• More than three million rupees was spent on two trips by Mahinda Rajapaksa
• The information was released by the President’s and Prime Minister’s offices only after they were ordered to by the Information Commission.
Information obtained from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Presidential Secretariat under the Right to Information Act revealed that former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have spent more than 44 million rupees (44,739,184.91) for five official foreign trips in 2021 using public funds.
The request for information sent to the President’s Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office on January 1, 2022, under the Right to Information Act was rejected sitting Section 5(1) ii of the Right to Information Act.
The appeal made was inquired into in October and November 2022, after which the Right to Information Commission ordered the two public authorities to provide the requested information.
It is regretted to state that it took nearly 10 months to obtain the information which should have been provided within 14 working days.
In his appeal, the appellant writer pointed out to the Information Commission that the President and Prime Minister had utilised public funds to travel abroad and that the public had the right to know how their money was being spent.
The information provided revealed that of the 44 million rupees, more than 36 million rupees (36,970,864.14) was spent by former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for two official trips abroad while former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has used over 07 million rupees (7,768,320.77) for 03 official trips to visit New York, Glasgow and UAE.
It was revealed that a sum of Rs 5,461,221.71 was spent on the trip to New York, Rs 1,785,210.42 for the trip to Glasgow and Rs 521,888.68 for the trip to UAE but the purpose of travel has not been revealed.
On 19th March 2021, Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa travelled to Bangladesh to participate in the 50th Independence Day celebrations of Bangladesh and the birthday commemoration of the founding leader of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which cost the Sri Lankan taxpayers a sum of Rs 10,568,962.53. The former Premier’s second trip was made on 10th September 2021 to participate at the 2021 G20 Rome summit held in Italy which cost the Sri Lankan taxpayers a sum of Rs 26,401,901.61
Of the Rs 10,568,962.53 spent on the trip to Bangladesh Rs. 10,353,102.54 was allocated by the Prime Minister’s office to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while Rs 2,15,859.99 was spent directly by the Prime Minister’s Office.
For the trip to Italy, the Prime Minister’s office allocated a sum of Rs.25,048,539.18 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while the PM’s office spent 1,353,362.43 directly.
The former PM’s cost of travel was much higher because he was accompanied by a larger entourage. Information received confirms that 28 persons accompanied the PM on his trip to Bangladesh and 18 persons accompanied him on his trip to Italy and only 7 persons accompanied President Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he visited New York.
Rahul Samantha Hettiarachi