False and misleading statements continue to be made about me by members of the present government. At a recent TV interview, it was said that over Rs. 100,000 million (Koti dahadahak) had been allocated to the Presidential Secretariat for the year 2015 and that it had now been reduced to Rs. 2,720 million (Koti 272).
A sum of 100,000 million was never allocated to the Presidential Secretariat. The actual sum allocated for 2015 was Rs. 9,593 million (Koti 959). No less than 25 state institutions such as the National Salaries and Cadres Commission, the National Ocean Affairs Committee etc, were listed under the vote of the President. Former presidents and their widows are also maintained by the Presidential Secretariat under this vote. The Establishments & Organizations Division of the Presidential Secretariat serves all the above mentioned institutions and absorbs the bulk of the expenditure. This expenditure therefore represents a large number of institutions and not only expenditure allocated to the President.
The actual sum allocated to the Office of the President (which is only one component of the vote that is designated under the President) for 2015 was Rs. 3,754 million (Koti 375). This included Rs. 1,000 million (Koti 100) which was meant to be spent on the construction of various community projects around the country. If this item is removed, the expenditure on the President’s Office is reduced to the Rs. 2,750 million (Koti 275) that is said to be the new allocation for the president.
It was also said that a special plane for my exclusive use was to be bought with taxpayers’ money at a cost of 16 million USD. No plane was ever ordered for my use. When Sri Lankan Airlines ordered new aircraft, Airbus Industries had provided a complimentary VIP conversion kit to install a cubicle with special facilities for special customers on commercial flights which can be installed and dismantled as required. The sum of 15 million USD was only the manufacturer’s indicative value of this kit which is actually provided free.
The various presidential residences are being mentioned in such a manner as to convey the impression that I had built them for my use. Temple Trees, President’s House and the residences in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy have been used by heads of State and government since the colonial era. The presidential residences in Anuradhapura, Embilipitiya, Mahiyangana and Kataragama were built by President Premadasa. None of these properties were built during my tenure. It was reported in one newspaper that Temple Trees and President’s House will be opened for public viewing soon. I welcome that because tens of thousands of schoolchildren from rural and remote areas and adults toured Temple Trees even when I was occupying it. It was indeed a pleasure to meet and interact with them and to find out snags in development in their areas. Crowds flocked to Temple Trees for my Poya day programmes as well.
It was also said that some vehicles of the Presidential Secretariat had not been returned. News reports said that 22 Defender Jeeps had been ‘discovered’ in Borella and another 53 vehicles belonging to the Presidential Secretariat found ‘abandoned’ in Pitakotte. These are official vehicle yards of the Presidential Secretariat and to say that vehicles were ‘discovered’ at such places is absurd. The vehicles found in Pitakotte are mostly high security vehicles dating from the 1980s which were condemned but cannot be auctioned off as per the normal procedure. All vehicles used by me and my staff have been returned. The details of other vehicles that had been issued to various officers and institutions under the Presidential Secretariat should be known to the Establishments & Organizations Division and can easily be traced by perusing the register maintained for the purpose.