Colombo’s Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne has directed that the bank accounts in Sri Lanka of Udayanga Weeratunga, former Ambassador to Russia, be frozen.
The move follows an application to Court made by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), which gave details of the account numbers and the balances remaining in each one of them.
Mr. Weeratunga had 14 different accounts in the Commercial Bank and two in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The total amount of US dollars remaining in these accounts, according to the FCID application, is US$ 1,579,340.66, i.e. US$ 1.5 million (about Rs. 222 million). The Sri Lanka rupee balance in all these accounts, the FCID has said, is Rs 3,042,072.75, i.e. Rs. 3 Million.
The FCID application also said that Mr. Weeratunga is one of the suspects in the procurement of MiG-27 fighter jets for the Sri Lanka Air Force in 2006. This case is now under investigation. The probe extended to a number of countries including Ukraine, Hong Kong and Singapore. After failing to reach him for questioning, the FCID obtained a court order and urged the France-based Interpol Headquarters to issue a Red Notice on him. Such a red notice, circulated to member countries of the Interpol, leads to the person named being placed in the data base of immigration counters thus making the person liable for arrest in any country.
However, the Interpol issued only a Blue or “B” series notice. These notices are also called ‘enquiry notices’ and may be issued in order to have someone’s identity verified; to obtain particulars of a person’s criminal record; to locate someone who is missing or is an identified or unidentified international criminal or is wanted for a violation of ordinary criminal law and whose extradition may be requested. This notice is the result of Interpol revising its procedures for the issuance of different notices. Red Notices are now issued only after a person is convicted and the member country is seeking his or her arrest. Interpol has also introduced a system where member countries are fined for providing inaccurate information.
As a result of the Blue Notice, the FCID was informed recently that Mr. Weeratunga had arrived in a West Asian country.
Mr. Weeratunga’s relatives have challenged the FCID court request for a Red Notice in the Supreme Court. It is now pending before the SC.
President tells SLFP ministers to tone down criticism of UNP
President Maithripala Sirisena was speaking to a group of United National Party (UNP) parliamentarians at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday December 30.
He reminisced about the days when the SLFP was in power (together with coalition partners) and the UNP in the opposition. Flags, cutouts and even posters of UNPers were removed by SLFP supporters at the grassroots level.
There was no such thing now, he noted. He said even cutouts and posters of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa were being openly displayed in different areas. No one had opposed such moves.
However, Sirisena noted that “two or three” SLFP members had gone beyond their “limits” in directing criticism against the UNP. That it has happened on the SLFP side is not something to be happy about. He told SLFP ministers to be vary of this.
The other side of the issue played out at the UNP Working Committee meeting at the party headquarters Siri Kotha in Kotte. UNP leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, complained that he had heard from party branches that their cutouts and decorations had been destroyed or damaged by SLFP supporters. Even some MPs were being harassed in village areas when they engage in party politics.
The answer to such situation is not to berate others but to work hard to deliver what was promised, said Mr. Wickremesinghe.
Legal eagle avoids minister
A legal eagle, known well for his role in defending state activity, was conspicuous by his absence at the weekly conference chaired by a controversial minister.
The reason – the Minister cast all civility aside and insulted him at a conference. Even the other participants were aghast.
Mangala to meet Boris
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will fly to Britain this week for a meeting with his counterpart Boris Johnson. The visit comes in the backdrop of a controversy over whether foreign judges should serve on tribunals probing alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Britain was one of the countries that supported the inclusion of foreign judges. It was uncertain if Minister Samaraweera was to ask for a war crimes tribunal for military excesses by UK troops in Iraq. British PM Theresa May has rejected such a tribunal.
Though former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who heads reconciliation efforts, received a report from a committee this week calling for the inclusion of foreign judges, it was shot down by SLFP Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on the orders of President Sirisena. Speaking on behalf of the President, he told the media that there would be no foreign judges in the inquiry mechanism.
Ex-chief giving commands again
The one-time strong man in uniform has stirred a hornet’s nest after he began giving orders to higher commands to appoint persons of his choice to higher positions in the Forces.
In one instance where he gave three names, a source close to a higher command said, others who were considered held more qualifications and better track records.
Major changes in Army
A series of top level changes in the Sri Lanka Army has been effected in the New Year.
Major General N.J. Welgama has relinquished office as Military Secretary and has been posted to Army Headquarters.
He is succeeded by Major General P.W.B. Jayasundera. Until now, he was the Master General Ordinance (MGO).
Appointed as the new MGO is Major General S.D.T. Liyanage who was earlier attached to Army Headquarters.
Other changes of senior officers have also been announced.