Animosity between President Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe took new heights on Tuesday as the two leaders embroiled themselves in a heated exchange of words at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
It started after Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe presented a Cabinet memorandum seeking approval to develop the East Container Terminal of Colombo Port by Sri Lanka Ports Development Authority (SLPDA).
The Prime Minister, however, opined that that it should be done under an Indian investment. Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama also stressed the need to hand over the terminal for development to India.
The suggestion infuriated the President. In an excited mood, the President unleashed his verbal barrage in all directions sparing no one, and even charged that the country would compromise its sovereignty by alienating its seaports to external parties in this manner.
While rapping the government for leasing out of the Hambantota Port to a Chinese company, he said it would spell more doom in the event of alienation of a stake of the Colombo Port to another country in the same way. “If we act like this, we will not be able to berth our own ship in our own port,” he said.
The Prime Minister defended his position saying that a bulk of transshipment business at Colombo Port was done with India. He cited it as justification for handing over the East Container Terminal for development to India. But, the President, at this point, referred to his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit in Kathmandu, Nepal last month.
“PM Modi does not mind the SLPDA developing it single-handedly,” he said.
It enraged the Prime Minister prompting him to remark in Sinhala, “Modi agamethithuma dannawanam, ona Bambuwak (Hang it if PM Modi knows it!) The Prime Minister is slated to visit India this weekend and will meet with Premier Modi and discuss the issues at hand. The President did not stop at that. He struck a note of criticism on Chinese involvement in development projects as well. “I met with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad. He asked me to exercise caution in dealing with China,” the President added.
RAW conspires to kill me- President
In addition, the President spoke out his disillusionment with the lack of progress in investigations into the alleged assassination attempt on him.
“If I am the person with authority in this case, I will not keep the present Inspector General of Police (IGP) even for a week,” he thundered.
Commenting on the Indian national questioned over the assassination plot, the President called him an agent of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). In this way, he tried to tell that RAW was conspiring to eliminate him physically.
“I know Indian PM Narendra Modi does not know about it,” he said.
Earlier, the accusation was that RAW played a pivotal role in unseating the MR regime and installing the current President. Today, the President accused the very same RAW of hatching a plot to kill him. (Kelum Bandara)
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