By Shamindra Ferdinando
Two civil society organisations, yesterday, said the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration owed an explanation to the general public as to why Dr. T. H. K. Mahanama had been appointed the Chief of Staff of President Maithripala Sirisena, in spite of a serious allegation against him that he deliberately delayed a USD 100 mn project to establish a new sugar factory and interfered in the Cabinet approved sale of discarded machinery and scrap iron belonging to the Kantale Sugar factory.
The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) arrested Mahanama, on Thursday, at a leading hotel in Colombo. The senior administrator received the appointment about a month ago. The CIABOC also took into custody the Chairman of the State Timber Corporation Piyasena Dissanayake.
President of the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection Ranjith Vithanage and Executive Director CaFFE and Executive Director CHR-Sri Lanka Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Island that yahapalana leaders had been aware of corruption allegations against Mahanama. Tennakoon alleged that Mahanama had purposely thwarted the joint venture undertaken by M. G. Sugars Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and Sri Lanka for revival and restructuring of the Kantale Sugar factory. They alleged that the official, who had been the Secretary to the Lands Ministry and Parliamentary Reforms at that time, had also blocked the planned sale of discarded Kantale Sugar factory machinery and scrap metal to Meerigama Lanka Company for Rs. 540 mn, the highest bidder
Having blocked both projects during his tenure as the Secretary Lands and Parliamentary Reforms, Mahanama had tried to sell the discarded machinery and scrap iron to M.G. Sugars Lanka (Pvt) Ltd for Rs 540, a senior CIABOC official told The Island Thursday night. Following negotiations conducted between the company and Mahanama, the latter had brought down the amount to Rs. 100 mn and agreed to accept the money in installments. “We moved in soon after Dr. Mahanama and Dissanayake accepted the money,” the official said.
Mahanama and Dissanayake were produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate Thursday night and remanded till May 9 pending further investigations.
CIABOC described Mahanama as the mastermind of the operation.
Both Vithanage and Tennakoon said that those receiving top appointments should have been cleared beforehand. Obviously, Dr. Mahanama hadn’t been subjected to scrutiny though civil society groups repeatedly brought accusations against him to the notice of the government. Tennakoon said that he recently told a gathering that Dr. Mahanama could even sell President Sirisena for scrap iron.