20 June, 2024


Ranil’s Mythical Access To Global Finance & Political Longevity Is Media Creation

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

We Sri Lankans are born suckers due to our gullibility worsened by a short attention span. How else could one explain how the beleaguered Gotabaya Rajapaksa struggling to hang on to his presidency would have dared to appoint the hugely unpopular Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister? Wickremesinghe along with the Rajapaksas would most likely be the most unpopular/disliked politicians in Sri Lanka. There is considerable print media hype that Wickremesinghe has accumulated considerable experience as a five-time Prime Minister with access to global funding and investments. What the media fail to mention is (i) only in one instance was he able to complete even 3 years in a 5 year term for a PM (ii) during his five-time tenure as PM, his United National Party never had a majority in Parliament (iii) his record in getting FDIs is dismal. Does anyone recall the dubious “$ 3.85 billion oil refinery in Hambantota” and the 2017 Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant in Kuliyapitiya which turned out to be a hoax? There was even a “ground breaking ceremony” for the Volkswagen plant!

At the most recent August 2020 General Election, the UNP ‘led’ by Wickremesinghe for almost 27 years was electorally decimated by not winning even a single seat. He himself lost the Colombo District which has always been a bastion of the UNP. He has clung on as UNP leader despite the party under him losing a record number of nationwide elections and thousands of exasperated party faithful by tinkering with the already authoritarian UNP constitution. It is widely believed that his inability to have popular appeal is largely due to his inability to connect with the masses.

Ranil’s Saviours

Ranil Wickremesinghe’s fairy-tale entry into the world of politics at the age of 28 was after his uncle J. R. Jayewardene led the UNP to a landslide victory at the General Election held in 1977 where the UNP obtained an unprecedented five– sixth majority in parliament. In this landslide victory, Wickremesinghe effortlessly won his Biyagama electorate under the then ‘first-past-the-post’ system. Jayewardene lost no time in appointing his nephew as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and later as the youngest Cabinet rank minister.

One may well ask how was Wickremesinghe time after time able to pull a rabbit out of the hat to be Prime Minister five times? The simple answer is the obsession of dynastic interests in control of the mainstream media not to let go of dynastic influence of politics in this country. Wickremesinghe and the UNP are the conduit to continue with the political influence of the Senanayake/Wijewardene/Jayewardene/Bandaranaike clans through Wickremesinghe’s laid-back first-cousin Ruwan Wijewardene whose father Ranjit Wijewardene is the feared Czar of the print media in this country.

There is something about the printed word that makes it more credible and hence more influential to condition the human mind in a manner that the social and visual media can never match. It is in this context that the antics of Sri Lanka’s most influential print media company – Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) owned by Wickremesinghe’s uncle Ranjit Wijewardene and the next in line Upali Newspapers Limited (UNL) founded by Wijewardene’s late cousin Upali Wijewardene must be viewed. UNL is now controlled by Upali’s widow Lakmani who is the daughter of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s late brother Dr. Seevali Ratwatte. Both WNL Chairman Ranjit and UNL founder Upali are cousins of J. R. Jayewardene who brought his nephew Wickremesinghe into politics.

It must be flagged that the mainstream print media in this country also has its internet presence.

Ruwan & Dynasty

It is apparent that the real motive of WNL to promote the disastrous political track record of its owner’s nephew Ranil (sister’s son) is to carve out a political future for Wijewardene’s laid-back son Ruwan who despite WNL’s cost free advertising blitz could not get him elected at the August 2020 General Election from the Gampaha District even with its Biyagama pocket borough.

Ruwan was catapulted to national politics virtually from obscurity by first cousin Ranil who lost no time in propelling him out of turn to the position of UNP Deputy Leader. This is similar to the favour done by J. R. Jayewardene to his nephew Ranil in 1977. The country has paid dearly for this in the case of Wickremesinghe and is well on the way to a similar fate at the hands of Ruwan.

Among many examples of the dynastic project is the ‘Daily Mirror’ (7 September 2020) Op-Ed article in vivid colour “Back To Senanaiksm And Save The Party” directly promoting Ruwan whose mother Ranjani is a grand-daughter of the co-founder of the UNP and the country’s first Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake:

“Ranil who commands a majority in the decision-making Working Committee will never give in to rebels. Only with the emergence of a new leader with the blessing of clergy and rank and file can rescue the grand old party from the present disastrous situation.”

