China keeps former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa in frame
Posted on October 13th, 2015

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition

Beijing’s special envoy took the unusual step of meeting with Rajapaksa last week – official visits are usually limited to government figures.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one was particularly eloquent. Adding a fresh twist to what would otherwise be a plain vanilla diplomatic visit by the Chinese special envoy to Sri Lanka last week, former China-friendly president Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted a picture of himself posing with the Chinese special envoy.

An endorsement of sorts of an old friend in trouble, the picture signalled Beijing’s willingness to keep its options open in the strategically important Indian Ocean nation.

It was also a departure from Beijing’s usual outreach as Chinese envoys are known to restrict their interaction to government figures. The current leaders often complain that China had no channels of communication with them when they were in the opposition.

“This is the first time the Chinese have contacted Rajapaksa since he lost the election in January,” his spokesman Rohan Welivita told the South China Morning Post. “It was a courtesy call.”

Government officials refused to respond when asked if they were aware of the meeting.

Beijing dispatched Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin to Colombo as special envoy to mend relations between the two countries, strained since Rajapaksa’s shock defeat in January. The new government has put several Chinese-funded infrastructure projects on hold, most notably a giant reclamation project called Colombo Port City that was inaugurated by President Xi Jinping in September.

At a press conference on Friday before leaving Colombo, Liu said he had a “highly successful” trip, meeting the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister. There was no mention of Rajapaksa. Liu’s unannounced meeting with the former leader was in keeping with his low-key trip.

Though Liu told reporters that the Sri Lankan government had assured him they will break the stalemate over Colombo Port City and other projects, he also let known his impatience.

“I joked with the Sri Lankan leaders that they have taken eight months for government transition, now they must not take eight months to restart the projects,” he said.

Executives connected to the stalled Chinese projects have expressed similar impatience to the Post over Sri Lanka’s pro-tracted electoral process that has seen two elections in eight months, even though there are signs the government is sincerely trying to put some of the projects back on track.

For Rajapaksa, too, the meeting delivers a boost at a difficult time. His attempt to resurrect his career by trying to return as prime minister in August’s parliamentary elections did not go anywhere.

The government has also brought several corruption and criminal charges, including money laundering and the use of death squads, against him and his family.

But down as he is, Rajapaksa still enjoys the support of a section of his United Peoples Freedom Alliance, which is split between his and President Maithripala Sirisena’s camps. The Sirisena camp has joined Ranil Wickremesinghe’s single-largest United National Party to form the national government.

“Without Rajapaksa, there is no opposition,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, on the curious situation of the county’s two main parties being in the same government.

“If he gathers support and steam and the government lacks coherence, the opposition can get back on.”

And as China looks to get back on in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is a hedge it can hardly afford to ignore.

11 Responses to “China keeps former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa in frame”

  1. ranjit Says:

    Silence breaks my heart. I am looking for anything written about my President Mahinda Rajapksa everyday in newspapers or in the web. When I see something I am really happy because this man gave us something to the country we love so much to remember. We saw a beautiful,graceful country builds up thru his vision but unfortunately everything was stopped. I saw in today’s newspapers that Choura Regina has said that she was the one who planned and started the Colombo-Matara and Katunayaka highways. Once she told that she was the one who won the LTTE war. What a shameless witch she is. Shame to have such low quality politicians in this country.

    I dream about his comeback and I hope not only Chinese but the whole world will embrace this great man again before long. This is the only man who can deliver something genuinely to the nation and to it’s people although he has his own shortcomings in the past.

  2. Kumari Says:

    Ranjit, you are correct. My hopes for Sri Lanka just vanished when the electorate decided on the back stabber. From the time Rajapakse as the Commander in Chief anihilated the terrorists the enemies of the man kind went into action. You can see it happening to Putin and Russia now. It is bad to bring peace to the world. The war industry that run the western political systems won’t allow it.

    I wish China understand this and get involved in world politics without waiting for the first shot to be fired by the war mongers.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    Even China left MR because he started doing ENDIAN work in SL.

    He took so long to sign the SILK ROAD agreement and allowed ENDIAN businesses instead of Chinese ones. MR’s US relatives also made China suspicious.

    We can’t just get Chinese help. They help us if we help them.

    At least now we have to make a proposal to China attractive enough that will make them help us REGIME CHANGE.

