COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's ruling United National Party, called for setting up of a presidential commission to investigate the alleged Chinese funding of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's utilized in 2015 election campaign.
A news report has claimed that Chinese port construction directly funded Rajapaksa for his election activities. Rajpaksa was also alleged to support China's efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The report alleged that at least $7.6 million was transferred from China Harbor's bank account in Colombo to affiliate of Rajapaksa. Around $3.7 million was distributed in cheques, $678,000 were utilised in print campaign of T-shirts and other promotional material and $297,000 to bribe supporters with gifts, including women's with saris. Another $38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Rajapaksa, $1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees, his official residence.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) said that the truth of the reports should be brought to light. They have demanded to setup a presidential commission for a complete probe in this matter. Even UNP legislator Harshana Rajakaruna also asked, “How China got Sri Lanka to cough up a port?” Rajapaksa is yet to speak on this report. His son said in a tweet that the report had many inaccuracies. Several Rajapaksa supporters have termed the story as fake.
Meanwhile, Rajapaksa has dismissed the media report in a statement saying, “No contribution was made by China to my 2015 presidential election campaign. Whiel 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.” He added, “This seems to be a way of carrying out a smear campaign without incurring any liability.”
He also dismissed the 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.