CBK says an MP ‘approached’ her to defend Avant Garde Company

Chandrika Kumaratunga

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday said she was “approached” by an MP to defend the Avant Garde Company.

“The MP said he manged to convince all others and it was only me who was remaining. I promptly rejected it,” she said at a ceremony to felicitate retired members of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya of the Ports Authority.

The ceremony was held at the Authority premises.

Referring to former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa contacting several ministers when the Avant Garde issue was taken up before the Cabinet briefing, Kumaratunga said he had also contacted the ASP handling the case and offered him Rs.100 million.

The ASP rejected the offer. The ASP should be treated as a national hero for rejecting it, the former President said.

Government officials have revealed that billions of income are received from Avant Garde. However, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and former Attorney General Mohan Peiris established an illegal company through which they earned money when it was under the former regime. Rs. 7 billion was transferred from the Central Bank to a brother of an SLFP minister. Only a few details about their illegal activities have been found. The balance will be revealed soon, she said.Kumaratunga said government authorities should be protected.

The Ports Authority provides a tremendous support to the country’s economy. Government authorities failed to maintain their standards due to weak administration and corruption. The Ports Authority however maintained it’s quality over the years, she said.

Kumaratunga said it was under her tenure that drastic changes occurred in the Ports Authority.

The government did not have enough money and knowledge and therefore foreign investors were invited for a partnership. The government was able to develop the Ports Authority through this, she said.

“It was me who called the tender and signed the contract to build a port in Hambantota. But, with the presidential elections, things changed. My government planned to implement the construction of a bunkering facility in Hambantota. However, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa changed the whole plan and it has become a massive burden to the country’s economy,” she said.

“When there is a port in Colombo, another port is an unnecessary project for an island like Sri Lanka. There are many issues with the construction and the government will have to spend more time and money to make it fruitful,” Kumaratunga added.

She said billions of rupees have been spent on unnecessary projects.

It is distressing to note the huge amount of money the previous regime has spent unnecessarily on unwanted projects the country could not afford. The previous regime left an empty Treasury and the present government has to bear the burden, Kumaratunga said.

She said Ports Authority employees receive considerable benefits compared to other employees.

The people need to understand that the government has to pay for the previous government’s blunders, the former President said.

Do not demand more than the need. Give at least a year for the government to witness the changes. Though, the present government took office after January 8, for nearly eight months they were disrupted from progressing in the right path. Solutions will be found after the budget is passed, she said.

Referring to allegations that the government failed to arrest those involved in corruption, former President Kumaratunga said under a democratic government it is not possible to fast track the legal procedure.

“Not all officers in the Police and the Attorney General’s Department can be trusted. There are 19 files pending in the Attorney General’s table and fortunately he will retire in January. Millions were spent to end the war under my tenure. And nearly 80 percent of the areas were under the Army and only Mullaithivu and Killinochchi remained to be liberated when I left. I did not make it public by erecting cut outs all over the island,” she added.

Stating that prominent Army officers have said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was able to win the war because of the weapons procured during her tenure, Kumaratunga added that for the past nine years none of the SLFP ministers spoke to her as they feared Rajapaksa.

She said the former government was a Rambo for several international communities and they did not receive any aid from them.

“Therefore they got loans at a high interest from countries of their preference. However from next year, the government will get aid from other international communities. With the investigations, measures to end corruption will also be taken.”

She assured that the government is moving on the correct path and requested the people to place trust in the government and their initiatives.

Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga and Ports and Shipping Deputy Minister Nishantha Muthuhettigama were present.

(Source: Daily News)