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CJ as Chairman kept in the dark over transfer of Mahapola Trust Funds to private company

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, also the Chairman of the Mahapola Scholarship Trust Fund has informed President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga that assets worth Rs. 3160.7 million belonging to the fund have been transferred to a private company without his knowledge.

In a letter to the President dated March 22, 2004, the Chief Justice has also warned that this transfer of assets may have an adverse impact on the Mahapola Fund. The Chief Justice has also said that he is deeply perturbed over the activities of the Mahapola Trust Fund. Since he could not approve of these activities, he has refrained from attending meetings of the Fund Management for the past several months.

A Presidential Secretariat spokesman, said the President has drawn her immediate attention to the contents of the Chief Justice's letter.

It is understood that the President will request her secretary to question the Secretary of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Ministry Harsha Wickramasinghe about this matter and take immediate action to halt the transfer of Mahapola Trust Fund monies to a private company.

Although Dr. Wickrema Weerasooriya who is a member of the Mahapola Trust Fund has denied any transfer of Mahapola Funds to a private company, students who are Mahapola Scholarship beneficiaries have claimed they are in possession of documents to prove that Mahapola Funds have been transferred to a private company named Wealth Corporation Ltd. Published on page 18 is a letter sent by the Fund's Treasurer, and Director (Treasury) Ranjith Thenuwara transferring all assets of the Fund to the said company.

The letter has been addressed to Fund Chairman and Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and its members, Commerce and Consumer affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Secretary Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training Saman Ediriweera, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Education and Cultural Affairs V. K. Nanayakkara, Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria and Dayantha Athulathmudali.

This letter has been written under the heading "Taking over the Balance Treasury Bonds under the Supplementary Agreement signed on 12.02.2004".

The letter states that as per that Board of Trustees' approval the entire portfolio of the Mahapola higher Education Scholarship Trust Fund which were in Cash Fixed Deposits and Treasury Bonds have been handed over to the National Wealth Corporation Ltd as the Fund Manager of the Mahapola Trust Fund.

It states that the Supplementary Agreement and amended Investment Plan dated 12.02.2004 are annexed. It also states that the total value of handed over portfolio is Rs. 3160.7 million. The letter sent to the CEO of the New Wealth Corporation Ltd (NWC) is also annexed herewith for your information .

The Co-signatory to the letter is Harsha Wickramasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Mahapola Higher Education scholarship Trust Fund.

When this letter reveals everything how can Dr. Wickreme Weerasooria or the relevant company deny that assets of the Mahapola Fund have been transferred to a private company, the Mahapola scholarship beneficiaries have querried.

University students too have expressed grave concern about the dangers posed to the Mahapola Scholarship Fund due to this situation and vehemently protested against it.

The Daily News revealed the 'Great Mahapola Trust Fund Swindle' in its lead story on March 23.

The letter:

Chairman - His Lordship Sarath N. Silva, The Chief Justice, Superior Courts Complex, Colombo 12.

Member - Hon. Ravi Karunanayake, The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Member - Mr. Saman Ediriweera, The Secretary, Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training, 18, Ward Place, Colombo 07.

Member- Mr. V. K. Nanayakkara, The Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Education and Cultural Affairs, "Isurupaya," Battaramulla.

Member - Dr. Wickrema weerasooria, No. 10, Classen Place, Colombo 05.

Member - Dayantha Athulathmudali, 25th Lane, No. 09, Colombo - 03.

Taking over the balance treasury bonds under the supplementary agreement signed on 12.02.2004.

As per the Board of Trustees' approval the entire portfolio of the Mahapola Higher Education Scholarship Trust Fund which were in cash, Fixed Deposits and Treasury Bonds have been handed over to the National Wealth Corporation Limited as the Fund Manager of the Mahapola Trust Fund,. Supplementary Agreement and amended Investment Plan dated 12.02.2004 are annexed.

02. The total value of handed over portfolio is Rs. 3160.7m. The letter sent to the CEO of the NWC is also annexed herewith for your information.

Ranjith Thenuwara, Director (Treasury).

Sgd./Harsha Wickramasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Mahapola Higher Education Scholarship Trust Fund.

President asks CJ to conduct immediate inquiry

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was reported to have requested Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva as Chairman of the Scholarship Trust Fund last evening, to conduct an immediate investigation in to the alleged irregularities that have taken place in the Mahapola Trust Fund during the past period.

The President's request follows the Chief Justice's advice to her to probe certain irregularities involved in the disbursement of funds belonging to the Mahapola Trust, and its lottery activities.

The President being shocked of the transfer of a sum of over Rs.3160 million belonging to the Mahapola Trust Fund to a private firm has requested the Chief Justice to call for all statements of account from the first of January 2002 and to take steps to re-transfer this amount back to the Mahapola Trust Fund.

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