Expenditure on then PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visits abroad much higher in comparison to that of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
**Over Rs. 36 million out of Rs.44 million spent by former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa for two visits abroad while former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa spent Rs. 7 million for three official visits overseas
**Presidential Secretariat rejected to release the information in January this year
Just five official foreign visits undertaken by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2021 alone had cost the state more than Rs. 40 million, according to details provided by the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office on a directive issued by the Right to Information Commission.
Details furnished by the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office under the RTI revealed that the two Rajapaksa brothers had spent a total sum of Rs.44, 739,184.91 for five official visits abroad last year.
The request to the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office on January 1, 2022, under the Right to Information Act for the relevant details, had initially been rejected.
However, the Commission of Right to Information of Sri Lanka considered the appeal in this regard and directed the offices to furnish the requested details to the journalist.
Although the offices have to furnish the details within 14 working days or 21 days under the RTI Act, they had taken more than ten months.
According to the details received, more than Rs. 36 million (Rs.36, 970,864.14) out of Rs.44 million had been spent by former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for two visits abroad while former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had spent Rs. 7 million for three official visits overseas.
The cost of the former Prime Minister’s official visits amounted to 83 per cent of the total expenditure.
Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had spent Rs.7,768, 320.77 for his visits to New York (US), Glasgow (UK) and the Kingdom of United Arab Emirates.
However, the purpose of these visits had not been explained by the Presidential Secretariat.
The visit to New York cost Rs. 5,461,221.71. The visit to Glasgow had costed Rs. 1,785, 210.42 and Rs. 521,888.68 had been spent for his visit to the UAE.
The former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had spent more than Rs.10 million (10,568,962.53) for his visit to Bangladesh on March 19, 2021, to attend the Bangladesh Independence Day Celebrations and the birth anniversary of Sheik Mukarjee Rahuman and more than Rs.26 million (Rs.26,401,901.61 ) for his visit to Italy to attend the G20 International Conference on September 10, 2021. Some of his family members too had attended the conference in Italy.
A media website had shared a picture of the former Prime Minister and his delegates enjoying a meal at a hotel in Italy and this had resulted in strong criticism against the government back then.
The details provided under the Right to Information Act revealed that the expenditure on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visits abroad had been much higher when compared to that of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and this was due to the large entourage who accompanied the former Prime Minister overseas which included his family members and personal friends.
This was clearly evident seen from the picture on the tamilguardian website showing Mahinda, his wife, his son, and his nephew, among those seen enjoying a meal in Italy along with the Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senarath, former Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colambage and former foreign minister G.L. Peiris.
According to the practice, when the Prime Minister is overseas, that Prime Minister’s Secretary has to be in office and this is the same for the foreign minister and the foreign secretary. However during the Italian trip Senarath had accompanied the Prime Minister while Colambage had also accompanied the foreign minister. No information was divulged as to why both the secretaries had been present in Italy.
It is a matter of serious concern that the leaders of the country used public funds for their foreign visits accompanied by their family members and friends in this manner at a crucial juncture when the country had been facing the COVID-19 pandemic and a serious economic crisis.
However, it is a clear indication that excessive expenditure on foreign visits of this nature had caused extensive damage to the country’s economy.
( curtesy Daily Mirror)