( Shranthi Rajapaksa accepting the defender)
Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya yesterday ordered the CID to probe the alleged misuse of a Defender vehicle belonging to the Red Cross Society, for the commission of a crime, being painted over in a different colour to avoid recognition.
Court has learned that this has been allegedly authorized by a former Minister of Social Services. The vehicle had belonged to the ‘Siriliya Saviya’ project of former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa.
The Chief Magistrate also ordered the CID to record a statement from the former minister who had allegedly recommended the Defender vehicle bearing number plate WP KA-0642 to the ‘Siriliya Saviya’ project headed by the former First Lady.
The CID also informed Court that the colour of the said vehicle was changed on the advice of Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the second son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The CID also found that the vehicle in question has not been used for any social service activity.
Following information received by the CID about two Defender vehicles bearing registration numbers WPKE 3671 and WPKA 0642 at Habarakada junction, Homagama, a probe was launched on 18 February 2015, the CID told Court.
Afterwards, the CID had received a report concerning the two Defender vehicles before discovering that the said vehicles had been registered under the name of the Director General of the Red Cross Society at its offices at No. 104, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7.
The CID then informed Court that when the vehicles in question had been registered under the name of the Red Cross Director General their suspicions had been aroused when they found the vehicles parked at a private residence.
The CID had then gone to ‘Siriliya Saviya’, Habarakada, Homagama address where its officials had spotted the black Defender bearing number WPKA 0642 parked there.
Two men, named Lathika Kumuduni Perera and Simson Perera, had resided at the said address. More information shed light on the fact that the head of the household was Wasantha Kariyawasam who was the transport and service manager employed by Red Cross Society.
The CID had also uncovered through its inquiries that Lathika Kumuduni Perera was the wife of Kariyawasam while Simson Perera had been a Red Cross Society driver.
More investigations revealed that the Defender, bearing number WPKA 0642, had belonged to the Red Cross and it had been handed over to the ‘Siriliya Saviya’ project on 11 August 2011, upon a request by its Secretary Seetha Kalyani Kumari to the former Minister of Social Service, Felix Perera.
The CID informed Court that Red Cross CEO, Jagath Bandu Abeysinghe had said in a statement that upon a written request by former Minister Felix Perera on 27 July 2011 a white Defender had been gifted to the ‘Siriliya Saviya’ project to carry out its activities.
The Red Cross Chairman had told the CID in his statement that the vehicle had been brought back after the 2015 Presidential poll and that its colour change raised suspicions and that he was not aware of how or why it had taken place.
Though the vehicle in question did not belong to the Presidential Secretariat, its maintenance and pumping of fuel had been carried out through the latter, inquiries had exposed, the CID told the Court.
Secretary to the ‘Siriliya Saviya’ project, Seetha Kalyani Kumari had acknowledged in a statement that though she had asked for the Defender vehicle it had at no stage been used for the ‘Sirilya Saviya’ project or its related activities, the CID also told Court.
A constable attached to the PSD, Chathura de Silva giving a statement had told the CID that the colour of the vehicle had been changed to blue on the advice of Yoshitha Rajapaksa before it was once again painted black at a garage in Kollupitiya, on the instructions of an individual named Deen who had served as a Marketing Executive at the CSN television station, the CID further told Court.
The CID also tyold Court that the Defender had first been used by Yoshitha Rajapaksa before it was used by Deen who was a close friend of Yoshitha, the CID had uncovered.
The CID then informed the Court that the Defender vehicle has not been used for any social service activity.
The CID then told Court that the colour of the said vehicle had been changed twice with no logical reason and the costs for the colour changes had been borne by the Presidential Secretariat.The CID then told Court that it was conducting further investigations to ascertain why the colour of the vehicle was changed twice and whether the vehicle had met with an accident or whether it had been repaired and for what purpose the vehicle had been used.
The CID then stated that they also had sought reports in this connection from the Motor Traffic Commissioner and the Government Analyst.
The Chief Magistrate who ordered the Motor Traffic Commissioner and the Government Analyst to produce the reports sought by the CID in this connection, ordered the CID to submit to Court a progress report on the inquiries on 3 March
By Ishara Ratnakara