Did not select specific building for Agriculture Ministry – PM

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told the Presidential Commission probing corruption that the DPJ Building was selected for the relocation of the Agriculture Ministry based on a Cabinet decision. He said that on no occasion had he instructed the officials to select that building for the Agriculture Ministry.

The Prime Minister was giving evidence before the Presidential Commission investigating alleged corruption and fraud in state institutions from 2015 – 2018. Wickremesinghe said that he instructed the authorities concerned to inspect three buildings which were to be leased out and take a decision.

The Prime Minister said that he has never instructed anyone to select a particular building specifically. He said that a committee had decided that the Ministry should be relocated in a private building until Stage III of the Sethsiripaya building complex was completed

Wickremesinghe said that he was not aware of a decision taken by the Defence Ministry Additional Secretary Palitha Samarasinghe to relocate the Agriculture Ministry in the 15th floor of Suhurupaya building complex.

The Prime Minister also said that he was not aware that a partition case was proceeding regarding the land on which the DPJ building complex was located. He also said that he was not aware of the parties involved in this case.

When asked by Commission chairman Justice Upali Abeyratne as to whether there was any conspiracy behind the obtaining of the D P J Building complex for the relocation of the Agriculture Ministry, Wickremesinghe said he was not aware of such a conspiracy. However, he said, he was aware that a number of issues had cropped up after the Ministry was relocated in this building.

Senior counsel Ronald Perera PC who appeared before the commission on behalf of the Prime Minister asked whether he has authority to supervise the activities of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Wickremesinghe replied that he supervised all United National Front Ministers while the Cabinet Ministers who represented the SLFP came under the supervision of the President. Senior attorney Dinesh Vidanapathirana also appeared for the Prime Minister before the Commission. Ministers Thilak Marapana PC, Wajira Abeywardena, Ravi Karunanayake, Rajitha Senaratne, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Daya Gamage and Deputy Minister JC Alawathuwala were present.

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