China confident of facing second probe into allegation of funding Rajapaksa poll campaign

China confident of facing second probe into allegation of funding Rajapaksa poll campaign

Colombo, July 5 (newsin.asia): The Chinese government owned China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), which has been accused by the New York Times of funding former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 2015 election campaign said on Thursday, that it had faced the same allegation in 2015 and had refuted it with “strong evidence.”

It is therefore ready to face a second probe which, as stated by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in parliament on Wednesday, will be conducted by the Crime Investigation Department (CID).

The confidence of the CHEC was expressed by An Xin, General Manager of the CHEC (Sri Lankan Branch), at media briefing in the Chinese embassy here.

“This NYT story is stale as this was already reported three years ago. At that time, the CHEC had fully cooperated. Our attitude is still the same. We will fully cooperate with local authorities in any kind of investigation,” An said.

Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had told parliament on Wednesday that the Crime Investigation Department would probe the NYT allegation that the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), which built the Hambantota port and has been building the Colombo Port City, had given the then President Rajapaksa US$ 7.6 million as contribution to his 2015 Presidential election campaign fund.

“Such allegations are completely inconsistent with the facts,” CHEC General Manager An asserted.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with the then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa

“The CHEC has never been involved in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and even when the matter was initially reported in the media in 2015, and the matter diverted to the Sri Lankan authorities for a probe, CHEC had offered its fullest co-operation to the authorities,” An recalled.

At the same press conference Chinese Embassy spokesperson Luo Chong said that such Western media reports are only preventing Sri Lanka from getting much needed development funds from foreign countries such as China.

“This article is full of distorted facts and is full of critical prejudice. China maintains its stance that it does not involve in Sri Lanka’s internal matters,” Luo said.

“In 2015 and 2016, the CHEC and Chinese Embassy officials in Sri Lanka had already responded to this issue with strong evidence,” he recalled.

“I cannot comment about the political issues in Sri Lanka, but on behalf of the Chinese Embassy we are very confident that all these allegations are false,” he said.

He further clarified that nobody from the New York Times had contacted the Embassy over any issues regarding the controversial article.

“If they had really contacted the Embassy it would have definitely briefed the journalists with the true facts,” Luo said.

He then went on to point out how the NYT was selective in its use of information.

“I read a very interesting comment made by the former Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Ajith Cabraal. The NYT journalist Ms Maria, if I am correct with her name, met Mr Cabraal and did an hour long interview. The former Governor briefed this journalist about the whole story and finally not a single word uttered by him was written in the article. So even if this journalist had turned to the Chinese Embassy or Chinese companies, not a single word would have been quoted in the article!” Luo said.

Timing of the NYT Article

Pointing out the timing of the publication of the article, Lo said” “It was published on June 25, exactly after CMPort made the final tranche payment for  the Hambantota Port. I do not know if it is a coincidence or was done on purpose. But it seems that they somehow do not want to see the smooth growth of our two countries’ cooperative relationship” Luo said.

He said that the Chinese embassy had noted the “strong” statements made by Prime Minister  Wickremesinghe, Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasingha and former President Mahinda Rajapakse, dismissing the allegations in the NYT on the Hambantota Port deal.

“The co-operation between China and Sri Lanka is not with particular parties or persons. Our co-operation is with the Sri Lankan government and our strong ties in diplomatic relations have only continued even during the island’s civil war, or during the end of the war or in the post war development. And so far the co-operation between China and Sri Lanka has been on a common consensus. We are very glad to see that,” Luo said.

As for allegations that China intends to use the Hambantota Port for military purposes, Chief Operating Officer of Hambantota International Port Group, Tissa Wickremesingha said: “CMPort Holdings (which has take the port on a 99 year lease) is a commercial organization and we made a commercial investment on the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka and that is where we are.”