By Buddhika Samaraweera
Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa said that he will travel around the country to show the public the projects implemented using the Central Cultural Fund, in response to allegations from parties related to the Government who claim that he had misused the money of the said fund.
Speaking to the media in Galle yesterday (2), he said: “The Government and the Rajapaksas (a reference to former presidents Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa) have now launched a project to sling mud at me, claiming that I have misused the Central Cultural Fund. I would like to ask them to wait a few days to see whether I misused that fund or used it for the development of Buddhism. I will go to every place of worship and show people the development work that has been done there.”
Claiming that certain parties are trying to pretend that they are working to uplift Buddhism by insulting other religions and targeting elections, he said that the way he wishes to uplift Buddhism is vastly different, elaborating that Buddhism and other religions can be uplifted only through the development of religious places irrespective of the community that they belong to.
“If I have committed any wrongdoing, it is the construction of buildings around the country for the benefit of Dhamma school students who have been studying under trees. I have built dagobas in temples covering all provinces. Is what I did wrong? The Government and parties related to the Rajapaksas have committed a mistake by propagating that I have misused this fund. They have paved the way for me to show the entire country what I have done using that fund,” Premadasa stated further.
A report issued by the National Audit Office reportedly stated that more than Rs. 4,800 million granted to religious places by the Central Cultural Fund in 2018 had been misappropriated. According to the report in question, the money granted under the “Sunodhaya” programme had been misused, and although no work had been carried out, there had been no reports regarding what happened to that money.
The report also stated that a number of religious places such as temples and churches are yet to complete their respective development programmes with the use of the allocated funds and that then-Minister of Housing Construction and Cultural Affairs Premadasa and the Central Cultural Fund had failed to follow-up on the use of money.