentence.

One Response to “Lalith the fall man”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    Very interesting information that not only confirms the DIABOLICAL devious nature of the Choura Rajina CBK, but also Lalith Weeratunga’s excellent character as an honest and exemplary public servant of his country.

    Unfortunately, Lalith became the target of a witch hunt because of his loyalty and association with the former President MR. As they say, NO GOOD DEED goes UNPUNISHED!

    If Lalith deserves to be convicted in this way, what should happen to those who orchestrated the GREAT CENTRAL BANK ROBBERY, from the PARA-GATHI AGA-MATHI downwards to R. Karunanayagam, A. Mahendran and A. Aloysius??

    Draw and Quarter them in PUBLIC, perhaps in the Old English Style?

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