Mahinda Rajapaksa: The Sick Leader & His Airport

Article 123 & 148 of the Constitution & Treasury Act’s doesn’t allow Mahinda Rajapaksa to Name Projects Constructed with Public Funds in his Name.

| by Upasiri de Silva

History of Naming Public Buildings

( March 17, 2013. Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) For the first time in Sri Lanka a Public a building was named after the late Leader SWRD Bandaranayake of Sri Lanka, as it was the wish of the donor country, agreed by the then Sri Lankan Government. That Building was the Canadians Constructed Katunayaka International Air Port, with 100% Canadian Aid with local Technical services provided by then PWD. In 1970 Chinese government donated the BMICH named after the late PM Bandaranayake.

Bandaranayake International Air Port Katunayaka

In 1964, then Canadian Prime Minister as a gesture of friendship extended by the late Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Hon S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake, offered to construct an International Air Port to replace the only International Air Port at Ratmalana. Condition of the Aid Package was, if the government of Mrs. Bandaranayake agreed to name the Air Port in the name of Late Mr. Bandaranayake. The Sri Lankan government agreed to the proposal after a long deliberation, and selected Katunayaka to be the hub of that International Air Port. Engineering duties were entrusted to the then Public Works Department (P.W.D) and a special office under a Chief Construction Engineer ( Katunayaka Air Port) was established with several Engineers to undertake the initial work of Land acquisitions, establishment of the runway and the approach roads to the Katunayaka International Airport with a temporary site office at the Katunayaka Air Force Base. I was fortunate enough to be in the initial team to establish all these work, operating from the temporary office at Katunayaka. We selected the Air Force Runway and decided to extend it up to Minuwangoda, after acquiring all the land necessary for the work.

As Public Funds were not used to construct this Air Port, violating Article 148, Parliamentary Control over Public Finance and as such was named as the . Bandaranayake International Air Port with the approval of all opposition members of the parliament at that time (UNP) as well as the general public. Opposition parties at the time thanked the Canadian government for funding the much needed International Air Port to increase the Air Traffic between Sri Lanka and other countries. As such, It was unanimously agreed to name the Air Port, “Bandaranayake International Air Port, Katunayaka”.

Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH)

.In 1970, Chinese government under then Premier Cho-En-Lai, donated a building, to be named after the late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranayke. 

For the construction of the International Conference Hall, Chinese government provided Technical Officers, Trade people and all the materials including white goods up to the value of Rs.3.5 million. Only materials brought locally were timber, sand cement, bricks, rubble, iron bars for reinforcement and shuttering materials. The Conference hall which can accommodate 95 countries with their delegates was fully furnished with the top quality furniture, curtains, cutlery and cookery imported from China. In total 70 (seventy) ship loads of materials were received from China..

Thanks to the 495 Chinese and 495 Sri Lankan Technical and Trade people the BMICH we completed this project three (3) months prior to the schedule completion date, with a saving of Rs.0.5 million out of the estimated cost yo be used for future maintenance work.

I was selected by the then PM, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranayake to be one of the Engineers of Sri Lankan team for this massive project. I was, responsible for Security of the site, Harbour Clearance and the Construction work. The project was behind the proposed programme due to the failure of clearing of the goods imported from China for the works and security concerns of the workers and the materials. The delays caused by all these acute problems were cleared and as mentioned in this letter in a previous paragraph, the project was completed THREE months prior to the proposed completion date and the building was ceremoniously opened by the then Chinese PM in 1972 and named as the Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall..

This was the second public building to be named after a leader of Sri Lanka with the approval of the then government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranayake and the opposition headed by late JR Jayawardena of the UNP.

Jayawardena Pura – Kotte

President J.R.Jayawardena, knowing well the implications of his own Constitution and the Treasury Acts, used the name Sri Jayawardena Pura to name Kotte.. During days of Sri Lankan’ Kings Kotte was known as Sri Jayawardena Pura. Any person looking at the above name may form an opinion that JR Jayawardena established his name Jayawardena (Pura) after using Public Funds to construct the Kotte Parliament house and all other public buildings. But JRJ never violated the Public trust and the Parliamentary Control over Public Finance

As JRJ was known as the “tricky dicky” he used the old name of Kotte from the days of Sinhala Kings to re-rename Kotte as the Sri Jayawardena Pura, and the public hospital constructed by Japanese as Sri Jayawardena Pura Hospital. If we consider the Article 123, 148 and the Treasury Acts, President Jayawardena has not committed any financial irregularities, in naming these Public Buildings or buildings constructed with public funds, as Sri Jayawardena Pura Hospital or Sri Jayawardena pura Parliament.

