THE EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF TWO ATTORNEYS-AT-LAW PROFESSING IGNORANCE AS THEIR DEFENCE – Sloshed
excuse: Doesn’t even know who gave him the tipple to make heady his election slush fund
If SLFP MP and former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera found himself in the public dock three weeks ago for accepting a million bucks from Bond Scam Godfather Arjun Aloysius, it was the UNP State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe’s turn this Thursday to make his less than grand entrance to the same public dock of shame and share it with his SLFP counterpart, Dayasiri.
As was the case with Dayasiri three weeks ago when police filed a B report at a magisterial court in connection with the bond scam which claimed he had received a million rupee cheque from Aloysius, the police filed in court this Thursday a further B report which alleged that Sujeewa Senasinghe had received not one million but three million bucks in three cheques from Aloysius liquor company, W. M. Mendis Ltd., the famous arrack distillers.
On Wednesday, State Minister Sujeewa landed at the Karunayake airport to a storm of questioning from the media over the rumour ignited by Dayasiri that there were 118 MPs who had received money from Aloysius. He was asked whether it was true that he had received money from Aloysius.
Sujeewa’s answer was that his election campaign fund was handled by his friends and that he would have to peruse the relevant documents to see whether he had. He was further asked whether he should not have known whether such money had been received. His reply to that was” No, it doesn’t happen that way when you are contesting for an election. I get up at six in the morning and I am constantly on the run till six in the evening. And remember Aloysius is not Prabhakaran.”
No one bothered to ask him what he does after 6pm. Whether he doesn’t consult his election team and inquire as to the state of his finances that keeps his motor running during the day?
The following day, on Thursday, the news broke. The Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate that a state minister of the government had received three cheques worth Rs.3 million in 2015 and 2016 from W.M. Mendis & Company Ltd owned by Arjun Aloysius. The report stated that a former Sub Inspector, who was a member of the state minister’s security detail, had cashed one of the three cheques received in 2015 at a bank in Slave Island. The other two cheques received in 2015 and 2016 were cashed by two other police officers attached to the state minister’s security detail.
Once it came to light in court that Sujeewa Senasinghe had indeed received three cheques from Aloysius’s liquor company – the third accused in the treasury bond case – amounting to three million rupees, Sujeewa’s response to it, accosted as he was by the same irrefutable evidence as Dayasiri had been accosted with three weeks ago, was as ingenious as Dayasiri’s response had been ingenious: He simply did not know.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror on Thursday evening, Sujeewa Senasinghe said he was unaware that his campaign team had received cheques worth Rs.3 million from W.M. Mendis & Company Limited. He said he had five teams handling various aspects of his campaign at the 2015 parliamentary elections.
He said: “These committees collected donations from well-wishers for campaign financing. Every financial activity was handled by a man named Amal. The campaign teams are unaware of a nexus with W.M. Mendis & Company. Had I known, I would not have allowed them to accept anything.”
So, okay. First of all he puts Aloysius, the epicentre of the bond scam as a mere well wisher. He tells us – and expects us to believe in fairy tales – that his close friend Amal, who was in charge of his election campaign fund had received three cheques from Aloysius owned W. M. Mendis and Company Ltd. for a million each towards his 2015 election campaign and never thought of breathing a word about it to him; and thus he did not know.
A mushroom bunch of questions suddenly sprouts in the dirt and needs to be asked here.
n The first one is who gave instructions to the three police constables in the State Minister Sujeewa’s security detail to go to the bank and cash million buck cheques, using their own IDs and risk being questioned by the Inland Revenue at a future date as to how and from whom they received such monies?
n Was it Sujeewa’s close friend Amal, the front desk receptionist at Sujeewa’s election office given carte blanche power by Sujeewa to accept all comers who carry multimillion cheques merely to cast their blessings upon their chosen stallion? With no questions asked? With no strings attached?
n Was this collector totally clueless as to the nexus between Aloysius and the company W. M. Mendis which he owned? What sort of nincompoop was this Amal, tasked as he was as Treasurer of the Sujeewa Senasinghe 2015 election campaign fund, and what sort of simpleton was he, Sujeewa, to give his right hand Man Friday to collect money for his 2015 election campaign and not keep him in the know? Cash cheques can be cashed over the counter and deposited in one’s own pocket without the beneficiary even knowing about it? Didn’t Sujeewa ever wonder that temptation can lead to embezzlement?
