Utterly embarrassed by the statement made by President Mithripala Sirisena at the Cabinet meeting last night, Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the President did not refer to an “assassination plot” engineered by RAW, the state intelligence agency of India.
Senaratne, addressing the weekly press briefing at the Government Information Department this morning, said President had only noted that there were claims being made that RAW was linked to the allegation of the assassination plot.
However, Sirisena’ Advisor Shiral Lakthilaka, speaking to the Daily Mirror newspaper this morning, had contradicted Senaratne’s story. Lakthilaka said the President did not mention the name of “RAW” and only said an Indian intelligence agency was planning to assassinate him.
Sirisena’s remark, however, has sparked a fresh controversy concerning diplomatic relations between India and Sri Lanka.
Sirisena’s controversial statement was also followed by an intense argument with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when the subject of development of the Colombo Port came up for discussion. The Hindu newspaper said Sirisena vehemently objected to any Indian involvement in upgrading its east container terminal – a project that New Delhi has been keen to take up.
“However, Mr. Wickremesinghe is said to have countered by saying Colombo had already promised New Delhi on collaborating on the project, and it was important to rope in India at the terminal, given that about 80% of the cargo handled at the transhipment hub was meant for India. He reportedly sought a week’s time to sort out the issue, since he would be meeting Mr. Modi soon ,” the Hindu newspaper added.
Meanwhile issuing a statement a short while ago the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to media reports attributed to President Maithripala Sirisena alleging the involvement of an Indian Intelligence Service in a plot to assassinate him.
“The Ministry wishes to clarify that the media reports in this connection are baseless and false.
“The Ministry wishes to emphasize that relations between Sri Lanka and India including at the highest levels of government are strong, encompassing multiple spheres including intelligence sharing. It is disappointing therefore that matters of this nature have become the subject of distorted and erroneous media reports taking the President’s remarks out of context, which has given rise to further media and social media speculation and the spread of unfounded fear among the public.
“In continuation of the close and regular interaction between Sri Lanka and India at all levels including at the highest levels of government, President Sirisena had discussions this morning as well at a meeting with the High Commissioner of India in Colombo.”