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Sat, 01 November 2014 22:45:20
Sri Lanka ex-president 'grossly violated public trust': Supreme Court
11 Oct, 2008 10:14:36
Oct 11, 2008 9LBO) – Sri Lanka's former president Chandrika Kumaratunga had grossly violated public trust in a deal where state lands and a tax holiday were given to a firm in which an associate was covertly holding shares, the island's Supreme Court has said.
The judgement delivered by Supreme Court justice Shirani Tillakawardene said Kumaratunga, the first respondent in the case, had strongly recommended the project and canvassed favours for the promoters such as tax concessions.

"The first respondent has grossly abused her power," the judgement declared.

Kumaratunga "had failed to function in a manner consistent with the expectations of a public officer, much less an executive president, and in doing so, has completely betrayed the position of trust bestowed upon her by the constitution and by the people of Sri Lanka."

The judgement in the case involving the Water's Edge golf course, near Colombo, said the transfer of state land originally meant for flood water retention purposes, was illegal.

It ordered the return to the state of the land which had been transferred to a company in which a friend of Kumaratunga, Ronnie Peiris, was a hidden shareholder.

The Supreme Court in the judgement also said Kumaratunga's "blatant misrepresentations" during the trial proceedings only strengthens the allegations of the petitioners that her behaviour "had ulterior motives unrelated to furthering the public trust."

It said Kumaratunga had successfully lobbied for 'exceptionally and unusually favourable' tax concessions for Asia Pacific, the firm in which her friend Peiris was a hidden shareholder through a trust arrangement.

Court ordered former president Chandrika Kumaratunga to pay three million rupees as compensation to the state over the golf course deal.

Peiris, who Court said had got a disguised brokerage fee of 57.2 million rupees according to revenue authorities for "peddling executive favours" through president Kumaratunga, was fined two million rupees.

"We believe such a token payment of the real loss to the state of several hundreds of millions, will serve to 'remind' present and future state actors and agencies of their paramount duty to further the Public Trust and that their actions are subject to the rule of law," the Supreme Court judgement said.

It said Peiris had "procured favours by the executive" in violation of the public trust doctrine in infringement of the constitution.

"He has profited from the transaction through a carefully concealed ownership of Asia Pacific, and which concealment this court believes, was effected to hide what was in essence a commission for peddling executive favours of the first respondent (Kumaratunga)."

Court ordered the bribery and corruption commission to investigate the entire transaction with particular scrutiny on the actions of Kumaratunga and Ronnie Peiris as well as a few others.

Court also ordered a full investigation into another land transaction in which Kumaratunga was alleged to have done a favour for her masseur.

The court described that land alienation to Lifestyle Health Services in the Narahenpita area of Colombo as 'dubious'.

The supreme court judgement also mentioned the role of former urban development minister Mangala Samaraweera, a close associate of Kumaratunga, who it said sought cabinet approval for the golf course project in 'flagrant disregard' of the public purpose specifically contained as a condition attached to the land.

The judgement also mentioned the role of another cabinet minister, Ravi Karunanayake of the opposition United National Party in power at the time, of giving a cabinet memorandum in June 2002 seeking to cancel the allocation of land to Asia Pacific.

But, court said, the memorandum was "withdrawn seven days later without any reason."

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