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Revelations of corruption, abuse of power and a multitude of other illegal acts under the reign of the previous UPFA Government are unfolding day by day.
In this midst, the role of a private security company which ran a veritable army in a controversial tie-up with a Defence Ministry sponsored security agency, is now under investigation by the Police and has raised some alarming questions. Police sought the advice of the Attorney General as several aspects were uncovered.
They were told last week that the legal issues arising from the tie-up between Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) and the privately owned Avant Garde Maritime Services Ltd. (AGMSL) needed very close and careful study. Hence, the Attorney General has said that a team of State Attorneys have been appointed to go into all aspects of the matter and advice on the follow-up action required. The team’s task will begin next week. Among matters to be examined is the legality of the operation and whether the Government of Sri Lanka had the legal right to transfer weapons in its possession to a private security company. That too without the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers and without any calls for international tenders thereafter.
The AGMSL website notes that the company’s role is “provision of Sri Lanka Government Owned Weapons and Associated equipment to PMSC’s (private maritime security companies)” which is returnable to ports in Muscat and Mauritius, both as is clear, outside Sri Lanka. Among the weapons are Chinese made T-56, Russian Kalashnikovs (AK 47s) assault rifles, 7.62 ammunition for these weapons, Light Machine Guns (LMGs), ballistic helmets, body armour, Night Vision Goggles, Radio Sets (for communications) and flashlights.
RALL questioned by COPE
The RALL was the brainchild of former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The company is registered with the Registrar of Companies and is not answerable to Parliament. It is yet a Government undertaking. This is what last year’s report by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) had to say:
The Committee enquired about the category of personnel who were recruited to the Company – It was stated that the ex-security personnel, those who have retired or legally resigned from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Police Service were recruited and they were being paid a salary in addition to their pensions.
It was enquired whether the Company, as a unit of providing maritime security, has taken any action on the threat caused to Sri Lanka Fishermen by the Indian Fishermen in the Northern Sea: It was stated that this matter has not yet been considered by the Company.
It was questioned about the matter pointed out at the last Committee meeting that the Company has invested funds without obtaining Treasury approval – It was stated that being a private company, it was not required to obtain Treasury approval and the problem had been regularised by obtaining the approval of the Board of Directors.
It is not clear whether RALL declared dividends to the State. After all it has not only used state funds entirely but all other state assets including weapons belonging to the Government. Among those who were on the board of directors was Mohan Peiris, the Chief Justice, who is now at the centre of a heightening controversy. RALL has won contracts to provide security in different state institutions and state-backed institutions ousting other private operators. Many lost employment opportunities in the latter. RALL also operates catering services and restaurants competing with the private sector. RALL’s strength at present is 4,000.
The AGMSL is a subsidiary company of Avant Garde Security Services (Pvt.) Ltd. located in Kotte. The prime mover in this private venture is a former commando, retired Major Nissanka Senadipathy and the company’s website boasts of an employee strength of 6,500 which is almost a quarter of the strength of the Sri Lanka Air Force. It is also six and half times bigger than the Sri Lanka Coast Guard. On Friday, Senadipathy was banned from leaving Sri Lanka by Colombo’s Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya. Top armed forces and Police officials who are retired, including at least two former Navy Commanders, have been employed by this company for whopping wages. Senadipathy is a strong supporter of the UPFA and campaigned for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January 8 presidential election. He is also considered a close confidant of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
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