I don’t own jets - High Commissioner Kananathan | Daily News

I don’t own jets - High Commissioner Kananathan

 

Sri Lanka’s first High Commissioner to Uganda Kana V. Kananathan says that he is not the owner of the jet in which Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Tirupati a few months back.

“Those who publish opinions that it was registered in my name should check the registration details before spreading false information to the public”.

 

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Tell us about yourself?

 

A: In Sri Lanka, I lived my entire life in Bandarawela. I studied at St. Thomas College and started my career at the Hatton National Bank initially in Bandarawela and then moved to the Colombo Head Office. In 1986, I found a job as an Accountant in Kampala, Uganda at a Steel Manufacturing Company and after a while I moved into the hospitality sector.

My career progression was so swift that I became the Executive Director/CEO of Imperial Group of Hotels, a leading chain of six hotels in Uganda.

While holding the coveted high position in the Hotel, I ventured into investing in power projects. This decision to branch out was the turning point where I saw the ladder of substantial success in my life. My success was not accidental, I worked hard to make the most of the opportunities that came my way. My ambition coupled with hardwork made me what I am today.

Sri Lanka’s first High Commissioner to Uganda Kana V. Kananathan with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

 

Q: You are extra-ordinarily popular in Uganda and the African Continent as well as in Sri Lanka on the political level. How did this happen?

A: I have been a self-made and enterprising person all my life. My focus was not limited to my entrepreneurial development and success. I don’t hide myself; I am an open and forward-looking person. Therefore my skills, achievements and capacity to achieve successes in various fields caught the attention of the political leaderships in Uganda. The confidence they had placed in me was the root for my popularity; the more the roots got deeper the greater the recognition became in the political, business and political spheres. I was closely connected with political leaders and authorities in Uganda. As I started to expand my investments in hydro projects in other African countries, my interaction with the political leaderships in those countries also increased. Needless to say, that networking and contacts building make strong relationships which are essential in any business or profession. I believe in prioritizing my key contacts on country and business levels which kept me in the limelight. I was also appointed as the Advisor to the former President of Guinea Alpha Condé in investments, such was my reputation in Africa.

My popularity in Africa and the confidence in my ability to develop Sri Lanka’s relations with Africa, prompted the Government of Sri Lanka to name me as the country’s representative in Uganda and Kenya. I love my country. Therefore, I will always be ready to serve my country under any position and on my own.

 

Q: As you are aware in the past weeks, social media posted various stories about Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Tirupati by a private jet and your involvement in it. What would you like to say about those implicating posts?

 

A: This is absolute rubbish. First of all, it was true that the Prime Minister went to Tirupati in a private jet and I accompanied him. However, the stories about the ownership of the jet were nonsensical and baseless.

It is the right of citizens to follow the official visits of political leaders abroad to gauge how the country will benefit of such visits. It is for this purpose at the end of every visit a press release or statement is issued to keep the people of the country informed of the details of outcome.

Details of private visits are kept private. However, Prime Minister’s Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent visit to Tirupati has become a subject of speculation over social media, due to his travel by a private jet. The Prime Minister’s office informed that it was a private visit without any cost to the government.

I am not the owner of the jet. Those who publish opinions that it was registered in my name should check the registration details before spreading false information to the public. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Aircraft Inquiry Database provided information of all aircraft including registration number, location of registration, ownership etc.

Q: What do you particularly feel about the social media outcry on this issue?

A: We are in a period of information communication technology revolution which is proof of the constant evolution of technology. There are several media of communication to our benefit. I believe that the responsible use of the media including social media is very important to reach the objectives of such freedom of opportunities and facilities for communication and dissemination of information.

Yet, what we see on the ground is alarmingly rampant abuse of social media in Sri Lanka for spreading false information, inciting hostile sentiments against the establishment and targeting/vilification of individuals. I feel it is a dangerous trend of misleading people in the country. Such fabricated social media propaganda spreads like wildfire and copying the same posts by other media without verification of facts is even more appalling. The destructive and biased social media mania is going from bad to worse in the pretext of freedom of speech and opinion. Therefore, I feel there should be legal tools to address the abuse of media freedom.

I also feel that there should be a process of investigation to spot despicable false information peddling Websites, YouTube, Facebook accounts, Blogs, Instagram, Twitter etc., and block or suspend their operation. The security agencies should take stern action against identified perpetrators who create fake news, circulate or forward such fake news. I understand, Sri Lanka has already initiated action to draft a bill against spreading of false and misleading statements via social media.

The proposed bill should encompass all kinds of false information and litigate those social media offenders for causing social, economic and political consequences. While action is being taken to clamp down on the disruptive and violators of social media facility, the process of enacting a Regulation should be expedited.

Sri Lanka’s first High Commissioner to Uganda Kana V. Kananathan with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Further, I would like to mention that recently the international media discussed about the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) which is in the process to be adopted soon. This is the first such legislation in the world to protect the digital space against the spread of illegal content, and to ensure the protection of users’ fundamental rights. Sri Lanka should also follow the best international practices and introduce the principle that ‘what is illegal offline should also be illegal online’.