“A moderate, soft-spoken, patriotic young leadership is what the beleaguered party requires for the upliftment of the moral of membership and for its survival.”

Another example of the dynastic project is:

“PM to bring in political reforms, secure foreign assistance: Ruwan” – ‘Daily Mirror’ 31 May 2022

Fear of WNL

It is widely perceived that WNL has a dominant influence on the print media of this country – ‘Irida Lankadeepa’, ‘Lankadeepa’ (Daily), ‘Sunday Times’, ‘Daily Mirror’, ‘Daily FT’ and ‘Tamil Mirror’. The next in line UNL publications include ‘Divaina’, ‘The Island’ and ‘Sunday Island’.

It is believed that the political establishment and the competing media in this country are averse to getting on the wrong side of WNL and its owner Ranjit Wijewardene. He is the driving force behind the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) under which falls the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) with its farcical ‘self-regulation’. Since its inception in 2003, the SLPI and PCCSL have had only two chairmen – Ranjit Wijewardene from 2003-2008 and ‘outsider’ Kumar Nadesan 2008 to date (14 years!). It is obvious that Nadesan would never have come anywhere close to being SLPI/PCCSL chairman if not for the ‘imprimatur’ of Wijewardene. Nadesan is the Managing Director of Express Newspapers Ceylon Ltd., who are the publishers of ‘Virakesari’.

Just one example is sufficient to showcase the farcical nature of the ‘Self-Regulation’ practiced by the PCCSL and the dominance Wijewardene has on the print media of this country. The Editor of ‘Sunday Times’ (WNL publication) Sinha Ratnatunga is also Deputy Chairman of PCCSL. Hence, anyone having a complaint against the ‘Sunday Times’ has to complain to Ratnatunga about Ratnatunga! Fear of WNL is such that no media institution or even the reading public have dared to protest against this horrific ‘conflict of interest’.

The fear of WNL is such that the appointment of Wijewardene’s son Ruwan as Minister of Mass Media by cousin Ranil (then PM) did not draw even a whimper in protest from either the state or private media although he had access to information from competing media institutions.

Ruwan & Easter Sunday

Although Ruwan was State Minister of Defence during the entire period of the Yahapalana government, no one – not even the now unusually quiet Cardinal has demanded accountability from Ruwan for his share of responsibility for the Easter Sunday carnage. Even if he was kept away from some meetings of the National Security Council, are we expected to believe that Ruwan did not have knowledge of the attack even to the extent of Harin Fernando’s hospitalized father?

Apart from this, would not have investigative journalists from his father’s media empire have tipped him off?

Ruwan reportedly stating “there was no information to suggest that Zahran was engaged in terrorist activities” (‘Daily Mirror’ 19 Aug 2020) is contradicted by SI Srimal Sanjeewa of the CID informing the Presidential Commission probing the Easter Sunday attacks that Zahran had been conducting a training camp in the Puttalam area “from 2015 to 2019” on “the use of Type-56 firearms and hand grenades”. (‘Daily Mirror’ 1 September 2020).

Why does no one call out Ruwan for his share of responsibility for the Easter Sunday carnage? Is it the fear of WNL?

“Ruwan vows to safeguard country’s security” is the news item in WNL publication ‘Daily FT’ (12 September 2015) after he assumed office as State Minister of Defence. Given below is a picture of Ruwan signing documents after he assumed office. Also in the picture is his father Ranjit Wijewardene – Chairman and owner of WNL.

Media Build-Up of Ranil

1) “PM confident of securing $6bn to boost economy” – ‘Daily Mirror’ 3 June 2022 (Front Page with RED Lettering)

Reality: PM – “any bridging finance to help alleviate the crisis is dependent on an agreement with the IMF being reached.”

