The Registrar of Motor vehicles yesterday insisted that the controversial Mercedes Benz vehicle imported on a permit granted to the JHU MP was registered in his department`s records under the name of Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thera.
``I categorically say that the Mercedes Benz car with registration number KH 1715, carbonite silver colour, with a diesel engine was registered under the name of Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thera who still owns the vehicle according to the official records of the Department of Registrar of Motor Vehicles and Commissioner of Motor Traffic,`` Commissioner B.Wijeratne said.
He explained that the registration was made on condition that the vehicle cannot be transferred to another person, sold, hired or disposed for five years from the date of its registration (which was April 2007), without prior approval of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
If the vehicle is disposed before the five years have elapsed, the full amount of duty and tax waived at the time of the import should be paid to the state, he noted.
Following an allegation that the JHU monk-MPs have sold their vehicle permits made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the issue became politically charged with JHU spokesmen denying any sale of permits. They said that the vehicles have been hired to raise money for the party and other religious work.
However, the statement of the Commissioner of Motor Traffic places hiring among the restrictions.
The UNP is alleging that the deal had been done under a power of attorney.
JHU Minister Champika Ranawaka agreed that their party spokesman, Mr. Udaya Gammanpila, had said at a news conference that they intend filing defamation action against Wickremesinghe over the statement.
He dismissed the hype that the present ``owner`` of the vehicle had gone missing saying this story was being presented with a `spin` to benefit Wickremesinghe.
The public perception is that many MPs car permits have been alienated for consideration and that it was unlikely that any party could claim the hands of all its members were clean on that score.
The UNP claims a party supporter had given Wickremesinghe the Benz to use and that it is parked at the opposition leader`s office.