As the Rajapaksa regime pulls out all stops to prevent further erosion to the opposition, the Colombo Telegraph can now exclusively reveal details about the money bags behind stopping defections from the ruling UPFA coalition.
Thirukumar Nadesan, businessman and the husband of President Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s niece Nirupama Rajapaksais said to be offering large sums of money to UPFA members on the fence about who to support at the presidential election in January.
The Rajapaksas have entrusted the moneybags to Nadesan, whose own track record on criminal financial activity could be exposed if he fails to do the regime’s bidding.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Nadesan has informed confidants that all those SLFP members taking funds from the President and his family in exchange to remain with the Government will have hell to pay if he wins a third term.
“To really enjoy their money they will have to pray for him to lose because if he wins he will demand the money back with interest,” the businessman is reported to have quipped in the company of friends and associates.
The President is livid about having to spend money in hundreds of millions to hold MPs and Government Ministers from decamping, the Colombo Telegraph also learns.
Former Government Minister of Public Reforms Navin Dissanayake claimed that he had been offered 100 million to remain with the Rajapaksa government. Colombo Telegraph learns that to retain some ministers and hold back MPs on the fence, the Government has also written off housing and other loans to the tune of millions. In the case of Janaka Bandara Tennakoon who cried about the fate of the SLFP in a widely publicised speech recently President Rajapaksa has threatened to recall his children serving in Lankan missions overseas if he crosses over, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Over 20 SLFP members were scheduled to cross over to the opposition in order to support the candidacy ofMaithripala Sirisena, but the flood has turned into a trickle since the Rajapaksa regime put their counter strategy in motion.
Throwing hundreds of millions at MPs was akin to small change for the Rajapaksa campaign, some sources noted. It is not clear if Nadesan is spending his own money or the Rajapaksa brothers’ cash on stopping defections.
Meanwhile the Colombo Telegraph can now reveal that President Rajapaksa held a meeting with six separate private advertising agencies two weeks ago. Each agency was handed over an advance of Rs. 50 million to start production and book air time for the President’s re-election campaign. The incumbent President is reported to have submitted his declaration of assets to the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya but this document has not yet been made public. It is unclear if the asset declaration shows enough amassed wealth to afford a publicity campaign of the scale the Rajapaksa administration is undertaking.
On December 8, Nominations Day, every major newspaper published in the country – 15 in all three languages carried false front pages featuring the President’s return to Sri Lanka after the end of the war on May 18th 2009. Each newspaper carried an article of its own front page on the historic day. Sources said that in the English newspapers alone such a false cover would cost upwards of Rs. 2 million while Sinhalese newspapers would cost much more.
Laptops and pens
December 15, 2014, 7:50 pm
Some journalists and various media rights groups in this country do not seem to learn from their mistakes. They continue to deify politicians as messiahs though the latter are no great lovers of the media. There have been only a few exceptions. The US was lucky to have Thomas Jefferson, as a founding father and president, who famously said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” But, here, all politicians will prefer governments without newspapers. They give journalists karapincha (curry leaves) treatment; they use and discard the media personnel.
Elections are the times when the ruling politicians shower gifts on their media lackeys and some journalists who claim to be independent stoop so low as to help their political masters out of power with image building projects by organising various events which are only excuses for felicitating politicos desperate for mileage. It behoves the media rights groups to be independent of both the ruling party and the Opposition if it is really the interests of journalists that they seek to safeguard.
All political leaders have sinned against the media. Time was when the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) derisively called Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘the reporter’ in her Cabinet because of his rapport with the media. But, journalists have been harmed and media institutions attacked on Rajapaksa’s watch as President and he stands accused of suppressing media freedom among other things.
In 1994, while striving to capture power in Parliament, CBK herself pledged to protect journalists and create an environment where they could practise their profession without fear or favour. But, journalists were killed and publishing houses attacked during her tenure as president.
In the early 1990s, following the abduction, torture and assassination of Richard de Zoysa, one of the finest journalists this country has produced, the then UNP government sought to vilify him posthumously in Parliament. Some UNP heavyweights in the Premadasa government even condemned Richard’s sexual orientation in a bid to justify his murder. (If people were to be harmed for being non-heterosexual, perhaps the UNP would be the worst affected!) Most of the UNPers responsible for that dastardly campaign which brought shame on Parliament are still lawmakers pontificating to others about the virtues of democracy and taking up the cudgels for the media!
Moreover, on July 8, 2008, Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera (UNP) accused the then Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka of having journalists attacked. He told Parliament that attacks on the media were being carried out by a special team controlled by Gen. Fonseka himself. But, two years later, the UNP went out of its way to make Gen. Fonseka President! So much for politicians’ concern for journalists and media freedom!
It is unbecoming of media rights groups to offer their services as palanquin bearers for politicians. Giving them pens or styli or holding hands with them is as deplorable as queuing up and receiving laptop computers from the powers that be. When President Rajapaksa gave away laptop computers to journalists in 2012, (besides interest free loans) Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, known for his wisecracks, remarked that he was being hit on the ‘top’ by some journalists on Rajapaksa’s ‘lap’. (But, if he could accomplish the task of toppling what he calls the Rajapaksa regime, then he could rest assured that the same laptops would be used to eulogize him and his cronies! It is not only politicians who cross over; some journalists also do.)
We only repeat what we have been saying in these columns all these years: If a journalist happens to see a venomous snake and a politician at a lonely spot, he or she should always avoid the politician.