Storing paddy at Mattala is not misuse of state property, PM says

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that storing paddy at the Mattala International Airport under the permission of the airport officials is not a misuse of state property.

The Prime Minister arrived at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the allegations of corruption and fraud in state institutions, this morning (23), to record a statement on storing paddy at the Mattala International Airport (MIA).

When the Commission inquired him in the matter, the Premier stated that although he had not personally advised him to store paddy at the Mattala airport, he had not objected to it when he was informed of the decision.

The Commission inquired whether storing paddy at an international airport would tarnish its reputation; however, the Prime Minister stated that the MIA did not have a reputation, to begin with.

When the Chairman of the Commission inquired as to whether storing paddy at such an airport would not affect the opportunity to build the reputation of the airport, Wickremesinghe responded that it is not the task of the Commission to inquire into such matters.

The Prime Minister further added that if the Commission initiates a political debate, he will leave the Commission.

The Commission inquired the Prime Minister whether it was not a misuse of state property to store paddy at the MIA while there existed a warehouse with a capacity of 8100 metric tonnes in Hambantota under the Paddy Marketing Board, even when the decision to use MIA was made.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe responded to the query stating his stance is that storing paddy at the MIA with the permission of the airport officials is not a misuse of state property.

He further said that airport officials could have not permitted the storage of paddy if such an act would damage the facilities.

Former chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines Ajith Dias, testifying before the commission, had previously stated that the Prime Minister’s Office had informed of their decision to store paddy at the premises, the Commission pointed out.

The Prime Minister replied that even though such a transaction had taken place under the letterhead of the Prime Minister’s Office, it was not done under his instructions.