| BUSINESS EDITORIAL
( February 17, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As we wrote in November last the Chief Justice has been tough on the Committee of Chartered Accountants asking the next payment of Rs.200,000 each be paid to the 7,000 plus depositors before December Courts vacations. Apparently, by then Mr Lakshman Watawala was showing signs of despair suggesting he wants to be relieved from his role. The now poor depositors and their children were condemned to one more Black Christmas while Lalith Kotelawala and the other Directors, who ruined the lives of over 50,000 dependents, went through the Christmas and New Year holidays doing the grand – justice a-la Lankan style, to be sure.
The matter came up before the S.C. this week. The disappointed Depositors’ representatives wanted to impress upon the learned judges of the Court their plight and desperation. They seem to have chosen the wrong symbol. The CJ was naturally unhappy a Coffin was to be brought into Courts and made her strong views knows against the foolish move..
December 2011 to almost the end of February is a long wait of 3 months for these once-prosperous folks pushed into starvation and despair by Lalith Kotelawala’s skullduggery and ego trips. The recent news the Rajagiriya ENT Hospital – a plum asset of GKCCC – was about to change hands for Rs.800 million caught the public attention. It was well known this Hospital was variously valued at around Rs.2.8 billion. A few months ago it almost found the hands of sources close to VVIPs for a mere Rs.250 million. This daylight robbery was stopped at the last moment – said to be at the instructions of the President responding to a public outcry. That Mr Watawala was also in the Board of a potential buyer proves interesting reading in the culture of a country where rich vultures will spare little time in feeding on the carcass of the poor and helpless. An asset of Rs.2.8 billion going for less than a billion must raise eyebrows anywhere.
While the matter has been again further delayed, now comes the news the list of depositors has grown from 7,000+ to a new figure of 9,123. In a country where thousands of names of fictitious poor under the Samurdhi programme went to fatten the fortunes of a then VVIP anything is possible. That VVIP, who hardly owned a house worth mentioning, went to build a new modern and plush palace in the Hanguranketa area.
This is the honour among our leaders in the country today. That man, who went by bus and was not worth even a thousand rupees in 1993, was to become the largest shadow share-holder of a leading bank during his then Cabinet days. It is good if the Court and the Central Bank ensure no fictitious names are introduced unduly into the list of claimants from the original list. It is learnt the 2 advance payments made so far to depositors were in about 7,000+ in number only while 9.123.is intriguing. It may be noted Depositors dues during December 2008, when GKCCC collapsed, was in the region of Rs.28 billion. Kotelawala’s assets of GKCCC and his other
properties were well in excess of Rs.30 billion as then reported. What has been paid so far to Depositors is in the neighbourhood of Rs.1.5 billion only.
What is still puzzling is many Directors – who illegally helped themselves to millions of rupees .at the whims and fancies of Kotelawala and his coterie – went to own several expensive moveable and immoveable assets. No action so far seems to have been taken against them to give back their spoils – except for symbolic insignificant returns. One hopes this is yet another aspect the Court will look into
The position now is the SC has directed the DSG to convene a meeting at the AG’s Department by the end of the month to cause substantial relief to depositors by May 2012. The Directors of GKCCC, CBSL officials, Institute of Chartered Accoountants are due to pool their expertise to help the defrauded depositors.