Colombo Telegraph

President Rajapaksa Sanctions Ongoing Media Attack On Keheliya

The recent spate of attacks against Government Spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella by at least one newspaper whose owners are close to the President  has been sanctioned at the highest levels, Colombo Telegraph learns.

The Nation newspaper owned in part by President Rajapaksa’s nephew Prasanna Wickremasuriya published a lead story on Sunday (19) charging that Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella is implicated in an irregular transaction where Rs. 3.3 million was obtained from the state run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) for a vehicle purportedly being used for personal purposes.

Quoting highly placed government sources, The Nation newspaper said that during the period between July 2010 and August 2011, the Minister had obtained Rs. 240,000 per month from the SLRC for a Land Cruiser Jeep that was in his fleet of vehicles and the then SLRC authorities had meekly done the payment violating all rules and regulations pertaining to such transactions.

It is not immediately clear why the President and senior officials may have sanctioned the action against Minister Rambukwella but sources said the conflicts could be linked to allegations that the Minister forced out former Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Chairman, Mohan Samaranayake. Samaranayake remains Presidential Media Spokesman and claims the Minister had forced him to quit the post.

The internal rift is the latest in simmering tensions between various rival factions within the Rajapaksa regime. It comes in the wake of a major row between Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne and UPFA alliance partner the Jathika Hela Urumaya over the heroin scandal. The JHU is bringing major pressure to bear upon the regime over Jayaratne continuing to hold office.  The Prime Minister represents the SLFP Old Guard that is engaged in a silent war with the Rajapaksas within the party.

The Nation editor Malinda Seneviratne when contacted by Colombo Telegraph said, ‘The minister may have been aware or he may have been ignorant about this issue.  However, this irregular transaction has been carried out in his name.  The Minister, we hope, will respond.  More importantly, there is the question of irregularity on the part of officials.  Rupavahini has a new Chairman.  We are confident that he will look into it and clear things up. I don’t know what this ‘sanctioning at the highest levels’ is all about.  What we publish is not vetted by anyone, high or low.”

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