( January 20, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday expressed concern over what he described as “baseless allegations” levelled against him, suggesting that he had personal dealings with a Defence Ministry account at the Bank of Ceylon.
In response, Rajapaksa issued the following statement.
I refer to the baseless allegations levelled against me, purporting that I maintain an account with the Bank of Ceylon – Taprobane Branch with funds of Rs. 8 billion. This claim is grossly misleading and has been made purely with the ulterior motive of discrediting my character and reputation.
To my knowledge, there exists an Operational Account held with the Bank of Ceylon – Taprobane Branch the funds of which are dedicated to financing the construction of the proposed Army headquarters building at Pelawatte. This account was opened with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers, and the funds deposited in the said account were from the proceeds of the sale of land at Galle Face, Colombo on which the Army headquarters was situated.
Consequent to the commencement of construction work at the proposed site in Pelawatte, and based on the progress of such work, withdrawals were to be made from this account in order to settle amounts due to the various contractors and suppliers. The account is operated by the Chief Accountant and other authorised officials of the Ministry of Defence, under the overall supervision of the Secretary of Defence. To elaborate further on how this account operates: cheques are drawn upon the receipt of payment vouchers, and all cheques bear two signatures of authorised signatories.
To the best of my recollections, the account was opened in 2011 with about Rs. 20 billion, which were the total proceeds from the land transaction mentioned earlier. Regular withdrawals have since been made to carry out payments of certified claims from contractors. The names and signatures of the persons authorised to operate the account are available with the bank and the Chief Accountant of the Ministry. The balance of the said account, as at the last day of my holding office, was certainly over Rs. 8 billion. The figures may be verified with the Treasury, as the annual deposit balance is reported to, and would be reflected on, the Government Balance Sheet.
As I have ceased to be the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, my successor becomes the automatic custodian of this account; all facts I have presented herein can be verified by him. The inclusion of my name, along with other authorised officials, in the signature card relevant to this account is solely in my capacity as Secretary – Defence. Therefore, I have no personal connection to, or dealings with, the said account.
There is no truth whatsoever in the claim that I maintain a personal account at Bank of Ceylon with funds of Rs. 8 billion. I strongly deny this baseless accusation and request the newly appointed Secretary – Defence to verify this with the bank and the treasury, in order to accurately disclose the details pertaining to this account.