Former Chairman of Lanka Sathosa, Kiran Atapattu stressed that he was pressured by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his Public Relations Officer, Abdullah to make an illegal payment of Rs 549 million to Liverpool Navigation (Private) Limited in July 2015.
He said so while testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to investigate corruption of the current administration yesterday (2).
He also said that a large quantity of rice was imported in April 2015 and was brought to Sri Lanka in over 1,600 containers. “The shipment arrived on 10 April and as you know, nothing happens during the Sinhala and Hindu New Year.
When we got the containers cleared, the shipping companies demanded demurrage, a charge payable to the owner of a chartered ship upon failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed,” Atapattu said.
He also told the PCoI that the “Owner of Liverpool Navigation is a close personal friend of Bathiudeen.”
Atapattu further said, “A number of shipping companies had sent in bills amounting to Rs 129 million. However, on 27 July 2015, Liverpool Navigation (Pvt.) Ltd., who had acted as a clearing agent, also sent me a bill for Rs 549 million.”
He said that they had no right to ask him for money to pay for demurrage. “We have to pay demurrage to shipping companies and they had approached us already.
I rejected the Liverpool Navigation’s request and called a meeting with agents of shipping lines. They agreed to give us a Rs 42 million discount and I readied the cheques by 30 July,” Atapattu said.
Meanwhile, he said, when he was about to distribute the cheques, Abdullah came into his room and asked him not to pay money to the shipping companies,.
“Abdullah wanted me to pay money to Liverpool and I said I cannot. Abdullah insisted that I cancel the cheques. I refused and he left the room. Then I paid the shipping companies the demurrage.
Abdullah came back in 30 minutes, called Bathiudeen and gave me the phone. Bathiudeen asked me what personal animosity I had with Liverpool. I told him that I have no problem with Liverpool.
However, I insisted that I can’t make illegal payments to Liverpool,” he said.
As he was pressurized, Atapattu fell sick and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of a Colombo private hospital on 1 August 2015. Ministry Secretary S.S.
Miyanwala was appointed as the Chairman of Lanka Sathosa during his absence.
On 8 August 2015, Miyanwala approved a payment of Rs 100 million for Liverpool to pay demurrage to shipping companies. “I had already paid demurrage to the shipping lines. I do not see any reason to pay Liverpool this money,” he said.
(Source: Ceylon Today – By Mirudhula Thambiah)