2) “New PM could bring about political stability in SL: U.S. Ambassador” – ‘Daily Mirror’ 28 May 2022 (Front Page)

Reality: “The U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung expressed hope that the government, including the new Prime Minister, would be able to bring about political stability and overcome the current economic crisis.” (emphasis mine)

3) ADB, AIIB, WB in joint action plan to help Sri Lanka – ‘Daily FT’ 23 May 2022 (Front Page)

Reality: “World Bank Statement on Sri Lanka” – WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022— “Recent media reports have inaccurately stated that the World Bank is planning support for Sri Lanka in the form of a bridge loan or new loan commitments, among other incorrect assertions.”

4) “Boris Johnson pledges support for SRI LANKA” – ‘Daily Mirror’ 31 May 2022 (Front Page)

Reality: PM – “He pledged to support us especially in the fields of tackling climate change and assisting Sri Lanka in becoming an export oriented open economy”

5) PM holds phone conversation with USAID Administrator Samantha Power – ‘Daily FT’ 25 May 2022

Reality: USAID Spokesperson Rebecca Chalif“need to urgently undertake political and economic reforms to gain the trust of the Sri Lankan people.”

6) “At least someone, whether bravely or naively, took up the challenge of steering the ship of state that has hit an iceberg and is sinking” – ‘Sunday Times’ 22 May 2022 (Editorial)

7) “The daunting challenge before PM Ranil Wickremesinghe” – ‘Sunday Island’ 29 May 2022 (Op-Ed)

“At long last the nation has a new prime minister who has a unique record of having been PM of the country five times in the past. The wealth of experience such a person must have will be invaluable in the present context.” – Columnist

8) Letter to Editor: “Lee Kuan Yew of SL” – ‘Daily Mirror’ 24 May 2022 (Editorial Page)

Ranil Wickremesinghe is said to have stated: “When I end my political journey, I want the people of this country to remember me as the Lee Kuan Yew of Sri Lanka. My wish is to leave that legacy behind me. This is my message to the people of this country.”

Under Ranil’s Watch

1) The egregious Central Bank Bond Scams of 27 February 2015 and March 2016 took place under the watch of then PM Wickremesinghe after he unprecedentedly removed the CBSL from the Finance Ministry and brought it under his Ministry of Policy Planning and Economics Affairs. The Deputy Minister was current SJB stalwart Dr. Harsha de Silva.

2) Did not the Yahapalana government in which Wickremesinghe was PM in effect facilitate money laundering when it repealed the Exchange Control Act No. 24 of 1953 and brought into law the new Foreign Exchange Act No. 12 of 2017?  The new law certified on 28 July 2017 became effective from 20 November 2017. Eran Wickramaratne current SJB stalwart was State Minister of Finance from May 2017.

3) A precursor to the controversial Yahapalana inspired Foreign Exchange Act was the ‘invitation’ issued by then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake through India’s ‘The Hindu’ of 5 October 2015 to “Sri Lankans and Indians who had to take back their deposits from banks in Switzerland to place their funds in Sri Lanka”.  He had further assured “No questions would be asked”!

4) Did not the Yahapalana government in which Wickremesinghe was PM propose dubious FDI projects such as the “$ 3.85 billion oil refinery in Hambantota” and the 2017 Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant in Kuliyapitiya which turned out to be a hoax? There was even a ground breaking ceremony” for the Volkswagen plant!


Is it not dangerous to give the media both state/private – a free pass to operate without ‘independent’ regulation? It is a myth that the privately owned media is superior to the state owned media.

It is not for nothing that the media is referred to as the ‘Fourth Estate’ after the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Hence, in the context of the ‘Constitutional Council’ and ‘Independent Commissions’ being proposed under the 21st Amendment to encompass the First, Second and Third Estates, is there any rationale to exclude the Fourth Estate? This by no means should be a mechanism to regulate media freedom. What needs to be regulated is any ‘abuse’ of the ‘free’ media by the owners who are invariably businessmen.

Would the Print and TV media empires of Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) and the Capital Maharaja Group (CMG) have reached their current status if not for state sponsored projects – chief among them being the ‘Mahaweli Project’ – Randenigala Dam (WNL) and Victoria Dam (CMG).

There is documentary evidence of some media companies ‘planting’ non-existent stories falsely attributed to sources such as even the ‘London Times’. At their own whim newspapers decide when or not to grant a ‘Right of Reply’. Alleged plagiarism by some columnists have never been transparently addressed. Is not the mainstream media selective in exposing corruption?  

