COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Counsel for Saliya Wickramasuriya, a former official in Sri Lanka’s reconstruction agency, pleaded for bail, saying he required medical treatment and that the petroleum industry professional’s skills were needed in the offshore gas exploration effort..
Wickramasuriya, former Chief Operating Officer of the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), was suffering from acute back pain and too ill to appear in court Tuesday, President’s Counsel Anil Silva said.
He told Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Wickramasuriya had been diagnosed with a degenerative condition in the spine in 1994 that would get worse if not treated properly.
Wickramasuriya, who was arrested over alleged fraud in use of tsunami rebuilding funds by RADA, had been transferred to the national hospital as the prison hospital lacked facilities for the required treatment, Silva said.
He complained that Wickramasuriya was being denied bail as he was charged under the Public Property Act.
Silva charged that police investigators were preventing government officials from getting about their work and had failed to arrest powerful people linked to the alleged fraud despite assurances they would do so.
Written submissions are to be filed before Friday May 22 when the case will be heard next.
The prosecution objected to bail and told Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that they intend arresting parliamentarian Tiran Alles, former chairman of RADA, in connection with the investigations into the alleged fraud if they uncover enough evidence.
The RADA was in charge of reconstruction projects after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which hit Sri Lanka’s eastern and southern coasts.
Silva quoted a letter from Suren Batagoda, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy, saying that Wickramasuriya’s services were essential for the ongoing offshore petroleum exploration effort.
Wickramasuriya was the only person in Sri Lanka with the specialized knowledge to handle talks with multinational oil companies.
Wickramasuriya, now the director general of the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat in charge of exploiting oil and gas deposits, is a physicist who has worked in the upstream oil and gas industry since 1984.
He worked for 20 years for Schlumberger, considered the world’s largest oilfield services company, with 12 years of experience working on oil rigs and served in locations ranging from the North Sea and Middle East to China, India, Pakistan and the United States.
In the last seven years, Wickramasuriya has worked for the Sri Lankan government, as chairman of the Board of Investment and chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority before taking up his present appointment.