Minister Johnston Fernando has purchased the V FM radio channel that belonged to the JVP for Rs. 2,100 lakhs. Minister Basil Rajapaksa had given the license for the radio station to JVP Secretary Tilvin Silva for the party’s support to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2005 Presidential election.
The V FM station was launched by Lanka Television Networks formed by the JVP. Four JVP activists were initially appointed to the board of directors of the radio station. Subhasinghe Pathiranage Yapa Don Sarath Priyantha, Kariyawasam Kankanamge Jagath Chandrawansa, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Dissanayake and Vithanage Senadheera Gunathileka were the four JVP activists who were appointed to the board of directors. Dissanayake was appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director of the organization.
Due to a financial crisis, shares of the organization were sold to one of JVP’s supporters, Japan Saman’s Sayuri International.
The government advertising received by V FM stopped after the JVP walked out of the government and the President had asked the private institutions that were advertising in the station to stop doing so.
When Wimal Weerawansa joined the government and accepted a ministerial portfolio in the government, three members in the board of directors except Dissanayake joined the government. It was Dissanayake who finally operated V FM even amidst losses. The JVP had to spend Rs. 30 lakhs monthly to maintain the V FM station.
The JVP then decided to sell V FM and finally decided to sell the station to a businessman in the Colombo Stock Exchange, Duminda Mayadunne after looking for a suitable buyer for a long time.
Duminda Mayadunne purchased shares of the station for Rs. 1,000 lakhs in October 2010. However, he had made the payment in several installments spread through several months. Meanwhile, he had also held discussions with other members of the organization affiliated to Wimal Weerawansa and reached an agreement with them.
A head of Swarnavahini’s Commercial Division, Ruwan Sugathadasa was appointed as the CEO and Managing Director of the radio station after Duminda Mayadunne purchased the station.
Sugathadasa completely changed the political and news contents of the station that were initially managed by the JVP and tried to popularize the station by airing popular entertainment programmes.
The V FM station was converted into a pro-government media institution under the new management.
However, Mayadunne decided to give up all his business ventures in Sri Lanka and decided to settle down with his family in London. Several politicians and businessmen held discussions with him to buy the V FM station from him. However, it was only Minister Johnston Fernando who had agreed to the price quoted by Mayadunne.
Ajith Gamlath and Priyantha Wijesinghe from the Sirasa Media Network had carried out the initial coordination work with regard to the transaction. The financial aspect related to the transactions had been carried out by the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) Rizly Illiyas also known as Money Laundering Dida. On a directive by Minister Johnston Fernando, Illiyas has paid Rs. 50 lakhs each to Ajith Gamlath and Priyantha Wijesinghe for carrying out the initial coordination work in the transaction.
One of Minister Johnston Fernando coordinating secretaries, Rizly Illiyas has been charged of taking money out of the country in an illegal manner. He had accompanied the Minister on an official tour to Thailand and had carried along with him hand luggage containing cash. Illiyas had deposited the monies in a bank in Singapore when the Minister and he had stopped over in Singapore for six hours during the visit to Thailand. (We previously published a full report on the matter)
However, following several rounds of discussions held in Singapore and Sri Lanka, Lanka Television Networks was purchased by a private company called Nine Networks for Rs. 2,100 lakhs by Minister Johnston Fernando. The Nine Networks Company has been registered as PV 84123 in the Company Registrar’s Office. The address has been cited as No 8/V/7, Bristol Paradise Building, Bristol Street, Colombo 1 owned by Illiyas.
The Chairman of Nine Networks that purchased Lanka Television Networks is Rizly Illiyas.
Minister Fernando’s two younger sons are directors in the company.
Minister Johnston Fernando has summoned the staff of V FM on March 1st and informed them that he had purchased the company and had promised them their job security. He has encouraged the staff by saying they would be given incentive payments and allowances and that the station would receive the full support of the President. He has added that MP Namal Rajapaksa was also a shareholder of the company.
The Minister has said senior media personality Claude Gurubevila would be appointed as the CEO of the station.
Although Gurubevila had arrived at the office to assume work on the 14th, he had to turn back since his letter of appointment had not been prepared.
It is learnt that Gurubevila had agreed to take over the job after the Minister had promised him a package worth Rs. 10 lakhs inclusive of salary and allowances.
Await more details…