Colombo, September 7 (newsin.asia): Lalith Weeratunga, who was Secretary to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005 till the end of the latter’s term in January 8,2015, and the former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Palpita, have been sentenced to three years RI and hefty fines for misusing funds belonging to the TRC for a political purpose.
The Colombo High Court on Wednesday found them guilty of misappropriating LKR 600 million (US$ 3.9 million) , and fined them LKR 2 million (US$ 13,109) each and ordered each of them to pay LKR 50 million (US$ 327,718) to the TRC by September 20.
LKR 600 million had been siphoned off for distributing “Sil Cloth” (Buddhist prayer cloth) to devotees in the run up to the January 2015 Presidential election which Rajapaksa lost to Maithripala Sirisena.
Weeratunga had served as the Chairman of the TRC during this period.
Weeratunga and Palpita were charged for contravening the Telecommunication Act, No. 25 of 1991, during the period October 30, 2014 to January 5, 2015.
The prosecutors alleged that the funds referred to had been remitted to a bank account maintained by Secretary to the President Weeratunga.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had both come to power in January 2015 on the promise of punishing the corrupt elements in the Rajapaksa regime. Several institutions were set up to investigate thousands of allegations.
But progress in the cases had been slow, especially in cases involving the Rajapaksa family and his cohorts.
Recently, provoked by public criticism of inaction, Sirisena told the cabinet that the cases should be pursued without fear and favor and hinted that Prime Minister Wickremesighe could have struck a deal with Rajapaksa to save the latter for a political trade off.
Justice Minister Wijeeyadasa Rajapakshe was blamed for openly saying that some of the cases against the Rajapaksas were baseless such as the one against Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the Avant Garde Security Sea Marshals issue.
Rajapakshe’s opponents in the ruling United National Party (UNP) like Dr.Harsha De Silva, said that the Attorney General was sitting on 87 files on the Rajapaksas. But the administration’s plea was that they were too few investigators chasing too many cases.
However, the judgment against Rajapaksa’s Secretary and the Director General of TRC, gives hope that in the remaining three years of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime, more case will result in conviction.
(The featured image at the top shows Lalith Weeertunga and Anusha Palpita)