 

Q: You were called a former LTTE leader on social media. Can you shed some light on this for the benefit of the readership?

 

A: Once again, it is a blatant lie to defame me. It is easy for anyone to brand a Tamil person as an LTTEer in vengeance for personal benefits in politics, professions, businesses and other lucrative areas. I am a true patriot of my Motherland-Sri Lanka and I cannot explain in words how truly I love my country but I have proved it in action. I see this sinister branding as a smear campaign against me for petty political gains.

Sri Lanka has one of the world’s best intelligence services. If those authors involved in the recent social media outrage were genuine, they should have approached the Sri Lankan Intelligence Services before they ranted on in a slanderous campaign. I am so sad to see how horrendous was their assumptions-based writing and utterances aimed at character assassination of someone’s character.

 

Q: You said that you showed your patriotism not in words but in action. Can you elaborate on that?

 

A: Yes, of course, I have more to say about my actions. I believe truly in actions and not words; or in the words that would be translated into action. Personally, I have always helped Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans to develop their economic interests in Uganda and Eastern Africa using my contacts. After I was appointed as Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in 2010, having lived in this part of Africa for 36 years. I formally promoted Sri Lanka’s interests in East and West Africa and actively lobbied to get the political support of various countries in Africa. I assiduously promoted the economic and business relations between the two countries and with the support of Uganda and other African countries, I was able to increase the presence of Sri Lankan companies making them a dominant force in the multi-million mini-hydropower generation sub-sector especially in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. This trend is continuing in other countries including Kenya as well as in new areas such as manufacturing, construction, packaging, tourism infrastructure etc.

Further, considering the potential for the immense economic benefits for Sri Lanka to accrue in Africa, a resident High Commission was established in Uganda and I was appointed as the first High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Uganda with concurrent accreditation to 13 African countries, and later as the first Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the African Union. As High Commissioner in Uganda in 2013 and High Commissioner in Kenya since 2020, I have mobilised the political support of some African countries to Sri Lanka at international fora. I personally visited a number of countries in this regard to meet the Heads of State and Foreign Ministers and lobbied their support. In essence, I have dedicated my career to influence diplomacy using my personal relationships with certain Heads of State and political leaders in Africa to muster support towards Sri Lanka. Since there was a real rumpus in social media about travelling by private jets, it is pertinent to mention that I often travel by private aircraft for official and private purposes, at my own cost.

Q: The new government came to power in 2015, closed down the High Commission in Uganda. How did you feel about the decision?

 

A: Well, I will not comment on the decision by the government at the time. All what I would like to say is that I am prepared to serve the country in Africa. Even after the closure of the High Commission, the Prime Minister, at the time, Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed me as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka to Uganda, which demonstrated the country’s confidence in me.

Q: Social media also extensively talked about Uganda as the sanctuary for Sri Lanka’s ill-gotten wealth.

A: This is nonsense. I challenge those story tellers and false information-mongers to prove it. There’s no truth in anything that is uttered on social media about Uganda in the ongoing crisis. It was easy and convenient to mislead and provoke the public when they are in a state of despair without access to essential items. It is nothing but an absolutely cheap act to discredit their targets for their evil motives. This group of social media people do not know what they are talking about.

Further, it is also affecting the image of Uganda which has helped Sri Lankans to establish their businesses and investments in projects in Uganda as well as provided employment many Sri Lankans. There are more than 16 Sri Lankan investments in Uganda by private individuals which have remitted over US$ 250 million to Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange income over the last 5 years. There are many Sri Lankans employed in Uganda who also contribute to the foreign exchange income of Sri Lanka.

Strangely these companies’ ownerships were falsely portrayed as dubious on social media. Needless to say, the company ownerships can be easily verified with Registrar of Companies in Uganda which is a public domain. It is very unfair that in the ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka, a group on social media without any verification whatsoever not only falsely represented the ownership of those companies but also damaged their business credentials. Therefore, the owners of these companies issued a public notice in Sri Lanka validating their ownership and warning the public of false information by certain miscreants in the social media with ulterior motives.

Further, some commercial contracts between Uganda and a foreign investment facility in the Free Trade Zone in Sri Lanka also came under unnecessary scrutiny in media. Such irresponsible actions not only affect bilateral trade opportunities but also commercial confidentiality and investor confidence.

It was pathetic that this group on social media even looked at the sudden increase in the foreign exchange reserve of Uganda with a jaundice eye. Uganda’s foreign exchange reserve level stood at US$ 4.3b (Shs15.4 trillion) in 2021, following the disbursement of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) by IMF. In dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda secured further funding in emergency financing from the IMF under the Rapid Credit Facility. In June 2020, the World Bank also approved budget support under the Uganda COVID-19 Economic Crisis and Recovery Development Policy Financing. In addition to the external funds granted the by international financial organisations, Uganda’s income from gold exports saw an increase while remittances from Ugandans abroad also increased. Those who are curious about the foreign exchange reserve of Uganda should do their homework, get their facts straight before throwing labels on people.

 


Add new comment