Sixteen close associates of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as their families are to be targeted in a special program with the intention of crippling the UNP leader politically ahead of a possible run for the Presidency in 2020, Colombo Telegraph reliably learns. The move is part of an overall political strategy that would have Maithripala Sirisena winning a second term supported by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for whom the Prime Minister’s post has been earmarked.
The plan is to move the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (Bribery Commission) to investigate Wickremesinghe’s aides, nine of whom are his closest loyalists. The Commission is empowered to investigate and even call for and examine bank details of persons about whom allegations are made. The expectation is that those named will be castigated in the public domain whether or not they are guilty of any wrongdoing.
The first of these exercises target Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy City Development Lakshman Kiriella through his daughter Chami Kiriella. Chami is a graduate from the London School of Economics and is likely to contest the next Parliamentary Election from the Kandy District with a good chance of securing victory. The allegation against her began a year ago when it was reported that she had earned a whopping Rs 300 million in commissions.
Sirisena, whose political fortunes have taken a serious dip over the past three years has all but declared intention to go for a second term despite fervent pledges not to. Wickremesinghe is tipped to be the UNP candidate for the first time in almost twenty years, that party opting to back Sarath Fonseka in 2010 and Sirisena in 2015. However, given that Wickremesinghe and the UNP, like Sirisena and his party, the SLFP, are in decline while the probable candidate of the Joint Opposition, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya is possible candidacy is gathering momentum. While a Gotabaya candidacy will face a stiff challenge from Wickremesinghe, a situation where Sirisena runs for President with Gotabaya as his virtual running mate would fare better, according to the architects of this ‘master plan’. Hence these moves to vilify and weaken Wickremesinghe by moving the Bribery Commission against his loyalists and their immediate family members. While such investigations typically drag for years they easily feed vilification mills, a reality that the ‘Sirisena-Gota Combine’ is counting on, according to sources close to the President.