SJB MP S. M. Marikkar when referring to the ‘Pandora Papers’ and the past employment of Thirukumar Nadesan avoided even naming the company where Nadesan worked. He merely

told Parliament “Nadesan was only an employee of a famous Company”. Is not this company Capital Maharaja Group, the owner of the Sirasa/MTV/Shakthi television empire?

Apparently no one in parliament even asked for the identity of this “famous Company”! This is the extent to which even politicians fear the media.

Under the circumstances, is it not crucial to bring the ‘Fourth Estate’ (media) under the ambit of the ‘Constitutional Council’? Should this not be part of the ‘systemic change’ being demanded?

A word of caution on the ‘Constitutional Council’ must be flagged. There does not appear to be clarity on its composition which is crucial to make it truly independent.

I urge any section of the media to refute any of this for which in the first instance the article must be published!

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The article is more on the power of WNL in local media scene than on Ranil.

    More should have been written on what an abject Ranil has been in his role as leader of the UNP

    • 26

      Wow, Thanks a lot Amrit for this expose of the whole corrupt media Establishment in this miracle of Modyas!
      It is obviously the Newspaper business in this country which keeps the people singularly stupid and uneducated and ignorant of the corruption and foreign hands that control the Political Puppets in this country that also clearly fund the Wijaya News papers and Island group.
      The Aragalaya Protetors should go protest at the WIjaya Newpapers which also promote the Covid hoax and all the American Spin and propaganda.

    • 13

      “The article is more on the power of WNL in local media scene than on Ranil.”
      Readers must always be aware of the axes that writers wish to grind.
      After all, unlike WNL, CT will publish anything.

      • 16

        “The egregious Central Bank Bond Scams of 27 February 2015 and March 2016 took place under the watch of then PM Wickremesinghe after he unprecedentedly removed the CBSL from the Finance Ministry”
        So, the author is back to his broken drum again.
        For the umpteenth time, please explain exactly how much was lost in this “egregious ” scam, and who lost it? Strangely, the author has never been able to do this quite simple calculation. Whose axe is being ground here?

        • 23

          It is very silly and uneducated to ask how much was lost in the Bond scam Old codger.
          You have a axe to grind with the Rajapaksa family, so can you tell us how much they have made from their various rackets ? How much was made from Port City or the MIG deal for instance ?

          When it comes to Ranil/Mahendran you jump and ask this question as if very intelligent !
          If Aloysious did not know the interest rate decided by the monetary board or the quantity of bids they were going to accept, he may have put a lower bid and for a lower quantity. In this case Aloysious knew the exact size of the bid and how high the interest rate was going to be ! Had he bad low , the government would have saved billions in interest payments to Perpetual .

          What can the government or the people do when Mr Ranil the PM is backing Aloysious ( remember Palisena evidence-remind me to ask PM for Monetary Board minutes ! ) and his father in law is Governor of the Central bank ! !

          That is how low Ranil is !

          • 10

            “It is very silly and uneducated to ask how much was lost in the Bond scam Old codger.”
            Well if you know so much, why not answer the question? That’s a direct challenge, which I know you can’t answer.

  • 11

    Karma is a B!tch.
    “Prez Rajapaksa vowed to finish the remaining two years.”

    ““I can’t go as a failed president,” Rajapaksa”
    Interesting: he knows he is a failure.

    Should check how many times he did his o/l just because he dint want to leave school as a failure.

    • 5

      experts believe today that GOTAs would not allow him to comprehend even simple things-

      He does not care about the anxities of the very people, like a blood sucker would not relinquish the host, he would remain unturn.
      like for example GGGama Aragalaya according to Gota s interpretation remains as ” a system change” keeping Gota further as the president. This is what Dr H Silva added to the press lately. It is almost like, the people stay singing in front of a deaf/blind person.

      If GOTA has a brain to the size of a needle head, he would check it again as to why PEOPLE demolished their parents monuments which Gota s fund abuses brought into reality. People s hatreds are not beyond all margins, would SRILANKENs (majority being sinhala buddhists) ever destroy such monuments ?

