ECONOMYNEXT – India has sought clarifications from Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena over his reported remarks that India’s external intelligence agency was plotting to assassinate him, officials said.
Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu called on Sirisena on Wednesday, a day after reports of his claim that the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s foreign spy outfit, had planned an assassination.
“The High Commissioner of India called on the President this morning and during the meeting, all matters were clarified and bilateral relations were reassured,” the President’s Media Division said in a statement.
It said the President, at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, had not mentioned any involvement of an Indian intelligence service in the alleged plot to assassinate him.
“At the said Cabinet Meeting yesterday, the discussions have taken place on the alleged plot to assassinate the President. The President emphasized the need to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the alleged assassination plot,” it said.
Among other subjects discussed at “various times during the said Cabinet Meeting, was the development of the East terminal of the Colombo port. The president highlighted the importance of Sri Lanka having a deep sea port terminal in the interest of the national economy.”
Ministers who declined to be named said Sirisena was against a government plan to involve India in the development of the East Terminal of the Colombo port despite pledges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While the President’s office tried to “clarify” reports of the heated exchange and the allegations against India at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, the Foreign Ministry issued an outright denial saying media reports were “baseless and false.”
The foreign ministry said Sri Lanka shared intelligence with India and that relations were “strong.”
“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…,” the ministry said without saying what those remarks were.
However, multiple ministerial sources who were at the meeting Tuesday had confirmed Sirisena’s outburst against India as well as the open confrontation with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe over the East Terminal issue.
A visibly upset Sirisena had accused his senior coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP), of not taking the alleged conspiracy to kill him as well as former secretary to the ministry of defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, seriously.
“The President said that RAW was behind the plot,” a minister, who declined to be named, said.
Sirisena also said he was unhappy with the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiry into the plot and faulted the Law and Order minister for what he called the “very slow progress of the inquiry.”
The alleged plot was initially disclosed by a paid employee of the presidential secretariat earlier last month. He had also worked as an informant of the police. Based on his testimony, the police have suspended Deputy Inspector-General Nalaka Silva who is said to have been involved in the plot.
Weeks after the so called whistle blower identified as Namal Kumara went public about the plot to kill Sirisena and Rajapaksa, the president’s office issued a statement denying he was in their pay and called for a separate investigation into his conduct.
However, media reports said the presidential secretariat had issued letters to Namal Kumara confirming his employment with an anti-narcotics task force directly under the president.
Official sources close to the investigation said they have not found any evidence to support Namal Kumara’s claims, which also involved an Indian national who is residing in Sri Lanka pending an asylum application with the UN agency for refugees.
The Presidential Secretariat scheduled a press conference at noon Tuesday to disclose what it called the details of the assassination plot, but cancelled it at the eleventh hour and rescheduled for Thursday.