For 4.5 years, one man has called the shots at the Presidential Secretariat with greater efficiency and success than any other.
The reclusive Chairman of the Capital Maharaja Organisation R. Rajamahendran, or Kili Maharaja as he is better known, has manipulated and steered the Maithripala Sirisena presidency almost from the outset.
Kili Rajamahendran capitalised quickly on Sirisena’s gratitude to the Sirasa network for being courageous enough to cautiously back his candidacy, when his campaign was being blacked out across all other media loyal to the Rajapaksa regime. Hours after Sirisena was sworn in as President in January 2015, Kili installed failed UNP politician Shiral Lakthilake as coordinating secretary at the Presidential Secretariat. Kili convinced Sirisena to take Shiral Lakthilake on board during a breakfast meeting soon after the election. Lakthilake being staunchly anti-Ranil Wickremesinghe, helped to begin the cold war between President and Prime Minister that has crippled governance for nearly five years and prompted Sirisena to attempt a coup-d’etat in October 2018.
With Lakthilake firmly in place within days of the Sirisena presidency, Kili moved quickly to staffing positions at the Presidential Secretariat with his own employees or Sirasa backed bureaucrats and stooges. According to palace insiders, when Austin Fernando resigned as secretary to the President in 2018, Kili Rajamahendran ensured Sirisena was supplied with a list of bureaucrats favoured by the Capital Maharaja Organisation. Sirisena was to choose Fernando’s successor from this list. Udaya Seneviratne, current secretary to the President, was one of the names on the list, insiders told Colombo Telegraph.
From the scrapping of the Sampur coal power project (to benefit private power agents at the Maharaja Group) that would have added valuable megawatts to the National Grid, to the thwarted purchase of the 135 million USD Russian patrol vessel, to the highly controversial appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalist Dayan Jayatillake as Ambassador to the Russian Federation, the Sirasa Mafia has been behind it all.
Effectively, Sirasa and the Capital Maharaja Group captured the Sirisena presidency almost from the get-go. As a result, Kili Maharaja has practically been running the country, at least as far as the decisions that are exclusively Sirisena’s domain.
With five months left in President Sirisena’s term, and his re-election extremely unlikely even if one of the main parties puts him forward as candidate, Kili and the Maharaja Group have already set their sights on capturing the next head of State, and bending him to their will.
It is in this backdrop that the Sirasa networks recent spate of vicious and consistent attacks on the Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya must be studied.
Colombo Telegraph can now reveal little known facts about Kili Rajamahendran’s role in the failed October coup attempted by President Sirisena.
For months Sirisena had offered Sajith Premadasa the premiership at Kili’s bidding. Each time he was asked Premadasa said no, refusing to betray his party leader. Premadasa’s reluctance was ruining Maharaja’s well-laid plans to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and Leader of the UNP. With Wickremesinghe out of the way, Kili Rajamahendran would effectively control both major parties in the country.
Tired of Premadasa’s repeated rejection of the offer of premiership Kili decided the time was ripe to bring the Rajapaksas back in to the game. Desperate to get Wickremesinghe sacked, Kili convinced President Sirisena that his other best option was to bring former President Mahinda Rajapaksa back as Prime Minister. Keeping secret counsel with President Sirisena, Kili Rajamahendran was his main advisor during the October 2018 political crisis. For months, political analysts and observers have debated the question of on whose advice Sirisena was acting, when he unconstitutionally removed the sitting Prime Minister and replaced with his former rival, with whom he had fought a bitterly acrimonious political campaign only four years previously.
The answer to the question now seems obvious. The same man who has played puppet master throughout the Sirisena presidency, also helped the bewildered and desperate President to plan and orchestrate the October 26 coup.
In retrospect, the decision to even choose 26th as the date to swear Mahinda Rajapaksa in as prime minister under the cover of night, becomes obvious. Kili Rajamahendran is a blind follower of astrology and the power of planetary movements and numerology. He and Sirisena chose October 26 for the night to pull off the coup, because the number 8 has always been favourable to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa has historically picked the number 8 whenever possible, for major political milestones in his career. The 2005 presidential election was held on 17 November (1+7 = 8), the 2010 presidential election was held on January 26 (2+6=8) and of course the 2015 election was held on January 8. The 2010 parliamentary election was held on April 8.
Yet in the end all the well laid plans of astrologers and media Moghuls went awry, because of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s decision to stand firm against the onslaught on democracy wrought by the President. With books and chairs flying past his head, missing him by inches, Jayasuriya’s decision to take a vote on the no confidence motion brought against Rajapaksa, stripped the controversially appointed premier of legitimacy and turned the tide that eventually restored the democratic status quo. Jayasuriya’s role in defeating the October 26 coup, won him no friends at the Capital Maharaja Organisation where the plot was born.
Kili Rajamahendran has never forgiven Jayasuriya and when his name began to emerge as an alternative to Premadasa as an elder statesman presidential candidate, the Sirasa owner trained his guns on the Speaker.
Just last week, Kili Rajamahendran forced Central Province Governor Maithri Guneratne to go on the offensive against Speaker Jayasuriya. Colombo Telegraph learns that Guneratne had been reluctant to attack Jayasuriya because it could further burn his bridges with the UNP. However, Kili threatened Guneratne, warning him that he would “never be on television again” if orders were not followed. When Guneratne challenged Speaker Jayasuriya to a public debate and disparaged him on camera, the questions about the Speaker had been posed by a Sirasa TV cameraman.
It has been Kili Rajamahendran’s life-long dream to control the levers of political power. He remains a silken gloved operator, always reclusive, always manipulative and always the hidden hand behind controversial political events. His preferred modus operandi is to use pawns to manoeuvre and bend politicians to his will. Tragically few of his plots have ever proved successful. Almost like a curse, candidates and politicians heavily backed by Sirasa rarely do well. The list is long – Sarath Fonseka, Tiran Alles, Buddhika Pathirana, Susil Kindelpitiya and now of course President Sirisena. Sirisena won the presidency, but not because he was a horse backed by Kili Rajamahendran, but because his candidacy was backed fully by the UNP and a coalition of parties and civil society movements.
Having enjoyed the spoils of the Sirisena presidency as long as he could, Kili Rajamahendran is ready to install a president he can completely control. Sajith Premadasa, he believes, to be the Golden Goose. With his able lieutenant Tiran Alles at his side, Kili Maharaja will now set about trying to destroy anyone who gets in the way of his plans to take charge of the Premadasa presidency. As a bonus, the Capital Maharaja chief will also lay claim to the country’s single largest political party, when Premadasa takes the leadership, and finally, the world will be Kili’s oyster. (By T Bambaradeniya)