Everybody had been eager to comment on the wedding of Chathura Senarathne. This wedding was celebrated at Temple Trees. Chathura has become a controversial character in the political arena in the recent past. The following are excerpts of an interview Lanka Deepa had with him.
- This was an event where Trade Unionists, Civil Society members, Farmers and workers participated
- I wish to remind those who make allegations against me that I have settled all bills
- Under this Government the health Services developed remarkably
- In addition to the number of hours Temple Trees was reserved by me, I paid for every additional hour at the rate of Rs 80,000, and in full settlement I have paid Rs2.180,000
- As the wedding couple even we did not take to the floor to dance
- The Civil society representing all 25 districts were invited for this wedding
- The food, decorations, chairs and tables were all brought from outside by us
- I am happy that I was able to treat, even in a small manner, the large crowd who helped me
Q There were many who spoke about Chathura Senarathne’s wedding celebrated with much fanfare. How was it made possible?
This was not a Royal wedding, but I think the place where it was held at created all this fuss. This was an event attended by the people from the lowest rungs of the society and those in the higher echelons.
This was an event where Trade Unionists, Civil Society members, Farmers and workers participated. It was a wedding where a large number of people close to me participated in. Now everybody is worried about this wedding being held at Temple Trees.
If I had celebrated it at Hilton or Shangri-La no one would be bothered and no one would have made any comments. If that happened all that money would have gone to the hotel. I paid much more than I would have had to pay the hotels in order to reserve Temple Trees.
There is no regulation stipulating that the weddings of only selective people can be celebrated here. Anyone can state his genuine reasons and after making the required payments obtain it.
Q Why were you so crazy about having the wedding at Temple Trees?
There were many who joined hands with us at the 2015 January 08th Elections. I wanted the majority of these people invited for my great day in life. My request was considered by the Prime Minister who allowed me to use Temple Trees. I wish to remind all those who make allegations against me that I have settled all bills up to the very cent. These bills could be made available for anyone’s perusal. In addition to the number of hours Temple Trees was reserved by me, I paid for every additional hour at the rate of Rs 80,000, and in full settlement I have paid Rs 2.180,000. This place can accommodate a large crowd and after I justified my reasons for holding the event there I was able to obtain it. I am happy that I was able to treat, even in a small manner, the large crowd who helped me.
Q What made the Prime Minister heed your request and allowed you to celebrate the wedding at Temple Trees?
When I spoke to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and presented my reasons, he gave his approval. Thereafter his secretary did the coordinating. My letter of request addressed to the Prime Minister was not sent under my official letterhead. The Civil society representing all 25 districts were invited for this wedding. Initially I stated that all charges due under the circulars and the cost of time spent on prearrangements would be reimbursed.
Q What were your justifiable reasons in obtaining Temple Trees to celebrate your wedding?
As an individual mingling with the people and as a leader who represents the two most largest Civil Societies and my invitations to these people and the keenness of many others to attend this function were all highlighted. The Prime Minister was aware of how we risked our lives in order to win the struggle on January 08. Therefore the Prime Minister decided and I should have this venue. We only got the reception hall from Temple Trees. The food, decorations, chairs and tables were all brought from outside by us.
Q Can anyone obtain the Temple Trees bungalow to celebrate a wedding like the way you did?
There is no regulation stipulating that the weddings of only selective people can be celebrated here. Anyone can state his genuine reasons and after making the required payments obtain it. The main requirement is that the dignity of this place should always be maintained at the highest level. We observed it to the very letter. There cannot be activities like those that are witnessed at other hotels. As the wedding couple even we did not take to the floor to dance. The celebration was completely devoid of any alcohol. Anyone may be able to obtain this place by observing its rules and regulations. The state too earns revenue from this.
This reception hall was sometime back taken care of by the Navy due to want of maintenance. The Dansalas (Places where free meals are given) that were conducted here during the previous Government are not there now. Therefore it needs regular maintenance. Our wedding generated the highest income to the Government as a result of us using this venue. I am happy that I was able help the Government earn this income through my wedding because otherwise these monies would have gone to either Hilton or Shangri-La.
