Presidential Commission grills Susil on payment

Susil PremajayanthaThe Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Fraud and Corruption (PRECIFAC) questioned former United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) General Secretary Susil Premajayanth today on the unpaid bills to ITN for the last Presidential election.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also present during the hearing after the Commission had rejected the objections raised by his lawyers over the composition of the Commission.

Rajapaksa’s lawyers had yesterday objected to sitting judges of the Supreme Court from being part of the Commission but the Commission today rejected the objections and continued with the sittings.

Rajapaksa’s office had said earlier that the former President appeared before the Commission to Probe Serious Acts of Corruption in response to a letter sent to him by the commission. This letter mentions five matters which are under investigation by the commission.

The first matter that is under investigation by the Commission is the appointment of Anura Siriwardene as the Chairman/CEO of Independent Television Network at a time when the position was not vacant.

“This appointment is not made by the President but officially by the Secretary to the Treasury as the Treasury owns the majority of the shares of ITN. This appointment had been made after the former Chairman left that position,” Rajapaksa’s office said.

The second matter under investigation is an alleged financial loss caused due to an advertising firm by the name of ‘Media Factory’ not paying dues owed to ITN for televised ads. ITN had issued a letter dated 27 January 2015 claiming what was due to them and Media Factory had settled the outstanding amount in full. ITN has under signature accepted that the payment has been received.

A financial loss of Rs. 24 lakhs allegedly caused by an advertising firm by the name of ‘Special Solutions’ not paying their dues to ITN is the third matter under investigation.

Rajapaksa’s office said that they have been made to understand that all outstanding amounts due to ITN with regard to the transaction have been paid by the said advertising firm.

“It should be borne in mind that when advertisements are repeated many times, all media organisations broadcast a certain proportion of them free of charge as an incentive to advertisers,” Rajapaksa’s office had said.

The fourth matter under investigation is the allegation that up-front payment was received for advertisements promoting presidential election candidate Maithripala Sirisena, but that these advertisements had not been aired and Rs 86 lakhs had been returned thus depriving ITN of an income the institution should have received. This is an internal administrative matter of ITN.

The letter sent by the Commission to the former President also states as the fifth matter under investigation the allegation that Maithripala Sirisena had been charged twice the usual amount for advertising thus discriminating between two equal presidential candidates. This too is an internal administrative matter at ITN.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa contested the January 2015 presidential election as the candidate of the UPFA. Rajapaksa’s office said that the presidential candidate of a major political party cannot possibly supervise the advertising campaign carried out on his behalf. His office said that campaign advertisements are given to media organisations by the advertising firm retained by the candidate’s political party. The candidate or even his political party very often has no direct contact with the media organisations over advertising. (Colombo Gazette)


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