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Clandestine offshore transactions: Finally, Nirupama’s statement recorded

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The police have questioned former MP Nirupama Rajapaksa as regards revelations made by Pandora Papers pertaining to secret offshore financial transactions.

Authoritative sources told The Island that the police unit assigned to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) recorded the former Deputy Minister’s statement on Dec 1, though the outfit was not aware of the development.

When The Island asked Secretary to the CIABOC Apsara Caldera on Dec 3 whether the former MP had been questioned, the official said they were yet to record her statement.

However, sources close to the investigation yesterday (9) confirmed that Rajapaksa’s statement had been recorded on the morning of Dec 1 at the CIABOC. She had been there for about three hours. However, the media hadn’t been informed of the development in spite of the CIABOC being accused of not recording her statement.

The CIABOC consists of retired Supreme Court Justice Eva Wanasundera, retired Appeals Court Justice Deepali Wijesundera and retired DIG Chandra Nimal Wakista, one-time head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS).

Pandora Papers alleged that Nirupama Rajapaksa and Thirukumar Nadesan together controlled a shell company the couple used to acquire luxury apartments in London and Sydney and to make investments.

It is alleged that Nadesan set up other shell companies and trusts in various jurisdictions, and he used them to secure lucrative consulting contracts from foreign companies doing business with the Sri Lankan government and to buy artwork.

According to the Pandora Paper leaks, in 2018, one of the companies, Pacific Commodities, transferred 31 paintings and other South Asian art pieces to the Geneva Freeport, an ultra-secure warehouse where assets are not subject to taxes or duties.

In confidential emails to Asiaciti Trust, a Singapore-based offshore services provider, a long-time adviser of Nadesan’s put his overall wealth, as of 2011, at more than $160 million. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists acknowledged that it couldn’t independently verify the figure. It was alleged that Asiaciti Trust managed some of Nadesan’s offshore companies and trusts, with assets valued at about $18 million, according to an ICIJ analysis.

Subsequently, Pandora Papers revealed transactions carried out by R. Paskaralingam, one-time Ministry Secretary and advisor to late Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa, and D.B. Wijetunga and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe using similar loopholes

The CIABOC questioned Nirupama’s husband, Thirukumar Nadesan twice as regards the Pandora Papers revelations. Nirupama Rajapaksa first entered Parliament at the 1994 general election on the PA ticket. Nirupama served as deputy minister of water supply and drainage during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa between 2010 and 2015.

Authoritative sources said that the CIABOC handled the investigation, having submitted an interim report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as requested. Sources said that the CIABOC hadn’t been able to record Nirupama Rajapaksa’s statement before compiling the interim report for President Rajapaksa’s perusal.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has written to the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka calling for the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities of Former Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa. The request was made under the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law (1975) and the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities (Amendment) law (1988).

According to the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law (1975), candidates contesting for office in local government, provincial council, Parliament or for the post of President should submit their Declaration of Assets and Liabilities to the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka.

TISL pointed out that the Election Commission has expressed concerns over campaign expenditure. Similarly, it should be concerned about failure on the part of many lawmakers to declare their assets and liabilities.

The law further states that Members of Parliament should submit their Declarations of Assets and Liabilities to the Speaker of Parliament while Ministers and Deputy Ministers should submit their asset declarations to the President.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country

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By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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