Colombo, June 30 (newsin.asia): The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement on Saturday, that the New York Times article of June 25 saying that the Chinese company which built the Hambantota port had given US$ 7.6 million to the 2015 election fund of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa was full of falsehood.
“It was full of political prejudice and completely inconsistent with the fact,” the statement asserted.
“The Embassy stresses that China has always been pursuing a friendly policy towards Sri Lanka, firmly supporting the latter’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing any country’s interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.”
“It is encouraging that all sectors of the Sri Lankan society highly appreciate China’s tremendous support and selfless assistance for ending the civil war and post-war reconstruction in the Island nation.”
“Despite any interference from a third party, China would like to work together with Sri Lanka to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, and concentrate unwaveringly on our fixed goals, continuously promote the pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiatives following the golden rule of ‘extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits’, to better benefit the two countries and the two peoples,” the Chinese official statement said.
The NYT report had said that “at least US$7.6 million was dispensed from China Harbour’s account at Standard Chartered Bank to affiliates of Mr. Rajapaksa’s campaign, according to a document, seen by The Times, from an active internal government investigation.”
The report further said that “with 10 days to go before polls opened, around US$3.7 million was distributed in checks: US$678,000 to print campaign T-shirts and other promotional material and US$297,000 to buy supporters gifts, including women’s saris. Another US$38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Mr. Rajapaksa’s electoral bid, while two checks totalling US$1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees, his official residence.”
A ruling United National Party (UNP) MP and junior Social Empowerment Minister Ranjan Ramanayake filed a complaint with the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) about the allegations made in the NYT article.
But a former Governor of the Central Bank and a Rajapaksa acolyte, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, issued a statement saying that the NYT report is an example of “fake news”.
“This is probably the type of propaganda under the veil of journalism that President Donald Trump has been regularly referring to as ‘Fake’ news or reports,” Cabraal charged.
Cabraal said that he was interviewed by the NYT correspondent in question, Maria Abi- Habib, on 10th May 2018, and that he countered almost every one of her string of allegations and “pre-conceived notions” in an hour long interview, “with irrefutable facts and figures.”
But “not surprisingly”, Maria Abi-Habib had chosen to ignore all his responses relating to the Chinese loans and projects, as well as Sri Lanka’s debt position under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which he said would have materially changed her “flawed findings” and “highly suspect conclusions”.
Cabraal further said: “Her stance therefore undoubtedly confirms she was on a mission to provide a pre-determined and completely one-sided view point which is detrimental to both China and Sri Lanka in general, and Presidents Xi Jingping and Mahinda Rajapaksa, in particular.”
Rajapaksa son and heir apparent and MP, Namal Rajapaksa, said that the NYT allegations were meant to divert public attention from the UNP-led government’s LKR 11.5 billion Central Bank bonds scam.
Though the entire Sri Lankan media had reproduced the NYT article, the top most leaders of the government and the opposition, including Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have not reacted to it.
(The featured image at the top is that of the journalist Maria Abi-Habib)