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P.K.BALACHANDRAN | 17 OCTOBER, 2018

Lankan President’s Advisor Denies RAW Remarks

Says Sirisena spoke in ‘general terms’


COLOMBO: Shiral Lakthilaka, Advisor and Coordinating Secretary to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, has denied media reports that the President had named the Indian Intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in his remarks in the cabinet on an alleged plot to assassinating him.

“The President had spoken in general terms about secret services of countries attempting to assassinate leaders. This happens even in America, the President said, and added that the Prime Minister of India might not be aware of it. There was no mention of RAW at all,” Lakthilaka told this correspondent on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Sirisena’s suggesting a link between India’ secret service and the assassinate plot, and his saying that Prime Minister Modi might not be aware of it, would further aggravate the strained relations between him and New Delhi.

As it is, the relationship is strained after Sirisena put impediments in the way of many developmental projects proposed by India in the past year or so. There are as many as 15 major projects suggested in 2017 which are yet to take off.

Sirisena had put a stop to the 500 MW coal fired power plant which India was to put up in Sampur. He said it would harm the environment. Recently, he got his emissary, Nimal Sripala de Silva, to tell Modi that India’s help is not needed to rehabilitate the Palaly airport in Jaffna. The Sirisena government is also dragging its feet on giving the Mattla airport to India to make it a functioning airport.

Perhaps because it is tired of Sirisena’s obstructive posturing, that New Delhi is now assiduously cultivating his arch rival former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa had been invited to New Delhi for talks with Modi.

Sirisena is also of the view that India is backing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he has serious differences on almost all issues.

Wickremsinghe is of the view that Sri Lanka should accommodate India and plug into its growing economy to ensure its own growth. But Sirisena, being Sinhalese nationalist, would like to keep Big Brother India at bay in every way.

The Colombo-based website Economynext and The Hindu had reported on Tuesday, that Sirisena shocked his cabinet by accusing neighboring India of plotting to assassinate him on the eve of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to New Delhi.

Quoting an unnamed ministerial source Economynext said: “A visibly upset Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP), of not taking an alleged conspiracy to kill him as well as former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, seriously.”

“The President said that RAW (India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing) was behind the plot,” a minister, who declined to be named, said.

Sirisena also said that he was unhappy with the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiry into the plot and faulted the law and order minister for what he called the “very slow progress” of the inquiry.

The alleged plot was disclosed by a paid employee of the presidential secretariat earlier last month. He had also worked as an informant of the police, Economynext said.

“Based on his testimony, the police have suspended a Deputy Inspector-General Nalaka Silva who is said to have been involved in the alleged assassination plot.”

“Weeks after the so called whistle blower, identified as Namal Kumara, went public about the plot to kill Sirisena and Rajapaksa, the President’s office issued a statement denying he was in their payroll and called for a separate investigation into his conduct.”

“However, media reports said that the Presidential Secretariat had issued letters to Namal Kumara confirming his employment with an anti-narcotics task force directly under the President.”

“Official sources close to the investigation said they have not found any evidence to support Namal Kumara’s claims of a plot, which also involved an Indian national (from Kerala) who is residing in Sri Lanka pending an asylum application with the UN agency for refugees.”

“The ministerial source said the President did not give details of how India was involved in the plot and several cabinet ministers were aghast at his claim. “

“So far, what we have is the figment of someone’s imagination of an assassination plot,” the source said. “What can now be done is to look at the genesis of this story and how it came about,” Economynext reported.

The website further said: “In the meantime, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has lodged a formal complaint with the police over media reports of the twin assassination plot.”

“When he was asked if he suspected any credible plan to kill him, the former official had said he was making the complaint to have the media reports investigated.”

Commenting on news reports that President Sirisena had vehemently opposed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal to give the development of the Colombo port’s East Terminal to some Indian companies on the grounds that India must be given a place in Colombo port given the fact that 80% of its business is with that country, Presidential Advisor Shiral Lakthilaka said that here too, the President has been misrepresented.

“The President said that it had already been decided that the East Terminal would be developed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been told about it.”

“The President further said that if India wants, it can develop the West Terminal,” Lakthilaka recalled.

“What is appearing in the media on the Colombo East harbor is not true. The President had not said anything against the interests of India in the cabinet. What is spread now is a concerted effort to create dissension between India and the President.”

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