According to an audit inquiry, there is a nonpayment of 115 million rupees to the state-owned Independent Television Network (ITN) for broadcasting advertisements of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) for the 2015 presidential election. It is also alleged that several other irregularities have also taken place within that period. However, when the former President was questioned by the Presidential Commission into serious acts of fraud last week, he had said that it is not his responsibility to pay the amount due since he was contesting for the election as a candidate representing the party.
When UPFA General Secretary Vishwa Warnapala was contacted, an official who spoke on behalf of the General Secretary told The Nation that Warnapala did not wish to comment on the particular issue, “He said the matter is not within his purview and therefore his comment on the matter is not relevant,” said the official.
Meanwhile, former UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha has told the media that election advertisements were sponsored by different individuals and it was not done by the party implying that it is not the responsibility of the party to pay the due amount.
ITN, Working Director Dhanukshka Ramanayake expressing his views on the issue said, “Internal audit reports indicate that 108 million rupees is due to our institution. During the time of the Presidential Election, free of charge trailers, snippets of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been broadcast on ITN. Big discounts were also given to those advertisements which are not allowed as per the company rules,” said Ramanayake.
He also pointed out that they initially appointed a committee to look into the matter and the findings of that committee was presented to the Media Ministry and the Ministry has sent them their observations. “We commenced the second inquiry upon receiving the observations of the Media Ministry’s 400/- page report. Then we requested the FCID to look into the matter, he said.
Ramanayake mentioned that the FCID commenced the inquiry on the issue upon the request of the Board of Directors and that they have asked for a methodical, balanced and a fair inquiry.
“Advertisements have been broadcast for which no payment had been made. This is a serious matter and we brought the issue into the notice of the relevant officials the moment we got to know of it, he added.
Ramanayake further expressed that they have the records to prove that irregularities have taken place and that those were done by violating the policies of the media institution. “Who should pay the money due is a legal matter. Our concern is that it should be paid by the persons responsible,” he said.
Meanwhile, a court case has already been filed against the Rajapaksa Presidential Election campaign regarding failure to settle a bill of Rs.142.5 million owed to the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB). The amount is for SLTB for buses provided to transport supporters to rallies of former President Rajapaksa during the last Presidential Election.
The defendants in this case include former United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) General Secretary Susil Premajayantha and former Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa. Ironically, the two are now ministers of the new government. In a further bizarre twist, the new Minister of Transport, which the SLTB comes under, is their SLFP colleague and former Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala De Silva.
Given the complicated nature of matters, a political analyst who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said if former President Rajapaksa’s argument is accepted, it would mean that in another bizarre twist, the ‘buck’ would stop with President Maithripala Sirisena; the Chairman of the UPFA.