COLOMBO, October 17: Sri Lankan government on Wednesday rejected as “completely untrue” media reports that President Maithripala Sirisena accused India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of plotting his assassination and he opposed awarding a key port project to India.
The media reports came ahead of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to New Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speed up India-backed projects, including the East Terminal project, in the island nation.
Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP), of not taking seriously an alleged conspiracy to kill him and former secretary to the ministry of defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the economynext.com reported quoting a ministerial source after a heated Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The minister, who declined to be named, claimed that the president said that India’s external intelligence agency RAW was behind the plot.
Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne on Wednesday dismissed the reports at a press conference.
Senaratne, also the Minister of Health, read out a statement by Cabinet Secretary S Abeysinghe which said the president had not said anything about RAW plotting to assassinate him.
“The president, as the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers, has paid attention to the printed and electronic media reports on the matters discussed during the Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Secretariat on 16th October 2018. It is stressed that those news are completely untrue.
“Any Cabinet paper relating to the infrastructure development projects planned to be implemented in Sri Lanka by the Indian government or Indian companies were not included in the agenda of that Cabinet meeting,” he said.
The Sri Lankan foreign ministry also issued an official statement rejecting the media reports as “baseless and false”.
According to the media reports, Sirisena said 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 president, however, did not give details of how India was involved in the plot and several cabinet ministers were aghast at his claim, the report said.
“I think it was uncalled for (to accuse India) because he did not provide any evidence to support his claim,” the ministerial source was quoted as saying.
“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.”
The alleged plot was disclosed by a man named Namal Kumara claiming himself to be representing Anti-Corruption Force last month at a press conference.
Kumara had also worked as an informant of the police. 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.
The cabinet meeting witnessed heated exchanges when the ministers discussed the awarding of the East Terminal of the Colombo port to India, reports said.
Sirisena is opposed to granting India access to develop the terminal just next to the China-run Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), the report said.
Sirisena had held that since the southern port of Hambantota had been already leased to China, having India in the Colombo port would not be in Sri Lanka’s best interests in terms of any contingency.
The Cabinet spokesperson, however, on Wednesday said Sirisena had not expressed opposition to the Eastern Port Terminal deal with India.
What President Sirisena said was he had discussed the issue with Prime Minister Modi during the BIMSTEC summit in Nepal.
He said prime minister Modi was in agreement for Sri Lanka to develop the eastern terminal at Colombo port. (PTI)