By Shamindra Ferdinando
Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and UPFA member Udaya Gammanpila, yesterday, claimed that so far there was no basis for allegations that UPFA Matara District MP Niroshan Premaratne had laundered underworld kingpin Makadure Madush’s drug money.
Those who accused MP Premaratne of money laundering owed an explanation as to how they had arrived at that conclusion, attorney-at-law Gammanpila said. The Colombo District MP said so when the media sought his views on the allegations against MP Premaratne, at the weekly PHU media briefing.
National Freedom Front (NFF) member, Premaratne, a former employee of the state-run ITN, contested the last parliamentary election on the UPFA ticket.
MP Gammanpila said that it was not fair to make unsubstantiated allegations. Referring to a statement, MP Premaratne delivered in Parliament last Friday, MP Gammanpila pointed out that his colleague had challenged his critics to produce evidence against him.
Gammanpila said that so far those propagating allegations hadn’t produced any evidence to prove primary accusation that the MP invested funds on behalf of Makadure Madush.
MP Gammanpila said that he refrained from mentioning the names of certain UNP ministers allegedly links to Makadure Madush as he was yet to obtain evidence to prove accusations.
MP Gammanpila said that the UPFA expected the UNP and the JVP to be fair by MP Premaratne.
UAE police in the early hours of Tuesday (Feb. 05) arrested Madush and a group of his underworld associates in two separate raids carried out there.
The NFF secured five seats at the last parliamentary election though one of them, Weerakumara Dissanayake switched his allegiance to President Maithripala Sirisena.
The Island sought an explanation from the NFF as to how the party would react to allegations against a member of its parliamentary group. NFF spokesperson Mohammed Muzammil, yesterday, said that political opponents had found fault with MP Premaratne for paying his last respects to 62-year-old Samarasinghe Arachchige Lakshman, father of Makadure Madush in August 2018.
Muzammil said that MP Premaratne wouldn’t have posted a picture of him on his face book taken at the funeral if he had had any clandestine business transactions with Makadure Madush.
According to Muzammil political opponents had questioned MP Premaratne’s ability to pay Rs. 725,000 a month to a state bank for Rs 80 mn loan drawn from the parliament branch of the bank.
Responding to another query, Muzammil said that the party firmly believed that the MP hadn’t done anything illegal, but was engaged in legitimate business. Asked whether their member had financial strength to undertake such a huge financial commitment, the NFF spokesman said that MP Premaratne was engaged in several businesses.
The media took up with MP Gammanpila the government denial of anyone of those arrested in Dubai having a diplomatic passport. The PHU leader said State Minister J.C Alawathuwala, last Friday (Feb 08), denied the presence of a diplomatic passport holder among those arrested when he raised the issue in parliament. The denial was made on the strength of the Immigration and Emigration Controller’s claim that he wasn’t aware of such an arrest in Dubai, MP Gammapila said. Declaring that there was no mechanism for Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Controller to receive such information, MP Gammanpila said Sri Lanka embassy in Dubai should seek required information from the government there.
Responding to accusations that either an SLPP Pradeshiya Sabha member or UPFA Provincial Council member had been with Makadure Madush and were among the arrested in Dubai, MP Gammanpila said that PS or PC members they were not entitled to privileges.
MP Gammapila said that State Minister Alawathuwala had alleged diplomatic passport holder’s story cooked up by the Opposition. This accusation should be examined keeping in mind the arrest of a diplomatic passport holder was first reported by Dubai-based Khaleej Times.
Gammanpila rejected Minister and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella’s accusation that Makadure Madush could have been brought to Colombo, the way LTTEer Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP was brought in 2009. The PHU leader emphasized the circumstances under which Pathmanathan was brought back to Colombo couldn’t compared with the Dubai arrests of underworld kingpins.
Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that the UAE was likely to charge Madush and his associates with using narcotics in addition to possessing them. The possibility of them being charged for selling narcotics, too, couldn’t be ruled out, the MP said.