      These mlechcha men are stupid as no scales would ever measure their stupidities. To whom we should put the blame, if not to the majority of SLPPrs.

  • 31

    Amrit, I seldom agreed with your opinions. But you are absolutely right on this. If people bother to connect the dots, the whole Lankan political SHAM is not a secret anymore. It’s 75 years of kleptocracy committed by our political dynasties, who appear to oppose, but underneath are working together. Credit to Rajapaksas, for breaking this 50 years cycle but in turn screwed the country for another two decades. As in many countries, fake media owned by these political crooks, have kept them in power. In this day in age, where social media has replaced print, nothing seems to have changed in Silly Lanka.

  • 25

    According to OldCoger Srilanka got profited from the CBSL Bond Scam engineered by Ranil Wickremesinghe and masterminded by Arjun Mahendran consolidating the prowess of his son-in-law.
    How come Ranil is not having any more of it to save the bankrupt CBSL?

    • 4

      It’s very simple. In 2015, the government borrowed 10 billion rupees for 30 years from Aloysius at 12% interest. That was 3% over the going rate at the time. So, a “loss” of 3 % p.a.
      Today, the govt borrows at 22%. But it still only has to pay 13% for what it borrowed from Aloysius till 2045. So, that’s a “profit” of 9%.
      “How come Ranil is not having any more of it to save the bankrupt CBSL?” How can CBSL save itself by borrowing more ? These things are very simple, dear HC, It is the ignorant (or devious) media that misleads people.

      • 1

        There is a little catch.
        Did the CBSL work it all out about the potential profit?
        You sound right on the net loss and the flaw in comparing the Bond scam with outright theft.
        But what bother many are the seeming irregularities in the bond scam.

        • 2

          I don’t think the CBSL planned anything. But any economist worth his salt ( and I am not one), knows that interest rates aren’t set in stone. They hit 22% even under Chandrika. What is interesting is the long period, 30 years. As I have repeatedly said, given rapid depreciation, by 2045, 10 billion rupees might not get you an used Maruti.
          Of course inside info helped Aloysius, but it was the government that borrowed his money. That fact seems to escape many keyboard warriors.

          • 2

            My main objection has been about insider information. The parties involved made it look very ugly.
            As for exchange of attacks over treasury bonds that add to the debt burden, it is the pot calling the kettle whatever.

  • 2

    Ranil’s Mythical Access To Global Finance & Political Longevity Is Media Creation

    Not People creation

    People are calling for the president for no confidence having 69000 votes, the president is calling for having confidence for Ranil having no votes.
    Democracy is by the people for the people from the people.
    Since opposite is happening Let all call for no confidence for democracy

  • 25

    Old codger says any one who criticizes Ranil is pro Rajapkse ! Now ranil is with Rajapaksa leaving old codger to hold on to a lie he created !

    When ranil was PM-2015 to 2020 our economy actually went down. Investments were less than 2010 to 2015.

    Ranil tried to save Hambantota harbour but no county helped him. Only Old codger thinks Ranil has a big pull with Washington.

    US has a good intelligence service. they would have informed Biden that ranil is a loser pretending to be all -knowing.

    • 3

      Pissed off are we? So why not come clean and say who you’re rooting for?

      • 21

        “Rooting” ? I thought that was a Ranil speciality .

        By the way who are you rooting for ? A man who the people rejected absolutely and now shamelessly PM with the votes of the Rajapaksa MPs ?

        Before you become a PM or MP , a man must have a sense of self respect. Ranil hasn’t got it. He knows it. That is why he tries to hide his deep rooted lowness with poses or arrogance and knowledge. All conmen are like that.

        Try to think young and fresh Old Codger. Your era is gone. Our nation has rejected the spurious elite like Ranil.

        • 4

          deepthi silva

          “Before you become a PM or MP , a man must have a sense of self respect. “

          Does self respect apply to Ranil only?

          “Our nation has rejected the spurious elite like Ranil.”

          When will the nation reject crooks, murderers, war criminals, Sinhala/Buddhists, racists, saffronistas, stupids, rapists, political thugs, fascist tendencies, fascists, ………………….. and their b***s carriers?

