South Asia

Used Viber to unite people against Rajapaksa: Chandrika

Former Srilankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga during a select media interaction in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

No “outside force”, including India, played any role in Sri Lankan presidential Elections that saw the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa, says Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga. Ms. Kumaratunga, who is in India as the representative of the Sri Lankan government to attend the Hindu-Buddhist conclave held in Bodh Gaya also denied allegations by Mr. Rajapaksa and international agency reports that the RAW had supplied DRDO-made telephones to her in order to allow her to communicate with then-presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

“We were using Viber. And the government didn’t know how to tap Viber. Sri Lanka didn’t have that technology, otherwise we would have all been dead,” Ms. Kumaratunga said in an interaction with journalists in New Delhi that included The Hindu.This is the first time she has given details of her role in the surprise electoral win for President Sirisena in January 2015.

Ms. Kumaratunga, who is a senior member of the Sirisena government and has been appointed its envoy on the reconciliation process with the war-torn Tamil-majority North and East province, said that relations with India had improved because of the new government. “We saw the bad consequences of Rajapaksa’s policies towards India,” Ms. Kumaratunga adding that the past eight months of the new government had “picked up” from where her own presidency in 2005 had left off. Pointing to the visit by President Sirisena to India in January and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka in March this year as proof of closer ties, Ms. Kumaratunga announced that Prime Minister Ranil Wickramsinghe would be visiting New Delhi on September 15th.

Ms. Kumaratunga claimed Mr. Rajapaksa, who had been chosen by her as a successor to lead the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) in 2005, had “criminalised” the island nation and turned it into a “police state”, and described for the first time how she brought the opposition parties together with Mr. Sirisena at a time where it was difficult to evade detection by SL intelligence agencies. “Mr. Rajapaksa had forbidden every single person of our party, the SLFP, from talking to me. Amidst such circumstances, I identified Maithripala Sirisena. There weren’t many more to identify as it was too difficult to find anyone in the SLFP who wasn’t known to be corrupt or a murderer.”

Ms. Kumaratunga’s candid comments come after months of holding a silence over how she had contacted various leaders over a period of “two to two and a half years” in 2013-2014 in order to stitch the winning coalition. “I realised that we would need an alliance between the SLFP and UNP (opposition), because the opposition in our country had been weakened. So I had a hand in bringing them all together, and that was it. Eventually the common enemy (Rajapaksa) brought us together,” she told journalists.

In an interview to The Hindu in March 2015, Mr. Rajapaksa had accused Mr. Sirisena of “betraying him” and saying that “Not only RAW but also the Western agencies, working together, possibly for the first time” had engineered his defeat by helping defectors within his party. Asked for her response, Ms. Kumaratunga told The Hindu, “That’s not true. No outside force had anything to do with. We can manage our own affairs….Because he expected to win the election, he was in shock when he lost, and tried to look for scapegoats.”

Ms. Kumaratunga admitted there had been a “strain” and “considerable pressure” on her during recent parliamentary elections when President Sirisena gave a SLFP ticket to Mr. Rajapaksa. “Yes there was a strain among all of us, not only between the President and the PM. But that has since been resolved,” she told The Hindu, adding that President Sirisena had “redeemed himself” by his subsequent statements against Rajapaksa and the sacking of two party secretaries accused of being loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 6:39:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/used-viber-to-unite-people-against-rajapaksa-chandrika/article7621940.ece

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