  4. Independent Says:

    Magic word is the honesty. People will know whether you are honest or pretending for benefits.
    Gaddfi helped us at crucial moment ( he said recently). But we abstained from voting Libya than supporting him.
    Rather than developing China relationship in an honest way, publically implying “we will call India first, if they reject, then China” will not help. It need not be intimate, but has to be open and honest, always giving priority to our country. China means business. If they see us agreeing to higher interest rates, they will definitely keep increasing. We should show that it is a business relationship and we too have brains. At the same time this relationship could have been developed to gain geopolitical advantage for both countries. That is more important than anything else.e
    This India-China balance would have been more tactful. I don’t see any difference now.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    President Rajapakse did yeoman services to Lanka during a very, very difficult period not only in Lanka but in the world.
    We thank him yet again and China too to see an end to continued terrorism in Lanka for over 30 yrs. We trust him and his judgment on matters, even though some mistakes may have been made. No government or leaders are perfect, but MR, a mature and astute politician, did an exceptionally good job in dire times and continues to serve the Nation in the best ways he can. We wish him the very best in all his endeavors.

    Yahap is almost 9 months in office now – that is the gestation period for a human baby too ! So it is high time they delivered their “peace baby” as promised.

    We want a lasting peace this time, and none of the ‘asbandun boru bandages’ of earlier years. Too many have died for other peoples wars brought into Lanka.

    Lanka is constantly destabilised to suit Cold War players and various ex-Empires. This time we want to bypass them all and find our Peace as common citizens in one undivided country. Yahap, make it so.

  6. Independent Says:

    Wele Suda sentenced to death for just 7.5g of KUDU – Joke of the year !

    – Oct 14, 2015

    International drug dealer “Wele Suda” has been handed the death sentence by the Colombo High Court a short while ago.

    Earlier,the verdict of the drug smuggling case involving Gampola Vidanage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda was fixed for October 14 by Colombo High Court Judge Preethi Padman Surasena. Wele Suda is accused of having 7.5 grams of heroin in possession.

    However, Wele Suda has been prosecuted in connection with two other cases before the Colombo High Court and the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court.

    International drug dealer “Wele Suda” has been handed the death sentence by the Colombo High Court a short while ago.

    Earlier,the verdict of the drug smuggling case involving Gampola Vidanage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda was fixed for October 14 by Colombo High Court Judge Preethi Padman Surasena. Wele Suda is accused of having 7.5 grams of heroin in possession.

    However, Wele Suda has been prosecuted in connection with two other cases before the Colombo High Court and the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court.

  7. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Rajapakse appears prominently in the book “India Shattering the Illusion. The Birth of New Nations. From Kashmir to Eelam”. he is the only Sri Lankan politician who has a picture. Eelam is treated in a manner that it cannot exist giving 2 options that favor the Sinhalese.

  8. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Rajapakse appears prominently in the book “India Shattering the Illusion. The Birth of New Nations. From Kashmir to Eelam” by Columbus Falco. he is the only Sri Lankan politician who has a picture. Eelam is treated in a manner that it cannot exist giving 2 options that favor the Sinhalese.

  9. Nihal Perera Says:

    Unlike opportunistic and hypocritical Western countries, China respects and grateful for the long term friendship it has developed with Sri Lanka.

    MR should be given full credit for getting China to help us defeat Tamil terrorism (which West never did..), and developed the economy, infrastructure, etc., making SL one of the fastest growing countries in South Asia. While the ungrateful Sinhala majority has already forgotten the tremendous work done by MR, China to its credit has not forgotten or abandon MR, or Sri Lanka for that matter.

    It is also important to remember that unlike China, the West never stand by their friends or countries that are loyal to them. History shows that US used former leaders like Shah of Iran, Marcos in Philippines, Noriega in Panama , Sadham Hussein, Khadafy, etc., to their advantage, and betrayed them once they were no use to US. One day it will happen to SL and its present regime as well, which has become a puppet and a prostitute of the West…!

    The West (US, UK, EU) is only interested in implementing their political agenda, by supporting and using a puppet regime (Siri-Wicky), that licks their boots. They always favour and use minorities just to keep the country unstable, so that they can dictate their terms to promote their hidden agenda..

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    All our educated and able Leaders are given a ‘bad name’ for dealing firmly with difficult problems ! Singapore is praised for dealing well with problems. People quite forget that S’pore is a relatively young country and has no Colonial past or invasions from India.

    That is why an able and educated Committee of about 8 People should govern Sri Lanka. This will save the lives of our able and educated leaders. More able and educated people from different professions ought to form a Permanent Panel to advice the Committee.

  11. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    You are advising a BURMA LIKE SITUATION (bad) or CHINA (good).

    That can only happen if the constitution is changed.

    The ONLY way it can be done by is through a military takeover or a people’s takeover (cannot happen as the military is strong).

    A dream without ACTION is only a dream. IF action follows, then it is a PLAN.

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