The well-frequented Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) in Fort was the scene of tension and demonstrations yesterday, as National Freedom Front Leader, and former Minister Wimal Weerawansa was arrested by the special police unit on charges of misusing Government vehicles and causing losses to the tune of Rs. 41 million to the state by his actions.
The former Minister of Engineering Services and Housing in ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Cabinet, was remanded until 24 January by Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne after police produced him in court soon after his arrest.
“The Prime Minister has ordered my arrest,” Weerawansa said as he walked into the FCID building last morning, with a small crowd of supporters. Expecting his arrest, several Buddhist monks, led by controversial Elle Gunawansa Thero chanted pirith and tied a pirith noola on Weerawansa’s wrist before he entered the premises for interrogation.
A few days previously, former President Rajapaksa had also predicted that Weerawansa would be arrested soon, raising questions about leaks about ongoing police investigations.
Weerawansa’s supporters strongly protested his arrest outside the FCID, causing some tension last afternoon.
According to the B report filed in court by the FCID, Weerawansa is accused of causing losses to the tune of Rs. 41 million to the Government by misusing vehicles rented using funds from the State Engineering Corporation. According to the B report, Weerawansa used fuel and drivers from the corporation for unofficial purposes.
The complaint against the former Minister was filed by a former Chairman of the State Engineering Corporation, based on the findings of a 2014 audit report, the Police B report said.
The 25-page Police B report makes the startling revelation that one of the vehicles had been rented at state expense for Itthakande Saddhathissa Thero, a controversial Buddhist monk from the extremist Ravana Balaya movement from March 2011 to October 2014.
The cost of the rental had been Rs. 2.95 million, according to the police filings. Weerawansa had also authorised vehicles being rented for the use of several journalists at expense to the State Engineering Corporation, according to the B report. Some rentals had cost the Corporation Rs. 4.7 million over two years, the report also shows.
Crowds of Weerawansa’s supporters chanted “hail the leader who saved the nation” as the former Minister was escorted to the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s court following his arrest.