The office of Cornel Perera responded this week to a Right of Reply published in these pages last week from the offices of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge. Madam Kumaratunge responded to our recent articles published on the Hilton Hotel and the references made to her by Mr. Perera in an interview with Faraz Shauketaly.
“Madam Kumaratunge wishes to deny categorically all references made to her with regard to the privatisation of the Hilton Hotel, undertaken by a previous UNP government of 1977-1994 and all the other related matters.”
The Hilton Hotel is owned by Hotel Developers Lanka PLC. It was and is a quoted company and the question of it being privatised has never arisen with any of the governments in power since its opening in 1987. The shares belonging to Cornel & Co. were held in trust by the State till the guaranteed loan was paid back to the Japanese which event occurred and was finalised in March this year.
Mr. Perera reiterates that he said “…CBK wants to own this hotel by proxy.” He meant she wanted it for herself and he can prove this beyond reasonable doubt with evidence.
“Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge…… upheld vigorously the principles of probity and honesty in government…..”
Mr. Perera did not refer to the matter of the BOT MIHALY Coal Fired Power Project in his clarification of the Hilton matter but since CBK made these claims of probity and honesty during her term of office he feels it imperative that he states some facts to prove otherwise.
The article published in The Sunday Leader on July 13, 1997 under ‘EXCLUSIVE’ began with:
“A foreign investor who is suing the government of Sri Lanka for 200 million US dollars over the aborted multi-million dollar Trincomalee coal-fired power plant project has charged there was influence peddling at a very high level in government during the negotiating process.
John Walker of Mihaly International in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Leader alleged that President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s then social secretary, Padma Maharajah, sought to cut in on the 300 million US dollar power project.
He further alleged the meeting with Padma Maharajah was held following an appointment fixed by former Australian High Commissioner in Colombo, Howard Debenham, who was later informed of the proposal made by the President’s Social Secretary.
Walker also went on record stating that Padma Maharajah’s role was subsequently brought to the notice of both then Treasury Secretary A. S. Jayewardena and Justice Minister and Deputy Finance Minister G.L.Pieris.”
Detailed excerpts of an interview follow after this heading.
The cancellation of this project, after the letter of intent signed by Dr. P. Ramanujam was already given, was a serious abuse of power by CBK and was the cause of frustration and disappointment to the US, Canada and several other Western governments who were participating in this project which was to be so beneficial to our country.
“The fraud in respect of the Hilton Hotel was first revealed by Mr. Nihal Sri Amarasekera in the District Court of Colombo Case No. 3155/SPL in which he was the plaintiff. At the time Madam Kumaratunga was elected to office in 1994, the above case and several other cases pertaining to the fraud that had taken place in the construction of the Hilton Hotel….”
Mr. Perera emphasises that there was no fraud and no revelations, only alleged fraud which was never proven as the case never went to trial.
The Special Presidential Commission (SPC) was a huge burden and expenditure on state coffers and a total waste of time for bureaucrats, judiciary and personnel/media and the public. It fizzled out as a total farce and joke when CBK was put on the defensive by Mr. Perera. Please note letters in evidence where Cornel appealed to CBK asking that the investigations should be completed and concluded as she had an obligation by the public, shareholders and the accused to punish the guilty and exonerate the innocent but like all her other dramas, this also suffered an abrupt end.
CBK was not only highly receptive to the fabricated story of the missing floors but more importantly exploited it fraudulently in her attempt and objective of having Mr. K.N. Choksy disbarred from legal practice and Messrs. Paskaralingam/Shanmugalingam possibly restrained. The former never came to Lanka for fear of persecution.
“In fact the former President has never met Mr. Cornel Perera nor spoken to him directly or though any proxy.”
Mr. Perera confirms that the first part of this statement is true for through her 11 year reign CBK did not give him a single appointment to which he was legally and officially entitled. This was in spite of several attempts through various government bureaucrats. Having thus failed officially, he even approached Ronnie Peiris, Sanath Gunathilleke, Nimal Cook, Ranjith Page, Thirukumar Nadesan, etc. etc. some of whom promised, but never delivered.
It was Ronnie Peiris who had several excuses for not getting Mr. Perera an appointment with the Lady but in the end instead he said he could bring Harry Jayawardena to see him any time and arrange a deal. Before declining, Mr. Perera asked him what he really meant. He said that CBK could arrange for Mr. Perera to have around $5-6 million if he would withdraw all his cases against the State and exit from the Hilton.
“Every one of these statements is completely false and untrue without any factual basis and has been made and published, motivated and actuated by animosity and malice that the said Cornel Perera seems to entertain against Ms. Kumaratunga…….”
It is a fact that the UNP Government’s Treasury were committed in their fiduciary, fiscal and patriotic duty to protect and safeguard the State guarantee by trying to switch it from Yen to US dollars thereby reducing and minimising the risk (attached letter from Mr. K. Shanmugalingam). However no attempt was made to do so by the CBK Treasury.
Mr. Perera can prove that the American Express Bank wrote to CBK directly in her capacity as President and Minister of Finance in a letter dated October 5, 1995 (copy attached) offering to totally release the government from the State Guarantee.
This opportunity was deliberately disregarded. The corruption and abuse of power of both CBK and the Treasury by this arrogant and feudalistic attitude is unjustifiable. It irrefutably indicates that she/they had personal agendas.
Mr. Perera’s lawyers will be dealing with and claiming over $50 million in due course.
Mr. Perera stands by every statement he has made. In fact in the Lakbima News of April 10, 2011 he has made further statements of her wrongdoings and abuse of power.
“If it was Chandrika’s Government, I would say to the government, ‘you have ruined the Company, screwed up the small and poor shareholders, messed up the country and damaged the Sri Lanka/Japan relationship. So now for heaven’s sake and the country’s sake, get the hell out of the Hilton right now and don’t ever again step into the Hilton.’
But because of the great admiration and gratitude and the high esteem in which I hold President Rajapaksa and his total innocence in this ‘serial crime,’ I say, ‘I appeal to your government to gracefully exit from the Hilton but please be assured that you and the state will be more than warmly welcomed than ever before at the Hilton…….’”
Mr. Perera is offering CBK an opportunity to take him to court or any other forum to prove him wrong in any of his statements. Furthermore, he is offering to chip in/contribute towards her legal fees.
These self explanatory documents testify and confirm Mr. Perera’s statements.
MOF Letter from K. Shanmugalingam dated 07/08/1992 to CLP
American Express Letter from F.W. Piechoczek dated 05/10/1995 to H.E. Hon. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Statement issued by Asian Human Rights Commission dated 09/10/2008