Claiming that the Research and Analysis Wing conspired with “Western agencies” CIA and MI-6 to rally the opposition led by President Maithripala Sirisena against his presidency, Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says he does not, however, believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the government was responsible.
In an exclusive interview to TheHindu, his first to any Indian media organisation since his surprise defeat in the presidential polls in January, Mr. Rajapaksa says he raised concerns with the government over his belief of a conspiracy. “I said the man [RAW station chief] who is here in Colombo, should be moved out. They agreed, but only at the very last minute before the election, and by then it was too late,” he said at his residence in Colombo.
In January, a report by international news agency Reuters had claimed that an Indian intelligence official at the Indian Embassy in Colombo had been recalled over allegations he was part of a plan to unite and organise the opposition to President Rajapaksa. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had categorically denied that the transfer of the official was anything but routine, and “in natural course.”
While Mr. Rajapaksa alluded to the “RAW hand” in Sri Lankan politics in interviews to Dawn and South China Morning Post, this is the first time he has spelt out his accusation, saying that the plan to try and oust him began “two years ago”.
When asked pointedly if he felt the RAW was working under political guidance, he said, “No, no. I’ve never accused Mr. Modi.
“Because he only came in less than a year ago. It was a long term plan. They misunderstood me over the Chinese question. And that is why they planned this,” he added.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s comments come hours ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit to Colombo, where he is expected to meet the former President. Sources said the meeting was sought by Indian officials on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Modi met with President Rajapkasa three times last year, including the last meeting — reportedly very cordial — during the SAARC summit after the release of five Indian fishermen on death row in Sri Lanka.
Confirming that he will meet with Mr. Modi on March 14, Mr. Rajapaksa said, “Yes, I met him three times before. When he comes to my country, I felt I must meet him.”
Mr. Modi’s visit comes at a time of speculation in Sri Lanka over when parliamentary elections would be held by Mr. Sirisena. Under Sri Lanka’s system, while the Presidential poll is a direct contest between individuals, the Prime Minister is elected through Members of Parliament. This could lead to the hypothetical scenario of Mr. Rajapaksa, who still belongs to President Sirisena’s party, the SLFP, returning to government if he were to win enough support from MPs.
Fuelling the speculation are Mr. Rajapaksa’s daily meetings with the public, while two big public rallies have been held in his absence by his supporters.
In the interview to TheHindu, Mr. Rajapaksa would not confirm that he was considering a political comeback, but was angered by the cases filed by Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe against his family members and associates. “If they didn’t, I would have just supported this government. But now they want to probe, put us in jail, take our passports without any evidence. How can I retire like this? I never said I would retire. At the moment I am taking a rest.”