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Sweet deal turns sour for Sri Lanka President

By Our Political Correspondent

May 05, 2018 10:00 AM GMT+0530 | 14 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT – The arrest of the President’s Chief of Staff while allegedly accepting a 20 million bribe may have seriously damaged Maithripala Sirisena ’s image and weakened his position within the tenuous coalition.

Sirisena was reportedly visibly shaken when a senior aide told him on Thursday that his Chief of Staff I. H. M. Mahanama had been caught a few minutes earlier while counting 20 million rupees at the Taj Samudra car park given by an Indian investor in the Kantale Sugar factory which has been put up for privatistion.

"May ape Mahanama?! (Our Mahanama?)" the president reportedly asked twice, not believing that his trusted aide had been arrested following a sting operation four weeks in the making.

Mahanama retired recently from the Ministry of Lands where he was secretary and he is regarded as the key figure who had allegedly obstructed the Indo-Singaporean joint venture that wants to invest $100 million in the defunct Kantale Sugar factory.

Following his retirement last month, Mahanama was chosen to be Sirisena’s Chief of Staff because of the long association between the two men, official sources said.

The second man arrested along with Mahanama on Thursday was Piyadasa Dissanayake, the Chairman of the State Timber Corporation. That appointment was also made by Sirisena as Minister of Environment.

The two men had initially demanded 540 million rupees to sweeten the sugar deal for the Indian and Singapore investors, but later reduced their “fee” to 100 million, according to the bribery detectives. The two men were receiving the first tranche of 20 million rupees when they were caught.

“The President was informed about the involvement of some officials in his secretariat, but he did not know who the target was until the arrest,” an official involved in the sting said.

The President’s office issued a statement on Thursday night in a bid to deflect responsibility. In his rush, he may have also inadvertently convicted the two men even before they were formally charged.

The president “advised the authorities to strictly enforce the law against the two offenders,” the president’s statement said, virtually pronouncing them guilty.
However, political sources say the incident is a major setback for Sirisena who is embroiled in a cold-war power struggle with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Sirisena had used the Central Bank bond scam to discredit Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, arguing that the fugitive former central bank governor Arjuna Mahendran was a nominee of the Prime Minister.

The tables have now turned. By Sirisena’s own logic, he should accept responsibility for Mahanama taking a bribe from a foreign investor. Sirisena was dislodged from his moral high ground last month following reports that his daughter had obtained a liquor licence although he himself had restored a ban on women buying or serving liquor at restaurants.

The sugar deal that went sour is only making things worse for Sirisena.

Private anti-corruption activist Keerthi Thennakoon questioned why Mahanama was made President’s Chief of Staff despite long-standing allegations of corruption against him from his days at the Lands Ministry.

Sirisena attempted to discredit the UNP over the bond scam, but the sugar scandal could be a blot on Sirisena’s record and strengthen allegations of other wrong doings including in the purchase of a naval craft from Russia.

The Presidential Secretariat has denied any wrong doing in buying a vessel from Russia at a cost of over $100 million, but Sirisena’s high officials being implicated in corruption could raise fresh questions about other transactions too. (COLOMBO, May 5, 2018)


 

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14 Comments

  1. Rohan Perera May 08, 09:40 AM

    Lankaenews.com which is banned by President Sirisena has better information: FYI: (source lankaenews.com)Presidents family and family of Dissanayake who took 20 million bribe on behalf of president are closest pals (Photo evidence)- President dashes file on ground in panic(Lanka-e-News - 06.May.2018, 10.00PM) Dr. Mahanama the chief of staff of ......

  2. Raji May 06, 04:54 AM

    When you read ENs Political Correspondent articles there is a clear pattern and there is no doubt that he is a UNPer and hardly publishes Reader Comments on his articles.
    Many of my previous comments never got published.
    The other Journalist who hardly publish reader comments is AFP correspondent. Why are they afraid of publishing alternate point of views by readers of their articles.
    After all it is EN Political Correspondent who published that notorious Alternate Facts about Bond Sales at early stage of discovery of this massive robbery trying divert attention away from Ravi Karunanayake and PM RW.
    As some reader has correctly pointed out, he has deliberately not spoken anything about the fact that one of 2 arrested is closely associated with former Sri Lankan President Chandrika.