        • 6

          “Our nation has rejected the spurious elite like Ranil.”
          Your nation??
          Aren’t you an economic refugee in the West? This is my nation, not yours.

    • 0

      “Ranil tried to save Hambantota harbour”

  • 0

    The family owned politically biased good old traditional print media is becoming irrelevant. Even the relatively new TV Media enabled by technology is becoming irrelevant. People get first hand information through the social media.
    Even in the west Media Barons like Maxwells, Murdoch’s who monopolised the print and tv media are losing their shine.
    In Sri Lanka however its a good old Sinhala achaaru.
    Ranils’s, Rajapkasas, Bandaranaikes,Jeyawardenes, Senanayake’s etc etc are all a close knit clan.
    As you can see from what is happening now.
    Ranil is bailing out the ageing Gota, Mahinda, Basil etc and laying the road for Namal to take over.
    The second and third generations of Bandarnaikes,Rajapkasas, Ranils, will take over and carry on with the corruption…they have the financial muscle.There are so many hidden unknown names behind the scene ensuring this.
    Gota may go home and enjoy a luxury life knowing the next family generation is taking over, while ordinary Sri Lankans scrape a living.
    GotoGoHomeGamma – may become a permanent village and GotaGoHome – may enter the oxford dictionary. One contribution to the English Language by Sri Lanka that Gota may take credit.
    Even Buddha wont be able to save Sri Lanka despite his statues towering over every nook and corner of Sri Lanka.

  • 23

    1 of 2…..Amrit, a very good account on the spurious SL media. It is quite obvious what these media today focus mainly on is the ‘magic’ that Ranil guy; Sri Lanka’s greatest political loser, is going to perform soon. One major reason for this situation is the lack of resistance for fake media from people themselves! Your opening sentence represents the political ineptitude of the average voter very well, particularly the Sinhala Buddhists. Funnily, we hold one of the highest literacy rates in the world but unfortunately with an utterly naïve political rationality. UNESCO says our literacy rate is 92.6% but when it comes to electing our MPs are we ANY different from Pakistani people with 56.4% literacy rate? Not at all!! We have been discussing this for donkey’s years to reason out why, but it seems that we only focus on pocket causes, not the entire political fabric. To me, the main reason why we have this level of gullibility is because of the marriage of our ancient feudalism with the Westminster system. Which means the incompatibility of our collectivist social values with the individual egalitarian values of the Westminster system. Autocracy Vs democracy!

  • 8

    2 of 2….For thousands of years, we were a feudal society serving the ruthless monarchy obediently, contended with whatever the leftovers they threw at us. We were highly dependent at the mercy of an individual sitting on a throne. Or a few of his/her cronies. So, a system that protects our personal rights is a strange concept. A system in which we can rise and fight for our individual rights that nurtures a wider democracy is alien and non-digestible to our feudal minds. A horizontal equality, not a vertical favouritism. Our feudal minds yearn for a super king like Dutugamunu. An almighty ‘Diyasena Kumaraya’. Or a system where we can say ‘yes, your honour’ and get our personal favours fulfilled. That was why we as a nation did not like the strong regulatory systems the British introduced which demanded utmost integrity from public servants has been a total failure today. The very reason why in 1956, soon after the British left us, set out the first demolition squad to destroy the much-respected AR, FR and other fiscal policies. That continues up until today!! The very reason why the majority of the population did not rise against the wider social injustice up until the start of GGG.

  • 0

    THE TERM fourth estate referring to the Press was coined in 1837 in Europe.

    By 1947 Lake house owned by the Wijeyawardena family became the kingmakers in old Ceylon. SWRD once referred it as the Gutter Press. After the take-over their sphere of influence plunged but Ranjit the son [IN HIS EARLY 80S ] still manages to wield some influence and shaping public opinion particularly about his son and Nephew Ranil.

    But still the fact remains that Ranil has led the UNP to a complete defeat.That is his feat.
    As for his present role as a back-door Parliamentarian and a contract Premier of the Rajapaksa family[ mind you the scion of the Wijeyawardena family! ] he is going to end up in disgrace.
    His Twilight is only months away,notwithstanding the fourth Estate………………

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