Anura Bandaranaike, Wimal Weerawansa and Varuni Amunugama
By Frederica Jansz
Six months into office, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her alliance government including the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna are still owing state media institutions over Rs. 22 million in dues having failed to pay for television and newspaper advertisements carried in the run-up to the April 2 general election.
The UPFA owe The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) a sum of Rs. 10,819,049.30/-, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Rs. 9,083,295.29, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Rs. 1,269,600, ITN Rs. 904,006.25 and Lakhanda Radio Rs. 126,500.
Letters sent to the advertising agency requesting a settlemetn of dues
The monies are outstanding despite guidelines which dictate that any political advertisements in the run-up to an election must be paid for upfront and that no political party will be allowed credit.
Media institutions do not accept political advertisements unless payment is made upfront but with the state media being under the control of the UPFA in the run up to the 2004 general election, the party has literally gone to town, ironically pushing their slogan, "kawda mewata waga kiyanne?"
Triad Advertising Pvt Ltd., and its sister company Adpack Productions (Pvt) Ltd., handled the advertising campaign for the United People's Freedom Alliance.
Joint Managing Director, Triad, Varuni Amunugama, daughter of Finance Minister, Sarath Amunugama, said that they have made repeated requests to the government urging them to meet these costs but to no avail. "We have spoken with everyone concerned," she said, when asked if she had discussed the matter with Presidential Advisor, Mano Tittawela.
Zuhair knows nothing
Chairman, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, M.M. Zuhair, on the other hand claimed he knew nothing about this. "I am not personally aware - if this has come up for recovery then you will have to speak with the Finance Department," he said. Zuhair denied Mano Tittawela had discussed the matter with him and asked him to keep it under wraps.
We reliably learn that Tittawela had indeed discussed the matter both with Zuhair and Varuni Amunugama.
That the Chairman of the SLRC remains unaware that a sum exceeding Rs. 9 million is owing to the corporation only confirms the sorry state this state arm of the media is in under his stewardship.
On May 28 this year, the accounts officer of the marketing division at SLRC wrote to the media manager at Adpack Production drawing attention to the outstanding balance of Rs. 9.8 million. According to the letter, the monies are due for television advertisements carried for Tourism and Investment Promotion Minister Anura Bandaranaike and the JVP.
Loss of credibility
Varuni Amunugama said Adpack handled the media campaign for the United People's Freedom Alliance in the weeks preceding April 2, 2004. She reiterated there is no hard and fast rule that insists on payment upfront for political advertisements but said credit is given in certain cases if the advertising agency lends an assurance.