Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne yesterday told Parliament that no action had been taken to investigate allegations over the misuse of public funds by Gamini Senarath, the Chief of Staff of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Piyadasa Kudabalage, who functioned as Directors of the companies associated with controversial Canwill Holdings Ltd.
The Minister, responding to a question raised by JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, said: “Piyadasa Kudabalage has been paid a considerably large allowance of Rs. 600,000 on a monthly basis. During the period March 2012 until January 2015 he was paid a total of Rs. 20.8 million.”
According to the Minister, both Gamini Senarath and Piyadasa Kudabalage have only invested Rs. 10 million each in the company, which started in December 2011, to receive a high allowance in return. The other investors of the company included Sri Lanka Insurance, which invested Rs. 5 billion, Litro Gas Rs. 450 million and the Employees Provident Fund Rs. 2.5 billion. Helanco Hotels and Spa Ltd. and Sino Lanka Hotels and Spa Ltd. are subsidiaries of Canwill Holdings. Helanco Hotels and Spa Ltd. was involved in constructing the Hambantota Hyatt while Sino Lanka Hotels and Spa Ltd. started construction of the Kollupitiya Hyatt.
The Government has now been forced to see through the previous regime’s short-sighted investment projects, Wickramaratne informed Parliament, adding that the Grand Hyatt project would cost the State a staggering Rs. 43 billion to complete.
“Despite questions about the viability of the venture, the Government will have to see it through as we will lose the money already spent if we abandon the project now,” Wickremaratne said.
Highlighting questions on the viability of the decision to invest in Hyatt hotels in Sri Lanka, Wickramaratne said the feasibility of government servants running a business should be evaluated.
“We can approach this in different ways; can government servants run a business? This was not done by business professionals. The investment for the Colombo Hyatt in 2012 was Rs. 20 billion and this increased to Rs. 27 billion in 2014. Now, as the Grand Hyatt the total cost has increased to Rs. 43 billion,” he explained.