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Treasury bond scam case: Controversy over flawed indictments that caused dismissal of some charges against Ravi, Mahendran, PTL, others

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Trial-at-Bar highlights major flaw in Offences against Public Property Act, AG Dept.’s failure

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar had dismissed some of the charges filed against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, fugitive ex-Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran and nine others in respect of Treasury bond scam perpetrated on 29 March 2016, due to the flawed indictments, legal sources told The Island yesterday (5).

Former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), who is also the advisor to the Justice Ministry U. R. de Silva, PC, confirmed the issue at hand.

The Trial-at-Bar comprising Damith Thotawatte (Chairman), Manjula Thilakaratne and M. Izzadeen by a majority decision dismissed the relevant charges.

The court turned down a plea by State Counsel Lakmini Girihagama to alter the charge sheet last Friday (4). Karunanayake’s Counsel, Shavendra Fernando, PC, objected to the request made on behalf of the Attorney General. Judge Issadeen stated that charges could be maintained.Responding to The Island query, U.R. de Silva explained that under the Public Property Act (1982) only individuals could be indicted. But in the case of Treasury bond scam both individuals and Perpetual Treasuries (PTL) had been indicted, the President’s Counsel said, acknowledging it was a matter for serious concern. The first accused was the PTL, and other individuals.

The court was told the word ‘person’ hadn’t been interpreted in the Public Property Act hence the dispute. The Trial-at-Bar also held that though the interpretation in respect of ‘person’ in Penal Code could have been used but the Public Property Act didn’t make any reference to in this regard. The Trial-at-Bar, pointed out a major flaw in filing of the charges.

The incumbent President of BASL Saliya Peiris, PC, was not available for comment.

The indictments were filed during Dappula de Livera’s tenure as the AG. Sanjay Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in May last year.

Attorney-at-Law and civil society activist Nagananda Kodituwakku said Friday’s discharge of Treasury bond scam suspects had prompted him to make inquiries from relevant parties.

Lawyer Kodituwakku said that those charged for Treasury bond scam had been discharged by the HC Trial-at-Bar only from some of the charges on the basis that only natural persons could be charged for robbing public funds and not companies such as the Perpetual Properties under the Public Property Act.  There had been a similar judgment given by the HC in the recent past and that decision had been challenged by the Attorney General and the matter was still pending, the lawyer said.

Earlier, on 30 December 2017, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) headed by Justice K T Chitrasiri, had probed the Treasury bond scams, identified these suspects as being responsible for the fraud, and directed the Attorney General to initiate criminal proceedings against them, Kodituwakku said. Therefore, there was no truth in what was being circulated in the public domain that all suspects have been discharged by the judiciary, the lawyer said.

The PCoI consisted of Chairman Justice K.T. Chitrasiri, the late Justice P S Jayawardene and retired Deputy Auditor General, V Kandasamy.

Earlier, on 06 Dec., 2021, 11 persons including former MP Karunanayake and Arjuna Mahendran were indicted.

The three-judge Trial at Bar declared that as the 11 charges filed against the suspects couldn’t be sustained, they were dismissed.

The AG filed indictments against the suspects for conspiracy to commit criminal misappropriation in respect of Treasury bonds to the face value of Rs 36.98 billion on March 29, 2016.

The first Treasury bond scam was perpetrated on 27 Feb. 2015. The suspects are Ravi Karunanayaka, Arjuna Mahendran, Arjun Aloysius, Kasun Palisena, Jeffrey Joseph Aloysius, Chitta Ranjan Hulugalle, Muthuraja Surendran, Ajahn Gardige Punchihewea and Batugoda Hewa Indika Saman Kumara.

Kodituwakku pointed out that the dismissal of some of the charges in respect of the high-profile Treasury bond scam should be examined against the backdrop of the AG and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) withdrawing over 50 cases since the last presidential election.

The competence of the AG’s Department was raised in the Colombo High Court rulings given in respect of former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and ex-IGP Pujith Jayasundera in the Easter Sunday case.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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