Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s revelations about a threatening, foul-mouthed telephone call from President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa has laid bare the massive fault-lines within the beleaguered administration and the state of mind of an increasingly desperate head of state, political sources told Colombo Telegraph.
On Friday (16) morning at 9AM President Rajapaksa telephoned Rajapakshe, berating him in profane language over the press briefing he had held at the Abhayaramaya Temple on Thursday. A couple of hours later, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe summoned the press corps to his Nawala residence, and revealed the contents of the phone call.
“The president used language on the phone call that was unbecoming of a head of state. I had no choice, I replied him in the same language,” the ruling party MP told the media.
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Rajapakshe said he hoped that the President was calling to discuss matters with him to seek a resolution. “We know he is politically immature, so I was hoping he wanted to discuss things rationally and find a way forward,” the MP said. Instead, he found himself at the receiving end of a series of threats.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that the President had been hysterically angry during the phone call – repeatedly referring to Rajpakshe as “thamuse”. After several minutes, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe responded:
“Thamuse dan oka thiyanna naththnam thamusege heart (condition) wadiweyi” (Put the phone down now before your heart condition gets worse).
President Rajapaksa underwent a heart bypass in May-June 2019 and suffered several complications pursuant to the surgery. His doctors at the Mount Elisabeth Hospital in Singapore remain concerned about his post-surgical condition, Colombo Telegraph learns.
MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said he had lodged an official complaint regarding the threats from the President with the Inspector General of Police (IGP). “Since the President threatened me, I fear for my life and the safety of my family,” MP Rajapakshe told the media briefing at his residence on Friday.
The spat between the MP and his President stems from a Thursday afternoon press briefing held by Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and a priest formerly aligned to the Rajapaksa-led SLPP and ardent loyalist of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The priest, who once donated an entire wing of his Narahenpita temple to the Joint Opposition, which made it the headquarters of the campaign to restore political power to Mahinda Rajapaksa following his 2015 defeat, is now one of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s staunchest critics. In fact, the Chief Monk is now one of a dozen or more petitioners who have filed legal action at the Supreme Court against the Colombo Port City bill, which he says will carve out a separate state in Sri Lanka that will be under the sole control of China.
The priest also received a phone call from the President regarding his involvement in Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s media briefing on Thursday. The Abhayarama Chief Incumbent held his own press conference on Friday, pledging that he will not be moved by “threats and intimidation”.
During the press conference on Thursday (15), Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, seated on left hand of Muruttutuwe Ananda Thero Chief Incumbent of the Abhayaramaya temple pitched into the ruling Rajapaksa family over the Government’s proposed Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act.
Rajapakshe made particularly harsh statements at the press conference which were so controversial that mainstream media organizations declined to broadcast the segments. The SLPP MP representing the Colombo District accused Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa of being “two American citizens” who had settled their families in a “safe and secure” country and returned to Sri Lanka “on holiday” to rob the island blind. They would eventually return to their true homeland, Rajapakshe claimed. But the children of Sri Lanka would have no country left once the Rajapaksa brothers were done stripping it of its resources and selling off parts of the nation to China, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe warned.
Rajapakshe said the President was a mere puppet and accused master deal-maker Basil Rajapaksa of being a crook who was running the Government. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been completely sidelined and treated poorly, the SLPP MP claimed.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe also attacked the President’s disastrous Conversations with the Village programme that has made him the object of severe ridicule. “For god’s sake Mr President stop these stupid conversations with the village. Stop engaging in these juvenile, immature things,” he mocked.
“This is a burning country,” MP Rajapakshe said. He claimed that the country was on the verge of serious collapse economically and the global powers were aligning against Sri Lanka because of the Government’s policies.
“Because we are becoming a colony of China, India is angry and is hitting at us. The US is attacking us. The EU is attacking us. Who is going to save this country today?”
The attack was the harshest criticism yet of the ruling family and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s disastrous tenure in office. Sources within the Government claim it has been too much for the President, a man used to having his way, to bear coming from his own loyalists. A clear pattern is also emerging, political analysts opined, that all those who are now publicly opposing Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his policies, are full of praise for Mahinda Rajapaksa who still holds office as Prime Minister. Soon after the Thursday press briefing featuring Wijeyadasa and the Abhayarama Chief monk, SLPP Chairman G.L. Peiris and Minister Bandula Gunewardane rushed to the temple. Sources said the two officials tried to pacify the monk.
For several years, Nandasena Rajapaksa has kept his temper, after disastrous interactions with foreign journalists and local reporters revealed the then defence secretary’s serious anger management problems. Sources said over time, Rajapaksa had obtained assistance to deal with his rage. Now, as his Government grows increasingly unpopular, President Rajapaksa – once the revered and feared chief executive of the final war with the LTTE – is mercilessly mocked as a failure, a cry-baby and a completely inept leader. Sources close to the President told Colombo Telegraph that lacking a sense of humour, Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa simply does not have the temperament to endure the mocking. When his own party MP joined a Rajapaksa aligned chief monk to take arms against his proposed Port City law and accused the war-winning president of separating and selling off pieces of the country to the Chinese, something appeared to snap, the sources said.
Despite its unshakable two thirds majority in Parliament and attempts to completely militarize governance, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration has failed to meet its election commitments in 18 months in office. A sea of protests in different parts of the island, rampant corruption, ineffective leadership on management of Covid-19 and the vaccination drive, ceaseless deforestation and cronyism has made the Government unpopular in record time.
The President’s sole saving grace has been the unwavering loyalty of the country’s two largest broadcast networks Hiru TV, Derana and Swarnavahini which filters the ineptitude of the ruling regime before disseminating it to the large audience they command around the island. But in the age of social media, alternative news source are emerging to bridge the information gap, prompting Government moves to propose laws that will criminalize news it deems “fake” on social media.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is a pole-vaulter extraordinaire who has been irked for months over the Government’s failure to offer him a ministerial portfolio. Rajapakshe strongly back the Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa candidacy for president, and once even boasted that he had blocked the former Defence Secretary’s arrest as Minister of Justice under the Yahapalanaya administration. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s crooked deals with MiG and the state funds he misappropriated to build a monument to his deceased parents, had already made it clear that the President’s hands were not clean when Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe backed him for president, analysts said. “Wijeyadasa talks of threats now, as if it wasn’t clear at the time of his presidential campaign that Gotabaya was involved in the murder and abduction of journalists and rugby players,” the analyst noted. (By Janakie Mediwake)