Sunday Times former defence correspondent and current political Editor Iqbal Athas has exposed himself badly by circulating an anonymous poison pen note aimed at damaging the reputation of Krishantha Prasad Cooray, who served as chairman of Lake House and Hilton Hotel during the Yahapalanaya regime.
The note titled “Fixer” was widely circulated anonymously to selected individuals in Colombo in a Microsoft Word Document format.
The properties of the word document a copy of which Colombo Telegraph has obtained reveals that the author of the document is no other than the journalist Athas. A screenshot of the properties of the document is shared below:
According to the properties of the Word Document was created on 15th April 2020. The document contains harsh critique of many individuals Athas has targeted in very similar ways in his Sunday Times political column of late. He has made no secret of his antipathy towards a group he refers to as the “Anti Gotabaya cabal” and the former CID led by Shani Abeysekera and journalists, activists and NGOs who have worked against the policies and conduct of the Rajapaksa regime.
Colombo Telegraph learns that recent analytical articles penned by Cooray that has been widely published across the English and Sinhalese media may have angered Athas and the political masters he has lately served. It is not clear whether the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration is using Athas as its hit-man against Cooray because of his recent visibility in the press.
The poison pen note also attacks former Sunday Observer editor Dharisha Bastians against whom Athas makes several unsavoury insinuations and several other business associates linked to Cooray and at least one public official. Athas’s poison pen note accuses the Lake House duo of carrying out a malicious campaign against the current President.
It also falsely claims that Cooray left the island on Christmas day and alleges that former CID SSP Shani Abeysekera had assisted the former Lake House chairman to leave the island directing the OIC CID at the airport to assist the family. However even if the travel dates were accurate, which Colombo Telegraph learns they are not Abeysekera had already been removed as Director CID by 25 December last year.
Both Cooray and Bastians have been forced to leave the country due to threats to their physical safety.
The Sunday Times political column, once a must-read on the weekend for its informative versions of the political happenings of the week and their long term implications became a propaganda piece for the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration since the 16th November presidential election.
Athas’ column leaned towards the SLPP in the run up to the election too, but once Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office as president the Sunday Times political column sank to new depths and Athas became the hit man of all Rajapaksa critics and activists who were perceived as unfavourable to the ruling dispensation.
The Sunday Times political column served as important propaganda for the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration as it navigated the controversial Swiss embassy abduction case. The column in an “independent” newspaper amplified the Government propaganda, criminalizing the victim of the abduction, attacking the Swiss Embassy and its diplomatic officials and specifically targeting CID officer Nishantha Silva and all those who might have helped him to flee the country. Cooray, against whom Athas holds a personal grudge has been a prime target of his attacks in the newspaper in relation to the Swiss case.
Athas’ about turn has shocked many. Just over one year ago the journalist in a lengthy speech revealed many details about how Gotabaya Rajapaksa hunted him and drove him out of the country because of his reporting on the MiG-deal in 2006. Athas is the journalist that first broke the MiG purchase story implicating Gotabaya as defense secretary. Athas told of how men packing weapons had been dispatched to his home by the defence establishment and that he had escaped death or grave physical harm in the nick of time. Wikileaks cables reveal the extent of the former Rajapaksa regime’s anger against Athas.
It is believed that the President’s Lawyer Ali Sabry PC has been a crucial factor in repairing relations between Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Sunday Times reporter. (By Chinthika De Silva)