Probe this one too | Daily News

Probe this one too

SLFP rebel MP Dayasiri Jayasekara, it was, who set the ball rolling in exposing the extent of sleaze in Sri Lanka's politics, unwittingly though. He would not have envisioned that, very soon, his guru Mahinda Rajapaksa too would be in the same predicament as he was.

Jayasekara it was, who first revealed that he received a cash cheque for a sum of Rs one million as an election donation. Though he revealed he had no idea who sent the cheque, a B report filed in the Colombo Magistrate's Court, before which the bond issue is being investigated, revealed that the sender was Arjun Aloysius, the owner of Perpetual Treasuries(pvt.) Ltd., the Primary dealer involved in the alleged scam. This was followed by Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe too admitting that they received campaign funds from the same source.

Now comes the revelation that Mahinda Rajapaksa too had received an election donation of much larger magnitude, not from a local mudalali or a Primary dealer in Treasury bonds, but from a foreign country. The expose was carried in the prestigious New York Times, which has raised a huge scandal and unraveled the duplicity of Mahinda Rajapaksa who is fond of accusing the UNP of having links with foreign powers to the detriment of the national interest.

The article said it found evidence showing that US $ 7.6 million (around Rs.1.2 billion) had been transferred from the China Harbour Engineering Corporation's account at Standard Chartered Bank to members of Mahinda Rajapaksa's Presidential Election campaign team, days ahead of the poll.

It was only too well known that Rajapaksa, by this time, had placed all his eggs in the Chinese basket and was a great lover of China, a sentiment reciprocated by Asia's economic dragon. All the mega projects in the country was being handed over to the Chinese, among them the Hambantota Port project and the construction of the expressways.

It is in this light that UNP MP Harshana Rajakaruna has called for the appointment of a Presidential Commission to probe whether the former President received US $ 7.6 million from CHEC, as per the New York Times article. "We have a suspicion that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa started the Hambantota Harbour project to receive alleged kickbacks” he said adding that there was also a suspicion that there could have been an attempt to sell the port on the basis that it is unprofitable. "We are still paying for this debt”, he said.

The MP's request is justified in that a Presidential Commission was appointed to probe the bond matter that was said to have caused much damage to the economy. Similarly, the re-payment of the huge debt that the government is saddled with, as a result of the Hambantota Port project, too, is now bleeding the economy and has resulted in a massive financial burden being placed on the people. Besides, it is the former President's constant refrain that the government has ruined the economy. Only a comprehensive probe will reveal to what extent Rajapaksa is responsible. This and other suspicious financial dealings too should be probed. Although, as State Minister Eran Wickramaratne told our weekend paper, the Sunday Observer, that it was fairly well known that China was funding the election campaign of Rajapaksa later there were reports that the FCID was investigating several suspicious transactions running into Rs. 3 billion. Mysteriously, nothing of this investigation or its current status is known today, as pointed out by Wickramaratne.

In the meantime bizarre and fantastic statements are being made by members of the Joint Opposition in denial of the NY Times article. One worthy said that Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, who were the General Secretaries of the UPFA and SLFP, respectively, at the time of the election, are the ones who will know for sure if such a transaction took place, a statement that, no doubt, is an insult to the intelligence of the people. To begin with, the duo, together with the rest of the SLFP rebels, are all but in name, members of the Joint Opposition today and are bound to pooh pooh the article. JO MP Shehan Semasinghe, in trying to refute the New York Times expose, also cast aspersions on the English language knowledge of Sri Lankan politicians when he, responding to Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake's statement that he (Ramanayake), contacted the author of the article and confirmed the facts, rubbished the claim based on the contention that the author did not understand Sinhala. Did the MP seriously think that Ramanayake spoke to the journalist concerned in Sinhala?

Be that as it may, the article, if genuine, also compromises members of the Sangha. It says that US $ 38,000, or, a staggering Rs 60 million, was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Rajapaksa's re-election bid. No wonder today that certain aramayas are virtually leased out to the Joint Opposition, from where its members carry out vicious attacks on the government, with their Chief Incumbents too joining the fun, and Buddhist temples turned into meeting venues of Mahinda Rajapaksa. 


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