Welivita denied the allegation of threatening two journalists

Rohan Weliwita

Media Secretary to Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa Rohan Welivita has denied allegation of threatening two Sri Lankan journalists who had helped to produce the article of New York Times on 25th June.

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New York Times allegation regarding threats to journalists

Following President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s response last Sunday to the New York Times article of 25 June 2018 on the Chinese acquisition of the Hambantota port, the NYT published yet another article last Tuesday where they accused parliamentarians associated with the Joint Opposition of intimidating the two Sri Lankan journalists who had helped them to produce the article of 25 June. The original article making the allegation that China Harbour Co had contributed a large sum of money to President Rajapaksa’s 2015 presidential election campaign and that this money had been used among other things, to buy campaign T-shirts and mementoes first appeared three years ago in the government owned Daily News of 22 July 2015. The New York Times by their own admission was helped by the Chief Editor of the government owned Sunday Observer to write their article of 25 June. Informing the public about this at a press conference is not a case of intimidating anybody – this is a case of revealing a material fact which will help the people understand what is going on.

The NYT has not published the rejoinder to their article of 25 June sent last Saturday by Joint Opposition parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa who represents the Hambantota district. All they have done in terms of giving us a right of reply is to post a link to President Rajapaksa’s response as inconspicuously as possible in their latest article.  What we learn from this is that a newspaper that is ideologically aligned to the Obama-Clinton liberal camp and is not fair even to the incumbent President of the United States, cannot be expected to be fair towards the former President of Sri Lanka. In last Tuesday’s article, the NYT has said that it was from a government news release issued in 2010 that they obtained the information that the feasibility studies on the Hambantota port had been negative. In this era, nobody should base a serious allegation on a mere internet post. If the NYT had asked the former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal whom they had interviewed, he could have enlightened them about the feasibility studies done by SNC Lavalin of Canada and Ramboll of Denmark.

As for the money that is supposed to have been given for President Rajapaksa’s 2015 presidential election campaign by China Harbour Co, the present government did not suspend the activities of all Chinese Construction companies in Sri Lanka to check on their engineering credentials or their project experience.  The only matter investigated was whether these companies had any improper dealings with members of the Rajapaksa government. China Harbour Co was cleared of any wrongdoing and all their projects including the flagship Colombo Port City project, were restored to them. In last Tuesday’s article, the NYT has once again said that the present government of Sri Lanka handed over the Hambantota port to China because they were unable to repay the loan taken to build it. The reason why the NYT clings so doggedly to this idea despite President Rajapaksa’s explanation last Sunday, is probably to explain away the embarrassing fact that the Hambantota port was given to China by the very government that the Obama administration had spent hundreds of millions of Dollars to bring into power – as admitted by former US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016.

Rohan Welivita
Media Secretary to Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa

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