Controversy over Weeraketiya D.A. Rajapaksa memorial
Having made representations to President Maithripala Sirisena regarding an attempt to arrest wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa over alleged misappropriation of funds in the construction of D.A. Rajapaksa memorial, Ven. Prof. Medagoda Abhayatissa yesterday said that the President couldn’t absolve himself of the responsibility for the pathetic situation.
Addressing the media at the auditorium of the National Library and Documentation Services Board, Ven Abhayatissa said he had been among a delegation of Buddhist monks who took up the issue with President Sirisena. He said whoever was planning the arrest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, President Sirisena should bear the responsibility.
Ven. Abhyatissa addressed the media on behalf of the civil society organisation, Eliya. Hewas flanked by former SLFP Batticaloa District organiser Arun Tambimuttu, attorney-at-law Kalyananda Tiranagama and senior journalist C. A. Chandraprema.
Chandraprema said Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) had purposely caused an unnecessary problem by demanding Rs 90.8 mn for the construction of the memorial though its actual cost was Rs 33.9 mn.
Recalling then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s role in defeating terrorism, Ven. Abhayatissa alleged that those who couldn’t stomach the LTTE’s battlefield defeat wanted the Gajaba Regiment veteran taken into custody for even a day.
Combined armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
Ven Abhayatissa disclosed that they had urged President Sirisena to settle the case in court without resorting to wholly unnecessary exercise meant to harass one of those who had served the country risking his life.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa survived an LTTE suicide attack in Dec 2006 in Colombo while he was spearheading the war effort as Defence Secretary against the world’s most ruthless terrorist force. Earlier he was a front line troop commander starting as a Second Lieutenant in the early ‘70s and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in early 90s. An attempt was being made to arrest Gotabhaya Rajapaksa whereas the government allowed some bankrupt politicians to celebrate LTTE leader Velupillai’s Prabhakaran’s birthday, Ven. Abhayatissa said. The Ven thera pointed out that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was being hounded for building a memorial for his father whereas the government was turning a blind eye to LTTE celebrations in the north.
Ven. Abhayatissa censured the government over questioning of several high ranking military officials and some senior officers since the change of government in 2015 January. The monk named several senior officers, who had been questioned and arrested regarding various cases. Among those identified were several navy officers, including Commodore DKP Dassanayake, onetime navy spokesman and senior officer (on ground) in charge of blockade on Chalai-Puthumathalan during the final phase of the war in 2009.
Referring to a statement made by civil society activist Gamini Viyangoda at a public rally at Matara last Friday (Nov 24), Ven. Abhayatissa strongly defended the Maha Sangha’s right to intervene on behalf of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Ven. Abhayatissa said that if Viyangoda called him a racist for standing up against separatist agenda, he wouldn’t mind being called an extremist. The smiling monk said that he would gladly accept that label.
Declaring that Eliya under Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s leadership would resolutely campaign against proposed far reaching constitutional reforms, Ven. Abhayatissa said the former Defence Secretary couldn’t be discouraged through intimidation.
The Ven Thera said the project against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was meant to scare the armed forces not to adopt a stance contrary to that of the yahapalana administration. The Ven Thera warned the government of dire consequences if it demoralized the armed forces.
Tiranagama alleged that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had become the target of an elaborate conspiracy as he was seen as a potential political threat. Tiranagama explained how those in power and the media working at their behest portrayed the former Defence Secretary as a murder. Pointing out several high profile cases that had been blamed on Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Tiranagama warned that the incumbent government would explore the possibility of depriving the war veteran of his civic rights.
The attorney-at-law recollected how the then President JRJ had manipulated the judges of the Supreme Court to pave the way for the denial of civic rights of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike and then introduced controversial amendments to the 1978 Constitution to thwart an appeal being made in the Court of Appeal and her subsequent removal from parliament.
Tiranagama asserted that those now exercised obviously felt that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa posed far greater threat than twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The media was told that the navy had estimated Rs 33.9 mn for the project and carried it out in 2014 (Feb-Nov) on a contract given by SLLRDC. Subsequently, the SLLRDC had paid Rs 25 mn out of Rs 33.9 mn to the navy. However, after the change of the government in 2015 January, the SLLRDC has informed D.A. Rajapaksa foundation that the total expenditure was Rs 90.8 mn and called for the immediate settlement of the remaining amount the foundation owed to it leading to a dispute.
Eliya said that the D. A. Rajapaksa foundation had paid SLLRDC Rs 25 mn and the remaining Rs 8.9 mn in 2015 Aug 31 and 2017 July 13, respectively.
Responding to media queries, Eliya, spokesmen said the SLLRDC had taken all government projects that had been carried out in the Weeraketiya electorate together, hence the increase of expenditure from Rs. 33.9 mn to Rs 90.8 mn. Eliya called for a breakdown of expenditure of various projects undertaken there during 2014.