| by Upul Joseph Fernando
( December 10, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A list of names of likely defectors who were to follow Maithripala Sirisena to the Opposition when the latter made his exit from the government has now been publicized through the social media.
Though some made their exit others did not. Among those names was Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon. Now, the minister claims that the United States Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison promised to offer him a bribe if he was to cross over to the Opposition. This allegation was made on the eve of the departure of Sison, who had completed her tenure of office here.
When Minister Weerakoon made this charge on Sison, the latter had been met by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who met her prior to her departure. Also External Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L. Peiris had met her. Both the President and the minister had expressed their gratitude to Sison for her efforts to strengthen relations between the two countries during her stay here. However, Weerakoon made that charge, while Sison was busy packing up to leave Sri Lanka. Sison left Sri Lanka last Friday. The US Embassy in Colombo issuing a statement refuted the charge made by Weerakoon stating it was baseless.
However, the statement never mentioned that there was no meeting between Sison and Weerakoon. Hence, the US Embassy had not rejected the charge outright but, had stated there was a 'misunderstanding'. It read; "They reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of our engagement with senior government officials and our policy towards Sri Lanka as well as the US political and economic system", the embassy said in response to the allegations.It indicates that there had been a meet between Sison and Weerakoon, where the activities of the government were discussed in a critical manner. However, even that position is also not clear. Therefore, Weerakoon must release the recorded version of the talks he had with Sison to clear the air. Though he claimed that he had a tape to that effect, he had not released it so far to establish the charge.
Certainly Weerakoon cannot make such a charge without the knowledge of the government. Earlier, the State-owned print media published his photograph stating that he too, was contemplating to become the common candidate.
Similarly, during the 2010 Presidential Election, Mohamed Muzammil of Wimal Weerawansa's National Freedom Front (NFF), alleged at a press briefing that both US and Norway offered him bribes to support Sarath Fonseka. Following is the Wikileaks cable that referred to Muzammil's charge; "(Rel to UK, CAN AUS, SWITZ) On 15 January, Mohamed Muzammil, a member of Parliament from the ultra-nationalist and often anti-American National Freedom Front (NFF), accused Fonseka's campaign of offering him a 30 million rupee bribe (approximately US$ 265,000) to end his support of President Rajapaksa and join Fonseka's campaign. Muzammil further alleged that the money for the bribe had been provided to Fonseka's campaign by the US and Norwegian Governments. Post issued a statement the next day, which reaffirmed our neutral position and 'strongly condemned' allegations of support for one candidate over another. The Norwegian Embassy also issued a statement denying any interference in the election. On Monday, 18 January, Ambassador issued a statement through Post's public blog, reiterating the US Government's neutrality in the election and expanding on the importance of this election in Sri Lanka's long, democratic history. In the statement, the Ambassador called for an end to election related violence and for a free and fair election that allowed Sri Lankans to choose whichever candidate they preferred without risk of violence or intimidation".
The government did not inquire into charges made by Muzammil against the US and Norway diplomatic missions. It was used as a tool for the presidential campaign. Hence, it looks that Weerakoon's charge against Sison is also being used as a tool for the current Presidential Polls campaign by the government. The government does not realize the damage it causes to the country by making wild allegations against the United States. Sison left Sri Lanka to accept a Deputy Chair position in the United Nations to represent America. UN is the body that investigates war crimes against Sri Lanka and it has the privilege to make decisions. When Sison goes to accept such high position, the government should have tried to befriend her to get her support to defeat the war crimes move against the country. What is happening is that Sri Lanka is pushing not only Sison but, the entire United States against Sri Lanka.
In no other country allegations have been levelled against US diplomats trying to bribe politicians. Even the anti-US countries like Libya and Venezuela have not made such charges. It appears that the present government is playing with fire to win the Presidential Election.
Having got Muzammil to make charges against the US in 2010, Sri Lanka over the past few years has come under tremendous pressure from the UNHRC. The challenges hurled at Sri Lanka have not been easy to face. In the face of charges made against the US diplomat Sison, the country will be called upon pay for those charges if Mahinda wins.