Gotabaya’s trial will be further delayed as he gets leave to go overseas
The Special High Court at Bar hearing a case where former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is charged with misusing government funds to build a memorial for his parents has given him leave to travel overseas from March 26th to April 12.
This means this case which has been brought before the special court which was instituted to speed up the large scale corruption cases will see further delays.
In this case Rajapaksa and six others are facing charges of misusing public funds to the tune of nearly Rs.34 million, with which a memorial and museum was built in honor of Rajapaksa’s parents at Weeraketiya in Medamulana.
Rajapaksa’s latest attempt to avoid facing trial was a filing before the Appeal Court but on Tuesday the Judges rejected the appeal and that is why came to court on Friday.
Other than Rajapaksa all the others are all former members of the Board of Directors of the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC). The memorial was constructed by the Sri Lanka Navy allegedly using funds from SLLRDC.
Rajapaksa does not act like an accused person in and around the courtroom. He is driven to the court complex in a powerful silver grey V8 Toyota SUV, which climbs slowly up the hill with assault-rifle toting, camouflage- wearing STF Guards trotting alongside on either side.Miraculously a parking spot close to the courts remains free for the SUV to slide in with its accompanying Defender in tow.
As the SUV stops, a flock of plainclothes guards gathered around Rajapaksa and they walked together into the refurbished colonial-style building which is the courtroom of the Permanent High Court at Bar in the Courts Complex in Colombo on March 1st.
On the last court date, the judges heard submissions from lawyers representing the 6th accused, who is suffering from cancer. The court had asked that medical certificates be submitted as the accused had previously not attended hearings.
The case is being heard before a bench comprising Justices Champa Janaki Rajaratne, Sampath Abeykoon, and Sampath Wijeratne of the Special High Court.
On the last court date, an order was issued on the 18 witnesses from the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation, barring them from traveling overseas without court approval.
Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris, who is leading the prosecution, has informed the court that there was an attempt made by some witnesses to travel overseas, and if at least one of them travels abroad, it would pose an obstacle to take the case for trial continuously.
He informed the bench that the prosecution expects to make a special request for a just trial after it commences.
Rajapaksa and his co-accused also asked Special Court for permission to file an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the Permanent High Court-at-Bar’s jurisdiction to rule in this case. On February 11, the Special High Court overruled preliminary objections raised by Rajapaksa by ruling that the court did have the right to hear this case.
Rajapaksa’s co-accused are former SLLRDC Chairman Prasad Harshan de Silva, Members; Bhadra Udulawathi Kamaladasa, Sudammika Keminda Artigala, Saman Kumara Abraham Galappatti, Devage Mahinda Saliya. and Srimathi Mallika Kumari Senadheera.
The seven accused are currently out on bail and have been charged under Section 5(1) of the Public Property Act and Section 388 of the Penal Code, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and the Public Property Act.
Rajapaksa has been ducking and weaving through the court system to delay multiple investigations and the proceedings against him.
Among the documents filed in court in this case, there is a query sent to SLLRDC Chairman de Silva by the Auditor General’s Department pointing out that the building of the Rajapaksa Memorial did not fall either under the Vision or the Mission of the Corporation. It also asks how such an expenditure was justified when the SLLRDC was short of funds as it had applied for a loan of Rs.14,277 million from a State Bank.
The questions sent to the Chairman by the Auditor General included an observation that the Corporation had released up to Rs.25 million in funds for this project without Board approval, and was referred to as the “Weeraketiya project.” The SLLRDC was a Corporation that existed under the Ministry of Defense at the time.