By Faraz Shauketaly – Photo Chanaka Ratnaweera / Media Colombo
The man behind Sri Lanka’s own version of “Diamonds Are Forever” – with apologies to Albert R Broccoli – has clarified his position which carried headline news last Sunday. Mohammed Mahroof, the beleaguered UNP organiser from Central Colombo, finally made contact with The Sunday Leader and gave us his version.
Mr Mahroof, saying he did not look into his messages at home, said that the matter with Bullion Exchange had been resolved “a long time ago’. When pressed to clarify “long time” he asked us to merely state that the matter had been resolved. Mr Mahroof was insistent that he had settled the matter and that it had gained momentum thanks to his ‘political enemies’ and political mechanics who wished to discredit him.
In a refreshingly frank discourse Mr Mahroof responded to our invitation to give us his version of events. Mr Mahroof said that he had settled Bullion Exchange some while ago. He explained – patiently – that the jewellery that was purchased by him amounted at most to approximately Rs 3 Million including a quantity of gold jewellery. The Diamond jewellery component amounted to Rs 1.9 Million; He had given Ajmal Wahab of Bullion Exchange cheques to cover the full amount pending the receipt of full payment which had been transferred by Mr Mahroof to an account nominated by the Wahabs. He admitted that there was a delay in the transfer process over which he claimed to have little control. We spoke to a rather reluctant Ajmal Wahab from Bullion Exchange. Mr Wahab was keen to downplay the issue citing the personal nature of the transaction, the families and also the community at large. He confirmed that the matter had been settled.
Mr Mahroof went on to say that this was an attempt to sully his image as he too was interested in being nominated as the UNP Mayoral candidate for Colombo. Some people had vested interests in slinging mud at him because of his interest in the Mayoral election.
Mr Mahroof has had something of a rather chequered political career at the UNP and has been embroiled in a number of controversies over the years. However, it is acknowledged by most that his loyalty to the UNP was beyond reproach. A product of the Premadasa stewardship of the UNP, Mr Mahroof has been steadfast in his support of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP. He counts amongst his closest friends, former Cabinet Minister Milinda Moragoda.
We also asked him of stories doing the rounds that he had received monies from persons who wished to contest under the UNP ticket at the local elections. A sort of sweetener. No, said Mr Mahroof, nothing in it at all. He wondered how this was possible since the competition was extreme and the number of places allocated was very tight indeed. Organisers all over the country found it difficult to promote their own area member simply due to the fierce competition. The final choice of the contestant was in any event, left to the Leadership of the UNP.
We spoke to Sunil De Silva a local councillor from the UNP ticket. He too told us that these allegations were part of a dirty tricks campaign to discredit not only himself but also the UNP. He said he was given a nomination on merit and that there was no way money played a role.