Written by Faraz Shauketaly
14 Sep, 2018 | 4:56 pm
Colombo (News1st): Six months ago there was no greater critic of India’s attitude to interference in Sri Lanka’s sovereign affairs than President Rajapaksa – twice Sri Lankas President and unsuccessful in his unprecedented third attempt.
Over the past three months, however, several events have taken place indicating that China appears to have lost its greatest ally in Sri Lanka – Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Three months ago, on the 25th of June, the New York Times carried a story claiming Mahinda Rajapaksa received Chinese government funds via a state-owned construction company, China Harbour Engineering. This is the same company contracted by the Chinese to construct and develop the vanity project of projects, Magampura Hambantota Port.
The article claimed that USD 7.6 million was distributed to key aides of the Rajapaksa administration including some payments that were carried to the former President’s official residency.
A short while later the Chinese mission in Colombo issued a statement with regard to the allegation and pointedly did not deny the distribution of funds.
It appeared then and more so now, that that was the start of the thaw in the China-Rajapaksa relationship.
To add to matters and to further indicate that China was moving away from overt support of the former strongman, came the news gleefully celebrated and hailed by the Wickremesinghe government of a USD 1,000 million loan facility from the Chinese. A government that was rather ill-treated by Team Wickremesinghe in the early days of their government in 2015. They were rather torrid times for the Chinese with the halting of their flagship investment in Sri Lanka, the reclamation of part of the Indian Ocean for a project known as the Colombo Port City project.
The New York Times article carried a number of facts detrimental to the Rajapaksas. This included the Helping Hambantota matter which has haunted Mahinda Rajapaksa since 2005 – and nearly cost him the Presidency. The former President was accused of literally helping himself to funds that arrived to help tsunami victims.
India has long viewed Rajapaksa as an irritant after the Rajapaksa governance model relied heavily on China for infrastructure development as well as in the fight against the LTTE terrorists. Rajapaksa did not quite help matters with his Indian relationship.
However, in recent weeks we see a regularity of visitors to India, at their invitation. These delegations have included Sri Lanka’s Speaker, opposition and government legislators. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister now in Vietnam for the second time in the same month, is expected in India by the 19th of this month.
Most significantly at the invitation of a Senior BJP man, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, Mahinda Rajapaksa also visited India. Significantly he took with him his eldest son, parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa.
Their meetings with India’s political elite was not to be sniffed at: former Premier Dr. Manmohan Singh, Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi and several other seniors from the Congress party all met with the intrepid duo. The finalé came with a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government officials.
The invitation to visit India came via Dr. Subrabaniam Swamy a senior BJP man. He was it appeared to the world rather in awe of his guest from the tiny island at their southern doorstep. So much so that Dr. Subrabaniam Swamy tweeted the imminent arrival in India of “ Sri Lanka’s former President and possibly the next President .. Mahinda Rajapaksa”.
The unbankable question now uppermost in any rational mind is this: did Mahinda Rajapaksa get intertwined in a political trap that reflected India’s geopolitical interests at the expense of China – and more notably at the expense and detriment of Sri Lanka’s historical non-aligned policies.
The real question remains as to how Mahinda Rajapaksa was led in the direction of New Delhi. Has Mahinda Rajapaksa got a RAW deal?
24 Jun, 2019 | 09:35 PM
22 Jun, 2019 | 01:12 PM
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