Complaint lodged against Bandula’s fund
- Rs. 2 per Sathosa facemask sale credited to ‘Pragna Bandu’ fund
By Buddhika Samaraweera and Dinitha Rathnayake
A complaint was lodged with the Commission to Investigate into Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) yesterday (14), regarding an incident where Rs. 2 from every Respirone Nano AV 99 facemask sold through Lanka Sathosa outlets has been credited to a fund named “Pragna Bandu” established by Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardana.
The complaint was lodged by Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya/Our Power of People Party (AJBP/OPPP) Media Spokesman and the New Sinhale National Movement (NSNM) Convenor Dan Priyasad, who accused Gunawardana of having collected money for the latter’s political campaigns.
“Gunawardana is an economist but he has apparently worked to build his economy instead of that of the country,” he said, speaking to the media after the complaint was lodged. “When a Minister acts in this manner, the President also has a responsibility to look into it. We will be watching how the investigations would be carried out into this,” Priyasad added.
Minister Gunawardana, who attended the weekly cabinet media briefing on 11 October, admitted that a sum of Rs. 2 from each of the facemasks – which was invented by a group of professors at the University of Peradeniya – has been donated to the Pragna Bandu fund, when they were being sold at Sathosa outlets.
Commenting on the matter, the Minister said: “The Peradeniya University had invented a facemask, but they are not accustomed to doing business. Given that matter, I was the one who provided the necessary support for the said facemask to be made a commercial item in the market. During that process, an agreement was reached to provide Rs. 10 to the Peradeniya University and Rs. 2 to the Pragna Bandu fund. A facemask is being sold at a price of Rs. 12.”
Adding that the relevant fund of nearly Rs. 20 million has been deposited in the National Savings Bank (NSB) as sunken capital, the Minister pointed out that neither he nor his family will ever be able to get it back, even in the future.
Meanwhile, National Movement for the Consumer Rights Protection Chairman Ranjith Withanage claimed to The Morning that Rs. 2 from each facemask sold at the Sathosa outlets has been credited to the Pragna Bandu fund and that he has the relevant documents to prove that. In addition, he added that they too would lodge a complaint regarding a fraud which is alleged to be taking place in the purchase of facemasks for various state corporations.
Attempts to reach Minister Gunawardana were not fruitful.