Political opponents slammed former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera after he acknowledged taking a campaign contribution of Rs. 1 million from Walt Row and Associates, a company linked to Perpetual Treasuries, ahead of the August 2015 parliamentary election, even as his party ran on the ‘bandumkare’ or Treasury Bond scandal slogan at the same poll.
“It was a case of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds,” Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the Sunday Observer, referring to the former Minister’s decision to accept payment from the company at the centre of the Treasury Bond controversy.
The UPFA polls campaign in August 2015 – largely led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was campaigning for a seat in the Kurunegala District – centered around the bond scandal, the only major controversy plaguing the minority Government that had ruled the country since the January 8, 2015 Presidential Election. As a Kurunegala District nominee of the UPFA himself, Jayasekera campaigned with Rajapaksa during this election.
The former Sports Minister admitted to accepting the campaign contribution, in Parliament on Friday and told the Sunday Observer that despite having taken the money he had never defended the company.
However, subsequent to the August 2015 election, Jayasekera was also a member of the parliamentary oversight Committee on Public Enterprises which submitted a major investigative report to Parliament in October 2016.
Interestingly, according to evidence led at the Presidential Commission on the bond issue, Jayasekera was listed among COPE MPs who had taken calls from Arjun Aloysius during Committee sittings.
CID phone records indicated that Jayasekera had spoken to or received calls from Aloysius 18 times, at least two of them while COPE was in session over the Bond issue.
Jayasekera’s communications with Aloysius had commenced on July 10, 2015, CID evidence led during the Commission hearings revealed.
Coincidentally, the CID ‘B’ report and the Attorney General revealed in court last week that former Minister Jayasekera had obtained monetary assistance from a company linked to Arjun Aloysius to the tune of Rs. 1 million.
The money was paid by cheque and that this cheque was cashed on July 13, 2015, three days after phone records revealed Jayasekera had started communications with Aloysius.
The cheque was cashed by Amila Kumara Herath, said to be Jayasekera’s driver, at the Kurunegala branch of the Bank of Ceylon, the B report states.
The encashment took place about one month before the Parliamentary election and five months after news broke of the Treasury Bond scandal – with Perpetual Treasuries and its controversial owner Arjun Aloysius – Jayasekera’s campaign financier – at the epicentre of the controversy.
Walt Row and Associates, is an associate company of Perpetual Treasuries – meaning that it owns at least 30% of its shares – is the same company that paid the rent for the Monarch apartment occupied by former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, according to evidence placed before the Presidential Commission hearings on the Bond issue. Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Wasantha Samarasinghe said that 166 MPs received similar payments from Perpetual Treasuries through Walt Row and the W.M. Mendis companies, and urged the Government to reveal the other 165 politicians who got campaign assistance from the controversial corporate firm.
Jayasekera told the Sunday Observer that the cheque had not been issued in his name and said he could not even remember the person who gave him the money. Jayasekera claimed the latest allegations against him were part of a mud-slinging campaign since he had quit the Government.He said that when he accepted the money, he was not a member of parliament or COPE. “Actually this is not Perpetual Treasuries, but a different company,” he said.
But in fact, Walt and Row as revealed in Court and during the Presidential Commission on the bond issue, is an associate company of Perpetual Treasuries. The former Sports Minister defended his actions, saying it was well-known that some businessmen lend financial support to Parliamentarians and even local councilors. However, Finance Minister Samaraweera, speaking to Sunday Observer yesterday, said it was the height of irony and disingenuous for politicians
in the pay of businessmen such as Aloysius to be campaigning against the Government citing the Treasury Bond scam. Election observers said the recent revelations lend more credence to calls for proper campaign finance regulations and transparency about political donors.
Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka Chapter, Asoka Obeysekere told the Sunday Observer that disclosing campaign contributions is essential and can be done through straightforward interest registers, where both monetary and donations in kind can be recorded.
“This not only assists in holding MPs accountable, but also provides a standardised mechanism for many MPs and donors to legitimately receive contributions. It can also protect MPs from future sinister aspersions being cast over otherwise seemingly clandestine donations,” Obeysekere pointed out.