The main opposition UNP yesterday demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse on the basis there was now proof of the misappropriation of Rs. 83 million in tsunami aid.
Party frontliners Mahinda Wijesekera and Rajitha Senaratne addressing a news conference at the Opposition Leader`s Office said the money which had been stacked in a private account at a private bank for seven months had now been put back in the official Central Bank fund after the media exposed the allegedly criminal misappropriation. Mr. Wijesekera said returning the money was clear proof of the earlier wrongful act of putting it in a private fund and the party believed the prime minister who is also the SLFP`s presidential candidate must now resign.
?Can anyone be pardoned for such an offence by returning the stolen items? If anyone hands over stolen items, it proves that he had committed the offence. Likewise this had been proved by returning the funds to the Treasury,? Mr. Wijesekera said.
He said the Prime Minister had told parliament that the transaction of putting Rs. 83 million in a private Helping Hambantota fund was in order. The Prime Minster`s office had also strongly defended the move, but now by returning the money to the Treasury they were acknowledging misappropriation and the Prime Minister must resign.
Mr. Wijesekera said that former UNP minister A R M Cader had been arrested and harassed by the government on the basis he had used Samurdhi funds to buy rice and distribute among the people through a mosque in Gampola, but now the Prime Minister had admitted transferring public funds to a private account and the UNP believed that the government and the police must taken action now.
Dr. Senaratne said that if not for the exposures by the media and the UNP, the 83 million rupees might have gone missing or been used for a personal political campaign while tsunami victims continued to suffer in makeshift tents.
?Now they have transferred to the Treasury the money they had misappropriated. But what about the interest gained over the past seven months and payments made to various people, including Rs. 1.5 million to a Willie Gamage,? he asked.