Chinese company says contribution to Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation was part of CSR

Chinese company says contribution to Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation was part of CSR

Colombo, July 12 ( The  Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT), which is a joint venture of the China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) and the Sri Lanka Pots Authority (SLPA), has  said that the payment of Rs.19,410,000/-to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation was a donation  for the construction of houses for the under-privileged as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation is in the name of the wife of Basil Rajapaksa, former Economic Development Minister and brother of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Denying that the payment was bribe to get the contract to build the Colombo South Terminal, the CICT said in a statement on  Thursday : “ the donation was made long after the project concession agreement for the Colombo South Terminal had been signed and construction work on the terminal had already commenced.”

“This payment is clearly reflected in our audited accounts for the relevant year. We therefore categorically reject the implication that the payment is tantamount to a bribe.”

“This issue had already been brought up in the media and was investigated by the relevant authorities three years ago. However, in the wake of these latest reports, we reiterate and bring to the notice of the media and the general public that CICT made a donation to the said foundation, as part of its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and did not intend it to be, nor believe it to be otherwise.”

“CICT has already provided the required information on this matter to the relevant authorities. The company has no further information to provide on the matter, other than for what has already been provided.”

“For the record, we wish to reiterate that this donation was a part of CICT’s CSR commitment, and in keeping with this commitment, we have also supported other deserving projects such as providing support to the victims of the Koslanda landslide in 2016 with cash donations and rations; major sponsorship of the Wheelchair Tennis program of Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA); and a donation through the China Merchant Charity Foundation of foldable intraocular lenses and cartridges worth $ 60,000 along with an allocation of $ 200,000 for cataract surgeries for needy patients under the ‘Tribute to love, China – Sri Lanka Free Cataract Surgery Campaign’ etc.”

“Once funding is allocated, CICT believes that the funding allocated would be utilized for the said projects by the receiving agencies, without CICT having to play a supervisory role as to the implementation of such projects,” the statement said.

Charge Against CHEC Denied

Earlier, the Chinese embassy denied a New York Times  report that the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), which built the US$ 1.1 billion  Hambantota port in south Sri Lanka, had given US$.7.6 million to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa ahead of the January 8, 2018 Presidential election as a contribution to his campaign.

The embassy and the CHEC both said that the allegation was investigated in 2015 itself by the successor government of President Sirisena and that the company had given “strong evidence” refuting the charges. The matter was dropped thereafter.

However, in view of the fact that a fresh probe had been ordered, it would face it as it had done before, the embassy and the CHEC said.

Political Angle

Accusations of Chinese companies bribing  the Rajapaksas were made in the election campaign of the Joint Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in 2014 and early 2015.

After Rajapaksa lost to Sirisena in the election, the Chinese companies were probed. But nothing came of these probes and the   Chinese companies CHEC and CMPort not only continued with their projects but got new ones too.

However, with provincial, parliamentary and Presidential elections due between now and 2020, sections of the government have begun a campaign to tarnish the image of the Rajapaksas.

With the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) of the Rajapaksas sweeping  the February 2018 local government elections, the necessity to step up the campaign against Rajapaksas has heightened.

(The featured image at the top shows the Colombo International Container Terminal built and run by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company)