  3. Ryan May 06, 12:42 PM

    May be for a idiotically UNP biased website like economy next, the tables have turned, but still RW is far ahead as a pal hora(chief thief) with billions looted in the bond scam to repay debt of unp and putting entire economy in total disparage, sirisena can not beat ranil in the field of looting

  4. punchiputha May 06, 04:06 AM

    Not sure why this writer is naively trying to divert the blame to the President. I am not a fan of the president but obviously the article has ulterior motives to drag Sirisena's name through mud.Sirisena apparently wants the culprit spunished according to the law. So what's the problem brother or sister?Is the Economy next run by Ravi Karunanayaka?

  5. Hashan May 05, 11:53 AM

    On the bond scam MS was critical coz RW was clearly defending Mahendran and was making all attempts at clearing him from allegations when Mahendran was clearly guilty (which is accepted by RW and UNP albeit belatedly). This is a good enough reason to demand RW to step down from PM. However in the bribery case MS has not made any attempts at trying to safeguard the accused. In fact he wants strict action taken in contradiction to RWs way of handling things.
    I don't see the point in saying MS is in bad shape coz of this I incident. Nobody would know if the person they are appointing to a post is 100 genuine. But they could surely punish them if any of their appointees has done any wrong doing. MS has done just that which RW failed convincingly

  6. Vipuli May 05, 10:50 AM

    The tables have now turned. By Sirisenas own logic, he should accept responsibility for Mahanama taking a bribe from a foreign investor. Bloody humbug, How dare you compare the corrupt Ranil to MY3.Mahanama appears to be a totally corrupt fellow before his retirement and appointment he obtained at MY3's office. On the other hand Mahendran was invited and fed by Ranil to steal

  7. Sisira May 05, 08:13 AM

    This guy shouldn't be a head of the country. He's going to create an another Piribaharn soon.

  8. CPD May 05, 07:30 AM

    I don't think you can blame Ranil too much for appointing Mahendran. Though he had a conflict of interest Ranil may have expected him to act properly. Ranil's problem was not taking action when he discovered the fraud. In fact Sirisena's quick action may have been prompted by Ranil's folly. As a result he lost a chance to get a good majority.

  9. Dalit May 05, 07:09 AM

    Ours is an Executive President. It was he who appointed Mahendran the Central Bank Govenor and his Chief of Staff Mahanama. He should execute himself.

  10. Nicky May 05, 07:18 AM

    The President did not shield him but did the right thing, where else Ranil is shielding the big time crooks Arjuna Mahendran Ravi Karunanayake. Ranil is obstructing the investigations to the all time big rogues the Rajapakse family and his cronies.

  11. P de silva - Canada May 05, 05:17 AM

    Mr President must not forget that he is in this position because of the UNP and some other political parties. Not a single politician from the past regime has support or worked for him to have this position, may be by words not by practical.
    After became President some SLFP politicians joins for their benefits to support him and the same time giving away all the information's and plans to the past regime by playing both sides of the card. This is what happens when you forgets the past. Has to be straightforward by work not by the words. Its like that he is making a path for the past regime to comes to power by hook or crook. Hope and wish to have a peaceful better future for the Sri Lankan's. Buddhusaranai.

  12. Kirinde May 05, 04:29 AM

    Even good people become thieves when you associate people like Sirisena who has betraying the country, while cheating the public.

  13. dickie bird May 05, 03:33 AM

    Why is the Economy next shielding people? The Prez advice authorities to strict action??? Laughable. Do not attempt to tickle the reader EN. V
    R no idiots though your media has got a hidden agenda. Don't U think the highest authority in the land in advance who the culprits were if he was informed earlier?This was a well crafted plan by the UNP.
    The Prez did not know untill they were arrested.So Mahanama was a Sirisena confidant. E'Con next avoid stating who Piyadasa Dissanayake was? Why ?????????Why is EN trying to shield this bribe takers connection to CBK ?
    Everybody knows except Economy Next.....So Ranil has got even with Sirisena or do we see Sirisena getting Ranil arrested for looting the CB ??

  14. Nana May 05, 01:50 AM

    But there is a Difference between PM and President. PM tried to protect Ravi, Arjun and clan but not the President, though he also seems to keep quiet on his Family involved in Corruption.
    We should treat any corruption from Yahapalanaya much serious than MR regime, because Yahapalanaya came to power with the promise to catch thieves.
    We should find a method that property of all these thieves to be given back to state else face the jail.

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