Naming of Hambantota Harbor

Mahinda Rajapaksa while assuming the responsibilities of the Presidency, took his oaths in 2005, stating that he is holding the position temporally and will act according to the constitution to uphold the Sri Lankan Constitution for the benefit of the people of Sri Lanka. Since 2005 Novembers, President Rajapaksa has forgotten his, much appreciated speech, and now moving in a direction of destruction, trying to demolish the constitution as well as the democracy of the country. he promised to maintain after eradicating terrorism.

Hambantota Port was first planned during President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga’s time and a feasibility report was prepared by consultants to construct the new Port in the open sea. Even during Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranayke’s time Chinese were very much interested in constructing this Port in Hambantota but it never materialised, as most Tenderers were sympathisers of the LTTE who tendered very low and then withdrew the tender at a later stage. LTTE feared a Harbour in the Southern Ocean, as it will be a .disadvantage for their activities.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the President negotiate a loan from the Chinese EXIM Bank to construct the much needed Port, but committed a very grave mistake, by engaging the Chinese Consultants as well as the Contractors, on their own terms while borrowing this large sum of money at very high interest rates. President as well as the Chairman of the SLPC agreed to the terms of the Consultants as well as the Contractors, due to some ulterior motive, to construct an Island Port without any consideration for the feasibility report or the rock formation and the dangerous currents carrying sand to block the entry to the Harbour.

Chinese Bank gave a Loan of US $ 386 million for Stage 1 and US $ 840 for the stage 2 and the harbour was constructed, without adhering to many international requirements in constructing such a Port. This may be the main problem SLPA is having to get international ships berthing at this Port. As the entrance to the Port was blocked by a HUGE rock formation, the use of this Port even today needs further blasting of this rock formation at an additional cost. of US $ 45 million.

If President Rajapaksa appointed a very capable and experience Firm of Consultants to oversee the Chinese consultants and the contractors most of these short comings should have avoided and the Harbour may be in use today bringing good revenue to pay certain part of the loan without drawing funds from other loans to pay the interest on these loans.

This Harbour Constructed with Public Funds (any Funds borrowed by the Government with Sovereign Guarantees become Public Funds, according to Treasury Acts and Article 123 & 148 of the Constitution). This Harbour or the Port was named as the Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in Hambantota violating the Treasury Acts and Article 123 & 148 of the Constitution. President Rajapaksa never even got the approval of the Parliament, where he is having a majority to use his name in this public project constructed with public Funds.

Naming of Mattala Airport

Mattala Air Port is a much needed second Air Port for the country constructed at the wrong end of the country and the wrong place as Mahinda Rajapaksa was not consulted the correct Construction Managers to advice him, for the good of the country. Environmental reports projected a very gloomy outlook and the farmers in the Mattala Area (mainly farmers supporting the UNP candidate Premadasa protested for acquiring their good farm land). The Elephant corridor and the nearby Bird sanctuary was demolish in planning this Air Port, without considering the constructive criticism of the Environmentalists and Development Economists. Now, this Air Port constructed with a very mammoth loan from the Exim Bank is to be opened in few days time and will be known as the Rajapaksa Airport Mattala.

As naming all these projects constructed using public funds ( borrowed on sovereign guarantees), President Rajapaksa has violated the Article 123, 148 and the Treasury Acts in using Public funds and naming them in his name without consulting the general public or the Parliament of Sri Lanka is a violation of the doctrine of public trust..

President Rajapaksa may have borrowed these funds from China and taken his share of commission, according to many. But as these funds are borrowed by the GOSL he headed as the President, the people of Sri lanka are bound to pay these funds at a later stage. Under the Financial regulations of the country which was violated by the President, in borrowing these funds has created a big betrayal of the public trust, will another government replacing Rajapaksa government is bound to pay these loans. As none of these loans were properly acquired according to the opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe as President Rajapaksa has betrayed the doctrine of public trust(Comments by Ranil Wickramasinghe –Sunday Times February 24, 2013).who will be responsible to pay back these loans?

I can still remember the words of President Rajapaksa on that 19th day of November 2009, when he delivered his maiden speech as the President. I jump with jubilation thinking Sri Lanka has got the best President after many decades. But today I feel frustrated as a born Sri Lankan to watch how Mahinda Rajapaksa retract his own words and in doing so he is demolishing the moral of the Sri Lankan people, as his main interest is to name each and every project constructed using public funds in his name while robbing the country poor.