A dirty media war has broken out in Colombo with a new businessman turned broker and now publisher together with a TV tycoon are jointly gunning for an unnamed Political Correspondent.
The first salvo was fired when the Ceylon Today newspaper (Sunday Edition) owned by Tiran Alles today. Without naming the Correspondent, a front page report said the journalist in question was a rapist, took bribes to build a “palatial house” and was corrupt.
Who is this Political Correspondent? Inquiries by the Colombo Telegraph revealed that the vicious personal attack was on Iqbal Athas now the Political Editor of The Sunday Times.
The cause for the personal offensive against him, initiated by the Editorial Director of the Mawbima Group, is because Athas exposed the role of both Alles and Raja Mahendran alias Kili, the owner of Maharaja Television. However, he did not name them personally in The Sunday Times.
Inquiries by Colombo Telegraph revealed that it was Alles, a close friend and ally of leaders of the UPFA Government, who was responsible for efforts in getting Sajith Premadasa to become the Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP). Wickremesinghe will propose his name at a Working Committee meeting on September 23. He worked through General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, former UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema and Sagala Ratnayake among others.
Alles, very well informed sources in Colombo told Colombo Telegraph had in fact drafted a letter written by Sajith Premadasa containing a list of demands from Ranil Wickremesinghe. He was helped by Kili Maharajah. After the exposure by The Sunday Times, the two persons have been badly embarrassed. Alles had asked Thushara Gunaratne to give top priority to “exposing” Athas. Gunaratne tried unsuccessfully to obtain information from his former colleagues at the Lankadeepa but told them something “exclusive” was being published on Sunday.
Reliable sources in Colombo say Attanayake was allegedly paid an advance of Rs 25 million for lobbying to get Ranil Wickremesinghe to agree to making Premadasa Deputy Leader. Through this move both Alles and Kili Maharajah are helping to ensure there is no common candidate against President Rajapaksa. Premadasa has already declared publicly that the next presidential candidate from the UNP will contest under the elephant symbol.
Iqbal Athas was not available for comment today. A member of his household who answered the telephone said he was out of Colombo and not expected till mid week. His mobile phone was switched off. All this while, the Mawbima has been directing personal attacks against the publisher of The Sunday Times, Ranjit Wijewardene and his son Ruwan Wijewardene, MP. The venom against them has been very poisonous for Thushara Gunaratne who was one time Deputy Editor of the Lankadeepa. He was forced to leave after it was discovered that he was feeding scurrilous material against President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to some non Sri Lankan websites.
Tiran Alles, now an MP in the Democratic Front became wealthy after he became the sole marketeer of mobile phones in the former LTTE controlled Northern Province. As revealed in the Colombo Telegraph, he once told a news conference that he carried money to the LTTE in order to persuade them not to allow voters to take part in the 2005 presidential elections.
A one time mentor of Alles has said that he will expose both Kili Maharajah and Alles soon after the Uva Provincial Council elections are over on September 20.
This week UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe pleaded with Mangala Samaraweera not to issue a strongly worded statement against Alles and Kili Maharaja. He had branded them as “wheeler dealers” trying to make government and defame anyone who is not in line with their thinking.
UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake told media “Tiran Alles is causing all the mischief from behind the scenes. He is now exposed. Wait till next week. There will be more known about this small time mudalali who is a traitor to our party.”