Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has found himself in the middle of a war being waged by the Sirasa TV network against the United States of America after the Washington actively worked to scuttle plans by the Maharaja group to be intermediaries in the Defence Ministry purchase of a Russian offshore patrol vessel.
For the past three days the Sirasa network has launched a scathing attack on the Speaker of Parliament and his advisor and former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam using the bulk of the channel’s nightly news broadcasts in all three languages to vilify them as agents of the US international spy agency, CIA.
The pro-Rajapaksa Joint Opposition MPs Dinesh Gunewardena and Wimal Weerawansa have actively joined the Sirasa bandwagon and are being rewarded for their criticism against Speaker Jayasuriya and Kariywasam by being offered significant quantities of airtime on Sirasa.
Colombo Telegraph can now reveal that R. Rajamahendra aka Kili Maharaja’s sudden antagonism towards the US is motivated by his rage that with six months left in President Sirisena’s term he has been unable to get past the US blockades to purchase the Russian ship. Representatives of the Maharaja group were expected to rake in large profits if the Russian OPV was purchased by the Defence Ministry, by being intermediaries. Senior officials of the Maharaja group were even caught on tape discussing the purchase. Details about the deal came out during negotiations for crossovers to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp during the attempted political coup in October 2018. Leaked recordings of a Sirisena emissary trying to get Hirunika Premachandra’s aunt to get her to crossover to support the coup revealed that Sirasa Channel Head Chevaan Daniel and Larry-King impersonator Faraz Shakuterlly had both been involved in discussions about the purchase of the Russian vessel.
Cabinet approved the purchase of the Russian vessel in October 2017.
President Sirisena’s attempt to purchase a Russian Offshore Patrol Vessel at such a huge cost alarmed the US Government, which issued demarches and threatened to call off military grants if the transaction went through. Furthermore, over the last two years the US and its allies gifted the Sri Lankan Navy and Coast Guard several vessels free of charge.
The US actively sought to block the purchase of the Russian vessel with the purchase set to go through a US sanctioned Russian arms company. It was believed at the time that even the appointment of Dayan Jayatillake as ambassador to Russia by President Sirisena was motivated in part by the fact that the Sirisena administration badly wanted the deal to be seen through to its finish. Jayatillake is also well-known to be a Kili Maharaja pawn who was routinely used by the Sirasa network to criticise Ranil Wickremesinghe and his coterie in the UNP.
In July 2018, the Indian Government handed over an off-shore patrol vessel to the Sri Lanka coast guard. In August 2018, the Japanese gifted two new fast patrol crafts to the Lankan coast-guard fleet. In May 2019, the US Coast Guard cutter Sherman was handed over to the Navy. With all the vessels added to the fleet at no cost, it became harder for the Maharaja-Sirisena nexus to justify the purchase of a Russian OPV – technically the same kind of ship that was being gifted by the US and India – at 150 million USD. With the Russian ship deal having fallen through Kili Maharaja has turned his guns on the US Government for effectively cutting into his commission.
Now Sirasa and the Joint Opposition are claiming that Jayasuriya is allowing Kariyawasam who they accuse of being a kind of CIA agent to operate inside Parliament in order to carry out America’s neo-imperialist agendas. The basis of the allegation has no grounding in fact but is based on the vague presumption that Kariyawasam is an employee of the US Government, a theory first put forward in the Sunday Times political column and based on completely erroneous information. The retired Foreign Secretary has been recruited as a consultant by an international development company – Development Alternatives Initiative (DIA) which gets some funding from USAID. His work with Parliament involves capacity building, particularly in terms of strengthening oversight systems in the legislature.