The New York Times Getting the wrong end of the stick
Posted on July 16th, 2018

Upali Cooray

Apropos media reports of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s (MR) reply to New York Times published recently.

What is common knowledge is that Mahinda Rajapaksa government (2009-2015) was not favorable to privatization of any state ventures. MR inherited the SWRD Bandaranayke socialist policies which continued with Sirimavo and Chandrika.Therefore MR is unlikely to fully privatize any state ventures. Ceylon Electricity Board, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Sri Lanka Hotels Ceylon Fisheries Corporation, Corporative Wholesale Establishment (SATHOSA) and many others are examples of nationalized ventures during SLFP regimes.

President Maithripala Sirisena is also a hard core SLFPer. He has been in the party since Premier Sirimavo’s first tenure since 1968. Therefore all his actions do not show that he has changed his socialist conduct.

In some projects such as the Hambantota port MR government followed a policy of BOT (built operate and transfer) but not total privatization. Mahinda’s critics are questioning why the Yahapalana government is not investigating the allegation made by New York Times newspaper. Shyamon Jayasingha a constant critique of MR writing to the Colombo Telegraph argues that Rs.8.8 Billion profit after tax earned by the SLPA shouldn’t have been set off for settling the loans of Hambantota Port and it is similar to rob Paul to pay Peter”.  A simple example is a family member coming forward to settle an outstanding bill of another member of the family. Ports Authority and Hambantota Port are under the same Ministry. MR government gave the port on a 40 year lease whereas the Yahapalana government gave it on a 99 year lease. Shyamon Jayasinhgha however is correct in questioning why the present government has failed so far to investigate allegations against the MR family. The New York Times goes on to say that MR’s affiliates and campaign aides had got the money and volunteers had delivered the cheques to Temple Trees.

The present government is now perpetually” neck deep in corruption mud. Number one scam is the bond scam where the direct responsibility lies with Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe.  He shows no interest in bringing down the main culprit Arjun Mahendran from wherever he is hiding. The coal tender scam, central expressway irregularities, Monarch residencies scam of Ravi Karunanyaka are other notable scams which are not being investigated. It is only the other day the Canadian Premier paid a fine for accepting a pair of Sunglasses as a gift.

Another issue raised by New York Times (NYT) writer is that possibility of India getting concerned about China’s presence close to its shores.

If one reads Shivshankar Menon’s book (Choices — Inside the making of India’s foreign policy), the former Indian National Security Adviser has categorically said that Sri Lanka had given India assurance and shown that it was concerned about any threats to Indian security concerns. Our government never allowed Sri Lankan soil to be used by any foreign country against India… Diplomacy is an art of reciprocity, it is about engagement, conversations and mutual trust. In diplomatic relationships, you cannot replace empowered diplomats with intelligence officers. India has to come out of this ‘China phobia’ with regard to its relationship with Sri Lanka”. So said Gotabhaya Rajapaksa the former defense secretary.

The Modi government was not so happy with the relations Sri Lanka was having with China. All this changed last year May during Wesak full moon day. Modi attended the international Wesak day held in SL. The YAHAPALANA government’s  popularity was then beginning to dwindle fast due to various scandals such as the Bond scams, Kandy expressway scams and the DPJ tower lease and many others involving the Prime Minister,  and Ministers Malik Smarawickrama,Luxshman Kiriella, Kabir Hashim, Sujeewa Senasinghe, Ravi Karunanayaka et al. India couldn’t ignore the growing popularity of MR. Modi met MR at India House”, In a hastily arranged meeting in the night  on the11th May 2017.This   raised huge speculation within political circles in Colombo. This was more since officials from both sides had continued to maintain that Modi’s visit to Colombo had no economic or political objectives.  MR’s team consisted of Gotabhya Rajapaksa and Prof. G.L Peries.

In the meantime Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake in order to establish proof of MR’s wrong doings has contacted Maria Abi – Habib, the New York Times reporter and requested her for the information. The Deputy Minister has been shunned by the reporter. At least now he should know that it’s a time old tradition in journalism not to divulge the sources of information. Ultimately Ramanayaka has apologized for his mistake.

Atul Keshap the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka before his departure from Sri Lanka met MR and expressed his country’s displeasure about Gotabhaya being promoted as a potential Presidential candidate. This was reported in D.B.S Jayaraj blog who has good contacts in the north. The report was from the Tamil Daily Kaalaikkathi”(Morning Ray) on June 12th 2018. American interference in Srilankan politics is nothing new. It brought immense pressure on SL during the 30 year war against LTTE terrorism. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton accepted funds from the LTTE during her attempt run for the presidency. Atul Keshap may not have calculated the new tendencies in Trump government. It is beginning to build a new healthy relationship with North Korea which was till recently treated as a pariah state. Trump had also said that Russia should be brought in to the group of 7 making it Group of 8. He had called the UNHCR Cess Pool of political bias”. Sri Lanka has also in the past said as much.

The US envoy to UN described the council as a hypocritical and self-serving organization”. President Trump’s partiality towards Israel is the reason for this. He has made Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The question for Sri Lanka in the aftermath of US pulling out is what happens to UNHCR resolutions 30/1 and 34/1 on promoting reconciliation, Accountability and Human rights in Sri Lanka? These were co-sponsored with the US in 2015 and 2017. Under Mr. Trump, the State dept. is toothless, however crazy some of them may be. So, various undercurrents in Washington could play out in a manner that renders resolutions 30/1 and 34/1 dead ducks. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa led Viyath Maga” think tank appears to be assessing the US foreign policy transformations of the Trump government correctly. It is timely Sri Lanka break the shackles of the resolutions 30/1 and 34/1.

If any proof of reconciliation, accountability and human in Sri Lanka is required, the reader should see the 10 minute You Tube video showing how thankful the people and rehabilitated LTTE cadres in Vishvamadu to Colonel Ratnapriya Bandu of the Civil Security Department. This story has not received adequate media attention and of the government.    Most educated political observers on this matter.Palitha Kohona, Tamara Kunanayakam, Keerthi Tennekoon, Lalith Weeratunga, Jehan Perera, Rajeewa Wijesingha and many other intellectuals have expressed their views on this matter.

It is heartening to see how the people of the area in their hundreds with their smattering of Sinhala crying and worshipping the officer at his farewell ceremony. One woman prays Aney Sir! Budu wenda ona” (Sir! May you attain Buddha hood)

In conclusion, The New York Times may be entitled to have its own views. It has raised this issue in 2015 in Ceylon Daily news, a pro – government state owned newspaper. It may be trying to salvage the beleaguered YAHAPALANA government from sinking. The New York Times may be trying to revive the old story again as readers gave a poor response to the Daily news.

The tide is not in its favor.

Upali Cooray

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One Response to “The New York Times Getting the wrong end of the stick”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    Everybody who calls for Arjun Mahendran are wrong.

    He did not rob the Central Bank. All what he did was following Run-nil’s instruction. This whole Bond scam must have been planned by a third party in the likes of Raj Rajaratnam or a similar scammer. Arjun Mahendran played his part. the beneficiaries are Yahap team. They got the money. AM had enjoyed his life with unlimited funds and authority during the period.

    Similar to Drug lords those who are in their comfort in their luxury homes the second tier organisers are the one who got the death penalties. They are the ones who carried out their Drug Lord’s instructions. They are not the real culprits.

    Similarly Arjun Mahendran is not the real culprit. It is Run-nil and his stooges, the likes of Malik.

    When the whole country is after AM, Run-nil is laughing….

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