The Presidential Secretariat has published a procurement notice in a state-run newspaper to purchase 300 desktop computers, 50 laptops, 25 touch-screen computers, 20 multi-media projectors and 25 desktop printers for a ‘special project’.
However, strong doubts have been raised over the purpose of the purchase with many suggesting that it may be linked to President Maithripala Sirisena’s desperate attempt to run for the presidency again.
With such a large number of machines and equipment, nearly 400 people can be employed in this so-called special project, a source familiar with the matter told Colombo Telegraph. “This could be a campaign office with a strong social media operation, including a troll army. They will promote Sirisena’s agenda overtly and covertly, and attack his opponents. The real problem is this being done lavishly using government funds,” our source added.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa too ran a similar operation at Temple Trees in the run-up to the last Presidential election. The unit, which had about 50 employees, mapped out the ‘behavior’ of voters in every district and it directly operated under the supervision of former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Colombo Telegraph reported last month that the President’s Media Division had deployed a special team to delete all negative comments posted on Sirisena’s Social Media profiles.
The covert operation began after the outbreak of the October 26 political crisis, as the President’s conduct earned severe criticism of social media activists. While some activists staged demonstrations on the streets, some ridiculed Sirisena’s posts on social media in protest of his unconstitutional conduct.