n And what right did this Amal have to order constables of the nation’s police force to run errands on the side cashing cheques on the state minister’s behalf? Did Sujeewa, as a state minister, authorise his constables of his security detail to run these dubious errands of cashing cheques from Aloysius in their own names? And were they in turn paid some santhosams for doing so? Why didn’t Sujeewa’s trusted Amal go to the bank instead and cash it in his name and write on the back of the cheque his name, address and ID number but instead made an officer of the State, attached to the Defence Ministry to provide security for the State Minister, to do this dirty work of cashing cheques in his own name? Not once, not twice but thrice? And all million buck cheques, mind you?
And one final question. The most important one.
Sujeewa Senasinghe said that these three cheques had been received from Aloysius’s W. M. Mendis Company as contributions to his election campaign fund handled by his friend Amal.
- But the first cheque for a million bucks had been cashed by his police bodyguard on August 24th 2015, a week after the 2015 general elections were held which was on the 17th of August 2015.
- The second cheque for another Rs one million had been received by Sujeewa on the 12th of November 2015. That’s three months after the elections.
- The third cheque for another one million rupees had been received on the 31st March 2016. That’s seven months after the event.
All cheques received courtesy of Aloysius and cashed after election day of 17th August 2015. Perhaps Sujeewa has a whole load of explaining to do which he claimed this Wednesday and stated again on Thursday, it was money to finance his election campaign from ‘a well wisher’, whose identify he did not know.
Now would he have the temerity to say and dare test the credulity of the public even further and take it to its limits by saying he was not referring to the 2015 elections but that his campaign to collect money from whatever source possible had already begun by his forward looking, forward planning friend Amal, focusing on amassing from day one a huge slush fund to meet the expenses of the 2020 hustings?
From well wishers — even rogues like Aloysius — who place their millions in Sujeewa’s pin katay or till with no strings attached? Merely out of supreme altruism? Who expect nothing in return for their discreet charity, their only joy and reward to see the recipient occupying a ministerial chair, ensconced in a position of power and influence to do their bidding when they ring the bell?
And what a coincidence, is it not, that both he and Dayasiri, though on opposite camps, shared such common ground and did not know they were grazing on Aloysius’s tainted turf?
Both Jayasiri and Sujeewa are educated men. Both are attorneys-at–Law, officials of the Supreme Court of Lanka, whose primary duty is to the court and only thereafter to the client. Both are in their forties. Sujeewa will turn 47 this December and Dayasiri will turn 49 this coming Tuesday. Both are much-talking politicians with a high profile. Dayasiri came second in Kurunegala on the SLFP ticket at the 2015 general elections whilst Sujeewa came second in Colombo on the UNP ticket. Both are blessed with the gift of the gab. And both are now accursed for having received Arjun Aloysius’s dirty money. And both damned with memory loss.
Both have been vociferous over the Bond scam and both have raised hue and cry over it. But somehow both had maintained a discreet silence, nay, a complete blanket of silence, over the munificence dealt out to them personally by cheque for millions from the bond scam kitty until the scandal broke out in court and they were forced to admit receipt of cheques from Godfather Arjun Aloysius. For the evidence contained in the Police B report was overwhelming.
But even then, both still shared one thing in common. The explanation. The justification. The method of operation. And the ignorance. Both held that it had been to finance their respective election campaigns in the general elections held on August 2015. Dayasiri cashed his cheque one month before polls. Sujeewa cashed his first million cheque from Arjun’s distillery one week after the elections and the other two many moons after.
Dayasiri used a police bodyguard in his security detail to go to the bank and cash it for him: And perhaps taking a cue from Dayasiri, Sujeewa enriched his election fund by three million bucks when – as he now says – his friend, some Amal, got Sujeewa’s police constables serving in the State Minister Sujeewa’s security detail to go to the bank and cash the cheques on three separate occasions, long after the elections had been held and the results announced with the last cheques cashed on March 31st 2016, the last date of the financial year for the Aloysius owned W. M. Mendis Company Ltd.
