Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa today dismissed a media report that claimed China had funded his unsuccessful 2015 presidential re-run. “No contribution was made by China to my 2015 presidential election campaign,” Rajapaksa said, breaking his silence on the issue.
“While claiming that my ‘affiliates’ and ‘campaign aides’ had got the money and that ‘volunteers’ had delivered the cheques to Temple Trees, the writer…has been intentionally vague about who had given this money and who had received it,” the former president said in a statement.
“This seems to be a way of carrying out a smear campaign without incurring any liability,” he added. A New York Times report last week claimed that USD 7.6 million was dispensed from a Chinese firm for his campaign. Rajapaksa also dismissed the NYT claim that India was apprehensive about his Chinese connections and India was concerned about any Chinese attempt to use the Hambantota port for military purposes.
He said former Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon had written in his 2016 book that India was comfortable with the security assurances made by his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the defence secretary. He said India had been given assurances about the nature of Sri Lanka’s relations with China. “Such assurances given by Sri Lanka to the then Congress Party government were respected throughout,” Rajapaksa added.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times today said that the police’s Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has asked the police chief’s sanction to investigate the NYT claim. The Chinese embassy in Colombo in a statement while stopping short of denying the story said the NYT article was “full of political prejudice and completely inconsistent with the fact”.
China will continue to “promote the pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road initiatives” for the betterment of the two countries, it said. The ruling United National Party, the dominant partner in the national unity government, last week called for setting up of a presidential commission to probe the NYT claim.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) said that the veracity of the story must be verified and details bared. Rajapaksa’s son earlier said that the report had many inaccuracies. Several of Rajapaksa loyalists have termed the story as fake.