By Colombo Telegraph –
Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne phoned the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and urged him not to write to Lord Christopher Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, regarding misconduct of its journalists, the Colombo Telegraph can exclusively reveal today.
Karunaratne phoned Dr Roger Srivasan, the immediate past president of the UNP’s UK Branch stating that he couldn’t get through to BBCs Chandana Keerthi Bandara and requesting that Srivasan tell Bandara that he, Karunaratne had contacted Wickremesinghe regarding the matter. When questioned Dr Roger told Colombo Telegraph that he didn’t know what the message was about, but passed the message to Bandara.
Two BBC journalists, BBC World Service producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara and the Colombo Reporter Elmo Fernando, applied for interest-free loans of Rs. 1,200,000/-each from state banks to purchase cars or vans, where the interest will be paid by the Treasury using tax payer money. This is part of a Government scheme, a move criticised by media rights organisations and the opposition as an attempt to purchase loyalty.
Talking exclusively to Colombo Telegraph Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said November 23 that he is writing to Lord Christopher Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust regarding the misconduct of its journalists. “The BBC must investigate its journalists for this and it is clearly a violation of its principles; I ‘m writing this to Lord Christopher Patten and will also table the letter in Parliament,” the leader of the opposition said.
Colombo Telegraph learnt that leftists Nava Sama Samaja Party leader Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne phoned Ranil Wickremesinghe urging him not to write. We are not clear on what grounds he made this request. We assume that the reason is the fact that BBC journalists Chandana Keerthi Bandara is a member of his party.
The day before yesterday (December 18) Colombo Telegraph sent an email to Karunaratne asking whether he phoned Wickremesinghe or not . We asked him three questions;
1. We have credible evidence that you talked to Ranil Wickemesinghe and urged him to not write Lord Patern regarding BBC journalists applying for interest free loans. Why did you do that?
2. What is your opinion on your party member, BBC journalist Chandana Keerthi Bandara, applying for this interest free loan from state bank where the treasury paid the interest to the relevant bank using tax payer money?
3. Don’t you think that this is unethical and amounts to a bribe being given to journalists by the Rajapaksa regime?
He didn’t reply and when we sent a mild reminder he replied December 19 th just saying “thanks”. Then we again asked him to answer our questions, he chose not to. When he came on gmail chat and we again reminded him to answer our questions. He has not so far. Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne regularly chats with Colombo Telegraph and its journalists.
In the meantime, he sent us his Wednesday column which the Colombo Telegraph refrained from publishing until he answers our queries.
The Colombo Telegraph has been unable to reach the Leader of the Opposition for comment. Both his office and home contacts informed us that he is out of the country.
Last week BBC Sinhala service head Priyath Liyanage tried to mislead the Nation editor Malinda Seneviratne by sending a clarification on a comment made by Seneviratne on BBC employees seeking to benefit from the aforementioned loan scheme. Liyanage said that no one from the BBC had obtained such loans and neither would they ever do so. When Seneviratne asked if loans had been applied for, Liyanage admitted that this was indeed the case, effectively demonstrating that he was deliberately concealing information vital to the matter at hand.