Our wedding generated the highest income to the Government as a result of we using this venue. I am happy that I was able help the Government earn this income
Q As an MP and a civil society leader didn’t you think that without spending so much money to celebrate a wedding it would have been better to have done some social welfare work instead?
My involvement in civil society work and the struggle of the people delayed my wedding. I am a youth who postponed my wedding during the past 11 years. I sacrificed it for the welfare of the people and country. I am a person who is deeply involved in the welfare of the people and on the great day of my life what was more important was to be with those who were close to me.
All the expenses incurred at my wedding were those which were necessary. My closest associates provided me with the other important requirements. There were also contributions made by my wife’s party.
Q Having criticised the previous Government of conducting Dansalas at Temple Trees, you celebrated the wedding at the same place. there are several others who are levelling charges against you.
All those who made allegations had to backtrack when I produced all bills and receipts. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time there were many weddings registered and celebrated here. Even the expense for the milk rice that was served at those receptions was borne by the state. These facts were revealed by Lasantha Wickramatunga at that time. The cost of wedding receptions held at te Temple Trees was never borne by the couples. The people’s money was lavishly spent. We did not resort to such practices. If I had requested I could have got this place free of charge, but we did not do that. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sons have no right to criticise me. We did not make Temple Trees a mad house by having a reception where liquor was served. We know what exactly took place here during those days.
Q After your wedding party at Temple Trees the Prime Minister has now said that Temple Trees would not be given for future weddings.
Yes. It would have been made clear that the dignified manner in which we held our function would not be observed by another party. There is also a possibility of some unscrupulous persons reserving this place and creating a situation that would endanger the security and the dignity of this place. If that happens then the Prime Minister would get the bad name.
The state too earns revenue from this. This reception hall was sometime back taken care of by the Navy due to want of maintenance
Q Isn’t it unjust that the opportunity you got is being denied to others in the country?
If someone else also makes the required payments and makes a justifiable request to have the celebrations in a dignified manner, he or she might get this venue. It is true that depriving them of such an opportunity would create injustice. This is something the Prime Minister and the relevant authorities should decide on. However if there is no arrangement to invite a large crowd like I did, there appears to be no point in reserving this venue because there is an alternative of reserving a reputed hotel in Colombo. The latter is a better proposition. The cost would also be lower.
Q Your father and Mahinda Rajapaksa were very close. How is that they were not invited for your wedding?
Based on a principle only a few respectable individuals from the Joint Opposition were invited. Likewise individuals from the ruling party whose names have been mentioned for being involved in frauds and corruption were not invited. Please remember that for our wedding only 22 relatives were invited and the rest were all ordinary people of the country.
During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time there were many weddings registered and celebrated here. Even the expense for the milk rice that was served at those receptions was borne by the state.
Q Though you maintain that on principle the JO members were not invited, members of Wimal Weerawansa’s family are close friends of your parents. Why were they overlooked?
There is no reason for me to invite Wimal Weerawansa. A person like Wimal Weerawansa, who possesses two Passports, is not wanted at my wedding or even at my funeral. I am going to write in my last will not to welcome such type of fraudsters to my funeral house. Wimal Weerawansa’s wife had a close association with my mother for some years. The wedding was a private affair and my father or mother never intervened in covering up their fraudulent acts. But there are some holding the highest positions in this Government who helped Wimal Weerawansa. We know who called the Airport and instructed not to take them into custody. There is no point in mentioning his name. We showed our opposition to this type of favouritism and made agitations. People are aware of it.
Q Your father was honoured as Suwapathi, but there are hospitals in the country which do not have basic medicine.
Do not say that. Under this Government the health Services developed remarkably. But when taken as a whole there are deficiencies, a fact which I accept. It is our concern to minimize such shortcomings and establish a superior health service in the country, which is our responsibility.
If I had requested I could have got this place free of charge, but we did not do that. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sons have no right to criticise me. We did not make Temple Trees a mad house by having a reception where liquor was served.
Q Your father organised a grand show at Nelum Pokuna to celebrate the occasion of receiving the Suwapathi award.Your comments?
Winning such an award was not something easy. International fame was won for the work that was done. It is not necessary to organise such shows in our country to commemorate these events. I also think that it was quite unnecessary. Winning the award was a great achievement though.