In a fiery scandal which erupted recently, the Coordinating Secretary to the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs was alleged to have intervened to release a heroin container from the Customs. In the light of the scandal, Secretary Keerthi Sri Weerasinghe had tendered his resignation to Prime Minister and Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs D.M. Jayaratne.
However, he said in his resignation letter that he had no connection whatsoever with the alleged incident of importing heroin or releasing a heroin container from the Customs.
Daily Mirror spoke to Mr. Weerasinghe regarding the allegations:
Q: Mr. Weerasinghe, you have been accused of attempting to assist a heroin haul. Is there any truth to this?
I must tell you frankly that I was never involved in a heroin haul. The media has reported that I issued a letter to the Customs asking for the cargo to be cleared. However, that is false. I or the Prime Minister’s office has never issued such a letter. Tharanga Vittachi, Gampola Urban Councillor asked for a letter, requesting the demurrage cost for a shipment to be waived. By that time the container had been at the port for two-and-a-half months so I issued a letter to a private company called South Asia Gateway Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., requesting them to reduce the demurrage cost. I emphasize that I never issued a letter to customs, requesting them to forego their checking procedure or to clear the cargo.
Q: Didn’t you know at the time that the cargo contained a container of heroin?
I was not aware of the container carrying any drugs. I was told that the shipment consisted of plastic ware and ceramics. If I had the slightest idea of anything suspicious, I would have informed the police about it.
My intention was to help out the common people of the country, which is our duty. Issuing letters to people for various requests in order to serve their needs is a common practice carried out by the PM’s office. In my time, I would have issued thousands of such letters.
However, I never wanted to in any way assist drugs to be brought into the country.
Q: Shouldn’t you have checked the contents of the shipment before issuing such a letter?
Practically, how can I check into each and every detail of each and every request made to me? It is not possible. If someone comes to me asking for money to buy medicines, it is not possible for me to check and make sure whether he actually has a disease. In the same way, I couldn’t have personally checked the container myself. Furthermore, we get hundreds of requests every single day and it is not practical to investigate each and every one of them. They declared that the shipment contained plastics and ceramics and that is why I issued the letter.
However, I never attempted to influence the customs not to check the container.
Q: Did the Urban Councillor who requested the letter know that the cargo contained heroin?
To my knowledge, he was not aware of the heroin in the shipment either.
Q: To clarify, did you issue the letter and sign it? If so, was the PM aware of it?
Yes I issued the letter and I signed it myself. The PM was not aware of it at the time but I told informed him about it once this issue surfaced.
Q: Do you take any responsibility for what has happened?
No neither I nor the PM are responsible for this. I resigned in order to respect the government and to assist them in the inquiry - not because I was guilty. I have not done anything wrong with regard to this matter. I think the people who are responsible have been arrested.
Q: How is the situation affecting you and the PM?
Legally, it is not a problem for me. The problem is the political issue. Some opponents are blowing this out of proportion and presenting false facts for their own political gains. (Shihara Maduwage)