Avant Garde has no control over any of these weapons
- MP Thilak Marapana -
You claimed that the Police was wrong in boarding the MV Mahanuwara as it was illegal for it to be berthed at the Galle Harbour. What is your justification?
This ship had asked permission to enter the Galle Harbour and had received blanket approval since they had to replace the ship due to rusting. And they got two extensions of time to be berthed since September 2014. Once they transfer their cargo they will return to international waters. To be anchored in the harbour they had acquired permission from the Customs Office, the Defence Ministry, the Sri Lankan Navy and I have seen these documents of approval. The weapons on board belong to foreign companies having been licensed and certified in those countries and need not be licensed in Sri Lanka. Then according to Navy and Defence Ministry protocols the containers are opened under supervision and a boat travels to the foreign ship and hands over the weapons. This process is monitored by the Customs officials throughout.
"I represented Avant Garde in January 2015 when I wasn’t a Member of Parliament but just a lawyer"
From September onwards the Harbour Police has been 200 yards away from this ship, forty Navy officers are involved in this operation and ten Navy officers are on the ship. I can’t believe that the police didn’t know about this operation until January and coincidentally raided the ship on the 10th of January after the Presidential Election. The Navy officers were on the ship when this raid happened. When these facts were reported to the courts, the courts allowed this operation to carry on. Obviously the courts will not allow the carrying out of illegal business.
One thing that has to be made clear is that Avant Garde has no control over any of these weapons. Its only role is to maintain the crew and the ship. Rakna Lanka also has weapons that they store inside a port warehouse but these are Sri Lankan government weapons managed by the Navy and therefore do not need a licence.
Due to this issue the Chairman of Avant Garde was prevented from travelling abroad. The reason he wanted to go abroad was to finalise several contracts with the Nigerian Government. These projects included the buying of boats of the Sri Lankan Navy and the training of the Nigerian Navy. However due to controversy over Avant Garde and by the Chairman not being allowed to travel abroad these projects have been jeopardized. Furthermore because of this mess, the revenue that Rakna Lanka has been receiving from Avant Garde has also dropped, as during the years of 2013 and 2014 Avant Garde had paid Rakna Lanka 3.8 billion rupees.
There has been an allegation of a conflict of interest by defending Avant Garde in Parliament having been their lawyer in the past. What is your comment on that?
I represented Avant Garde in January 2015 when I wasn’t a Member of Parliament but just a lawyer. Furthermore I have never been a member of any corruption committee. The only reason I spoke in Parliament regarding the issue was because by then the Attorney General himself had looked into the matter and had declared that there was no charge against Avant Garde. Therefore I do not see any conflict of interest.
Ministers who have an interest in Avant Garde in Parliament hamper investigations
- Minister Rajitha Senaratne -
The case against Avant Garde has been dismissed by the Attorney General’s Department. What evidence is still there against Avant Garde for the issue to be highlighted?
Thorough investigations have to be made and they are being hampered by ministers who have an interest in Avant Garde. A decision also has to be taken regarding the Attorney General’s Department. This is because the Deputy Solicitor General has called for arrests.
There are allegations that the Police conducted this raid to secure votes and not on a legal basis. What is your comment on that allegation?
This is only an opinion that certain people have. MP Tilak Marapana speaks about this and he also uses the Millennium City incident as an example but he fails to remember that he was the Minister of Defence at that time.
I have not taken a cent from Avant Garde :
- Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe -
Speaking in response to the allegation made by Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka, Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said, “I have not taken a cent from Avant Garde. When JVP leader Anura Kumara made this allegation in Parliament, I challenged him to a debate and said I would resign from my portfolio if it was proved. But he did not take up my challenge.”
He also said that Field Marshal Fonseka was criticizing him during the past few months over several matters such as not having former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrested as demanded by Fonseka.
" I challenged him to a debate and said I would resign from my portfolio if it was proved "
Few parliamentarians are trying to guard Avant Garde
- Ranjan Ramanayake -
In response to a question asked by the DailyMirror on the Avant Garde incident, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake said, “On January 8, we wanted to put an end to corruption and bring in a new era. This is why 62 lakhs of people voted for us. But if what happened during the previous regime gets repeated there will be no change. When I heard Mr. Marapana speaking in favour of Avant Garde I was utterly disgusted. Of course he couldn’t do anything; Avant Garde was his client. This extremely corrupt arms deal happened in broad daylight and none of us can turn a blind eye towards it.
During the parliamentary session we were asked to speak about the Avant Garde issue and all other activities of corruption and I spoke about it. In their statements in Parliament we thought that Marapana and Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe spoke in favour of Avant Garde. Even Wimal Weerawansa was trying to guard Avant Garde. When somebody is speaking in favour of Avant Garde is it wrong to believe that they have taken money?”
" But if what happened during the previous regime gets repeated there will be no change "
Almost all public servants should report to Parliament
- Ajith Perera -
Deputy Minister of Power Ajith P. Perera proposed that the attorney-general and the police chief are to be summoned to Parliament and questioned on their conduct over the Avant Garde case. Speaking to the Perera said, “Almost all public servants should report to Parliament and in the case of a controversy they should be summoned. I don’t have any special comments to be made with regard to the Avant Garde incident but in the case of serious issues of corruption the people involved should be summoned and prosecuted.”
" I don’t have any special comments to be made with regard to the Avant Garde incident "