Business

No state money in Bandula’s fund

  • Says State’s money not credited to fund from facemask sales
  • Says crediting Rs. 2 per mask only a proposal, not implemented
  • No relatives in ‘Pragna Bandu’ fund
  • Claims ex-CAA Executive Director making false, malicious allegations

By The Morning Business Desk

The Ministry of Trade yesterday (4) told The Morning Business that Minister of Trade Dr. Bandula Gunawardana’s “Pragna Bandu” fund did not take money from the State Trading Corporation (STC) nor any other government body as alleged by former Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena.

Issuing a statement in response to the article we published on Wednesday (3), titled “Conflict of Interest against Bandula’s Fund”, Ministry of Trade Media Secretary Mahesh Wickrema stated that the fund is in fact a sinking fund at National Savings Bank (NSB), comprising donations mainly from the Minister and a couple of other donors.

“You can call the Bank Chairman, General Manager and confirm this. Initially, Rs. 10 million was deposited by the Minister himself and we had a couple of donors coming. This includes Rs. 1 million from the Siddhalepa company,” Wickrema told The Morning Business.

Wickrema further noted that crediting Rs. 2 from every sale of the Respirone Nano AV 99 facemask was merely a proposal made by the University of Peradeniya as a gift for facilitating the manufacturing of the said mask, but it was not implemented, i.e. no money was ever credited from the sale of these masks.

In his YouTube channel, Gunawardena on Wednesday claimed that there is a conflict of interest in the decision made by STC to permit Rs. 2 to be credited to the private scholarship fund named “Pragna Bandu” established by the Minister of Trade, from every sale of the said facemask made through Lanka Sathosa outlets, as his brother-in-law and niece are alleged to be the trustees of the said fund.

Gunawardena stated the trustees of the fund include Minister of Trade Dr. Gunawardana, Ministry of Trade Secretary Bhadranie Jayawardhana, Ranjith Iddamalgoda, Prof. Sampath Priyantha Perera, Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Prof. Ranjith Bandara, Prof. Praneeth Abeysundara, Prof. Arjuna De Silva, Prof. Ravindranath Liyanage, Laugfs Holdings Chairman W.K.H. Wegapitiya, and Development Lotteries Board (DLB) Chairman Anusha Palpita.

The former CAA Executive Director further pointed out that STC Assistant General Manager of Marketing Chamila Iddamalgoda is the daughter of the Trade Minister’s sister and that her father (the Minister’s brother-in-law) is a trustee of the “Pragna Bandu” scholarship fund.

However, Wickrema denied these allegations but confirmed the relationship between the Trade Minister and Iddamalgoda.

“Chamila Iddamalgoda is merely the General Manager of Marketing at STC and she is no trustee of the fund. Ranjith Iddamalgoda is a trustee, but he is no relative of the Minister. People have got confused because both of them carry the same surname ‘Iddamalgoda’,” Wickrema clarified.

The statement issued by the Ministry of Trade further noted that Thushan Gunawardena has been making such false, malicious allegations against the Minister and as such, the Minister has demanded Rs. 1 billion in damages.

On Wednesday, speaking to The Morning, the Ministry of Trade Secretary denied any impropriety and claimed that there is no relationship between the Ministry of Trade and the “Pragna Bandu” fund. When queried if both her and the Minister are trustees of the fund in question, she claimed that such positions are held in a personal capacity.

No state money in Bandula’s fund