The Rajapaksa regime was looking after British Members of Parliament from the Conservative Party better than it was looking after the interests of its own MPs and ministers in the Government, UNP MP and former SLFP stalwart and the former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera charged in Parliament yesterday.
Exposing details of monies amounting to thousands of pounds paid by the Sri Lankan Government to several British Parliamentarians from UK’s ruling Conservative Party, Samaraweera accused both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and British Prime Minister David Cameron of putting on what he called a ‘pre Christmas Pantomime’ on the sidelines of CHOGM.
Opening the Committee Stage Discussion on the Votes of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development last week I said that for many of us who have seen through the duplicitous nature of this regime and understood its “Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” policy, it did not come as a great surprise to learn that the family members of this regime have been making large contributions to the ruling Conservative Party in the United Kingdom since 2011, despite the pre-Christmas pantomime – that is what I call it – put on by Prime Minister Cameron and President Rajapaksa on behalf of their respective constituencies during the CHOGM one month ago,” Samaraweera charged.
Samaraweera tabled a letter written to Prime Minister Cameron by British MP Tom Blenkinsop, last week, expressing concern of a news that a prominent donor to the Conservative Party has links to the Rajapaksa’s regime through a nephew of the President and requesting Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to look into the matter urgently.
“Mr. Chairman, since then, I have even more details of how the Rajapaksa regime is resorting to duplicitous and devious methods to win over Members of Parliament and other influential people especially in the House of Commons using government funds which should be allocated to Ministries in Sri Lanka,” the UNP MP revealed.
“In days gone by we have heard that some people, in the absence of grieving kith and kin, used to hire women to cry at their funerals. Likewise, the Rajapaksa Regime, in the absence of friends in the international community, has resorted to buying friends to sing their praise in their respective countries,” he charged.
Quoting from a Sunday Times newspaper report on 15th December, 2013 Samaraweera said the report claimed : “Lanka pays British MP £ 3,412 to attend Business Forum”
“A Democratic Unionist Party Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons has declared that he was paid around Sterling Pounds 3,412 to attend the Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo. The event was held ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last month.
Parliamentarians in the UK are required by statute to declare foreign funds, gifts or invitations they receive. Ian Paisley Jnr, (North Antrim)- who has come to Sri Lanka and on previous visits hosted by the Government, had been paid Sterling Pounds 2,812 for flights to Colombo and a further Sterling Pounds 600 for accommodation,” Samaraweera quoted from the report.
He said the report indicated that the MPs visit was from November 11 to 15 and the purpose of the visit has been declared as “to speak at the Commonwealth Business Forum.”
Samaraweera said that although the MP told the British Parliament he is coming here to speak, he did not speak at this Forum held in Colombo. “In fact, the Conservative Party obviously had become worried about the dubious fascination some of their backbench MPs had for the Rajapaksa Regime and this compelled the Chief Whip of the United Kingdom, Mr. Swayne, I believe, to stop five Conservative MPs coming to Sri Lanka because they had all been previous recipients of all-expense-paid trips to Sri Lanka,” Samaraweera charged.
Then reading from a report in the UK’s Independent newspaper of Friday, 23rd November, 2012 Samaraweera said:
“Four visits in nine months and statements in the Commons on the controversial Rajapaksa regime: why does the 28-year-old MP for Stockton James Wharton care so much about Sri Lanka?”
The MP said that under this heading the report tells how Wharton was the head of a delegation of nine UK Parliamentarians on a journey to Sri Lanka in July and August of that year and it goes on to say how he came again later that year. It also mentions that he is a very frequent visitor to the High Commission.
“Another MP who was stopped from coming to Colombo for CHOGM is Conservative MP, Hon. Aidan Burley in the UK who along with his girlfriend also enjoyed a lavish, all -expenses-paid trip to Sri Lanka early this year. Not only the MP, his girlfriend also wined and dined by the Rajapaksa Regime in Sri Lanka. They were kept at all the highly expensive resorts and wined and dined by the person whose name I cannot say for obvious reasons. You know, the handler and the provider,” Samaraweera charged.
“What is even more shocking according to Westminster sources, Mr. Chairman, this is of course hearsay and may be even gossip. But in the British Parliament they are saying that Mr. Aidan Burley’s wedding which is to be held at a resort in the Maldives in the early part of the next year is also to be financed by the Sri Lankan Government,” Samaraweera told the House.
Samaraweera charged that the Government of Sri Lanka was busy financing the weddings of British MPs but it could not allocate enough funds for Ministers to spend at their ministries.
They are busy financing weddings of British MPs but they cannot give any of you enough money to spend in your Ministry. This is outrageous.
Samaraweera continued to tell Parliament of the reports that had appeared in the British press.
“Along with them, the other MPs according to British Parliament who enjoyed this lavish all -expenses-paid trip coordinated by the handler and the provider, other than James Wharton, Ian Paisley and Aidan Burley are, Mark Pritchard, Member of Parliament, Conservative MP, Vice-Chair of the Sri Lanka All-Party Parliamentary Group, the Hon. Brian Binley, MP, Conservative, Joint Secretary of the Sri Lanka All-Party Parliamentary Group, then of course, from the House of Lords, Lord Naseby, Conservative and Joint Chair of the Sri Lanka All-Party Parliamentary Group, Lord Rogan who is an Ulster Unionist. All these people, from the information that we have, have accepted hospitality in Sri Lanka and all their tickets and their stay was paid for by the Sri Lankan Government. According to conservative estimates, the expenses incurred only for these seven MPs have been over Sterling Pounds 100,000. Just for seven people, over Sterling Pounds 100,000,” he quoted.
“As I said last time, the “Nonises” and the “Monises” of the world are busy grandstanding about our sovereignty and our 2500 year history to the fascination of the chattering classes of Colombo while at the same time they are busy squandering our much needed foreign reserves,” the UNP MP said.
Samaraweera said that the Government was spending the country’s much needed foreign reserves trying to buy up foreign MPs or showering them with hideously expensive gifts as they have done with the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot.
“I must say has declared his gifts including the diamond cuff-links in his own country. In fact, Mr. Chairman, I am rather curious to know the type of gifts the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth got for saving the day for this regime going as far as hiding two reports regarding the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake from CMAG Members. So, I am sure, he would also have been showered with very expensive gifts of all kinds and I am rather curious to find out what those gifts were,” he quipped.
“Finally, as far as this matter is concerned, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to you, I think the Madamulana Doctrine on international relations seems to be, “If you cannot win them, buy them.” That seems to be the doctrine of this Government or at least a section of the Government who are working,” the MP charged.