By Chitra Weerarathne
Colombo High Court Judge Gihan Kulatunga yesterday convicted Anusha Pelpita, former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) and the second accused Lalith Weeratunga, former Presidential Secretary and former Chairman of TRC, of misuse of state funds and aiding and abetting the same in spending Rs. 600 million on the distribution of sil redi in the run-up to the presidential election on January 8, 2015.
They were each sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment for all the charges with a fine of Rs. 2 million. They were also ordered to pay the TRC Rs. 50 million each.
In default of the fine the penalty will be one year rigorous imprisonment. In default of the compensation the penalty will be two years rigorous imprisonment.
The fine and compensation are to be paid on schedule.
The High Court Judge, delivering the judgement, said there had been a political motivation in the commission of the offence and it was to support their appointing authority.
President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa, who appeared for the convicts, requested the High Court Judge to take into consideration, in imposing the penalty, the health condition of the convicts and also the fact that they had no previous convictions. They had held public office for long years without any wrongdoing. The Counsel also stressed that a CID investigation officer in his evidence at the trial had said that the Rs. 600 million had not been not used for the personal benefit of the accused.
Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige appeared for the Attorney General.
Following the delivery of the judgement the counsel for the convicts told the court that the convicts would shortly file an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the judgment and the penalty imposed.
Lalith Weeratunga, who the Secretary to the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the time of the commission of the offence.
No UPFA politician in court
It was a noteworthy feature that none of the eminent UPFA politicians were present in the Colombo High Court at the time of the delivery of the judgement in the sil redi case.