Both had received money from Aloysius. Both had remained silent of this manna from Arjun Aloysius’s bond scam. Both had served on the COPE committee inquiring into the bond scam but still hadn’t deemed it fit to bring it to the notice of the COPE chairman that they had received such santhosams from Arjun’s loving heart. Both had kept it secret from the public eye until revelations in court brought their secret to light. Both had used the same modus operandi to get their Aloysius issued cheques cashed at the banks by using police constables attached to their security detail as fronts.
And both had the same lame excuse when it came to explaining away their bonanzas dropped into their respective piggy banks by the Godfather: “It was for our election campaign and we were not aware who the fairy godfather was”, has been their constant refrain. The new ‘I don’t know’ political culture of this country. Neither did they care to exercise due diligence worthy of their legal profession to find out. And, of course, both said that had they but known it was from Aloysius they would not have touched it with a barge pole. But they did, didn’t they?
Both were Siamese twins inseparable from the umbilical cord stemming from Aloysius’s hip pocket. Sujeewa, unlike Dayasiri, had walked the extra mile. He had gone to the District Court of Colombo in 2015 seeking to prevent the release of the document UNP members of COPE claimed was merely a summary of evidence gathered by the COPE subcommittee during their investigation. He had even gone to the extent of writing a book on the subject titled ‘MAHA BENKUWEA BENDUMKARA NIKUTHUWA – ETTHA -NETTHA’: Central Bank’s Bond Issue: True or False?
Not forgetting, of course, the many calls he had made to and received from Arjun Aloysius whilst serving as a member of COPE probing the bond scam: calls he never revealed to the COPE or to the public until the CID revealed the call log to the Bond Commission last year in November: 227 calls to and from Arjun Aloysius, 63 during his tenure as a member of the COPE committee probing Aloysius.
Immersed though he was in the whole long-drawn saga of the Central Bank bond scam issue, Sujeewa’s statement to the media on arrival at the Karunayake airport from Thailand on Wednesday seems not to have satisfied his conscience; and on Thursday evening he revisited the subject when he told the Daily Mirror, “These committees collected donations from well-wishers for campaign financing. Every financial activity was handled by a man named Amal. The campaign teams are unaware of a nexus with W.M. Mendis & Company. Had I known, I would not have allowed them to accept anything.” But on Friday, that, too was not good enough and he felt a compelling need to return to the controversial topic again and proceeded to hold a news conference at his Kollupitiya residence whereat he stated that:
“The money was given in the form of three cash cheques. They were given to a group of my friends who were running my election campaign. I did not personally get them. I did not ask for the money. They gave it voluntarily. There is an ethical issue now that these companies have been found to be involved in an illegal activity. I am willing to resign from my post as an MP if the President or PM or a senior member of the Buddhist clergy asks me to do so. Now only Dayasiri and I are named, what about the others who do business with Mendis and Co and also may have received funding from them?”
Normally politicians step down from their positions of power and responsibility when their conscience urges them to do so. They don’t wait to receive marching orders from the President or the Prime Minister or imploring from some Buddhist monk to do so. But still, its notable that Sujeewa acknowledged that there is sufficient reason for him to resign, if given the nod and the push and the shove from those in the political sphere and in the religious realm. After all money today can buy anything. If it taints your attire, you can use money to buy a clean suit. At least, Ravi Karunanayake didn’t wait to be told. He resigned when he realised his position had become untenable.
But one thing in Sujeewa’s political get-up stands out and needs to be corrected, his Peter Pan attitude when he says well wishers came and gave him money to finance his election campaign long after the election had been over and even after three years of receiving their largesse he is still unaware as to who these philanthropists are. Who mysteriously came and left their million buck cheques under the Christmas tree hidden amidst the mistletoe.
But Santa Clause is for children. And comes only on Christmas Eve and leaves his present without leaving his calling card. Not before or after elections. But unlike him, the tooth fairy visits a child’s bed at night and steals away unnoticed but not before, in this instance, placing a cheque under the pillow in return for the child’s fallen tooth. Even in fairy tales, there is hardly anything given even to kids for nothing.
In other words, Mr. State Minister: Go tell your story to the birds.
PS: Sujeewa said on Friday eve that he now wishes to donate the three million he received from Aloysius’s company to a charity and awaits either the Speaker or a Buddhist monk to name a charity. But why do charity with other people’s money? Why not return to sender and let Aloysius do the charity, if he so wishes?