- Hulugalle’s Charge
By Paneetha Ameresekere
I upset Government strongman Lakshman Hulugalle (Media Centre for National Security Director General) when I met the latter at a function in Colombo on Tuesday and told him that it was I who was responsible for writing an article in that said that Hulugalle, though having a previous conviction against him, had been appointed to the Board of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon plc (Com Bank) recently. (See The Sunday Leader of April 3, 2011).
I also asked Hulugalle that according to the “fit and proper” test as espoused by the Central Bank, whether it was right for him to serve in the Com Bank Board? “Go and ask that question from the Com Bank Board which appointed me and also from the Monetary Board,” he in reply told me.
“You have been bought for money to write that article against me,” he accused me. “You can be further bought for liquor,” Hulugalle who was with a bodyguard, using expletives and threats against me, also said. “What are you doing at this function?” he queried from me. “I’m a hotelier and I have a right to be at this function, but you..?” he asked. That was a function organized by the Institute of Hospitality Sri Lanka Branch to which I too was invited. But I felt that it was not my business to answer Hulugalle’s query, as he was not the host to that function.
Hulugalle also accused me of broaching the subject at that function and thereby provoking him. He further told me to follow another journalist of a private newspaper, inferring that that was a good example to emulate.
Hulugalle further told me that he had received a pardon from that conviction. He said that it was his right to change party colours. This was after I told him that he turned from being a “green” (the colour of the opposition UNP) to a “blue” (the party colour of the SLFP, the principal party of the incumbent UPFA Government) man.
Hulugalle also said that Com Bank was a private bank and as such their appointments were of no consequence to me. But I reminded Hulugalle who was seemingly emotionally charged against me, that Com Bank was a public quoted company and hence could not be construed as a private bank.
Howbeit, a bank, whether it’s privately owned or publicly held, is a custodian of public money and not “private” money. Hence it’s important that those appointed to oversee the management of such institutions are men and women of integrity with an unblemished record in their public and personal lives.
Lesson From Namal
After experiencing powerful Government official Lakshman Hulugalle’s vituperative outburst against me, I could not help but relate the experience I had with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s eldest son and UPFA Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa in a similar situation.
I recently spoke to Rajapaksa (junior) at a Central Bank function and said that it was I who was responsible for writing an article where it was reported that Rajapaksa jnr. had arrived very late at a function in Hambantota where schoolchildren had also been participating (See The Sunday Leader of November 28, 2010).
Rajapaksa (jnr.’s) suave reply to that statement was that he does not read The Sunday Leader. Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage who was with the MP at that occasion, also said that neither does he read my newspaper.
The difference in approach between Hulugalle and Rajapaksa (jnr.), on seemingly negative articles written by me against them probably may be because the latter was educated at “The school by the sea and the former..?” eh what? (PA)