November 29, 2020

அலரி மாளிகையில் என்ன நடக்கிறது..? சண்டே டைம்ஸ் வெளியிட்டுள்ள தகவல்


அலரிமாளிகை முடக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது நான் கூட அங்கு சென்று பணியாற்ற முடியாது என பசில் ராஜபக்ச சண்டே டைம்சிற்கு தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

அலரிமாளிகை முடக்கப்படவில்லை என பிரதமரின் ஊடக செயலாளார் தெரிவித்துள்ளமை குறித்தும் அவர்கடும் சீற்றம் வெளியிட்டுள்ளார்.

பிரதமரின் ஊடக செயலாளர் சொன்னதும் முற்றிலும் பொய் என தெரிவித்துள்ள பசில் ராஜபக்ச அலரிமாளிகை முற்றாக முடக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது,என்னால் அங்குள்ள அலுவலகங்களை பயன்படுத்த முடியவில்லை என அவர் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.

உண்மையை அறிய விரும்பினால் நீங்கள் யாரையாவது அனுப்பிபார்க்கலாம்,அந்த பகுதி முற்றாக மூடப்பட்டுள்ளது,பணியாளர்களை வீட்டிலிருந்து பணிபுரியுமாறு கேட்டுக்கொண்டுள்ளனர்,என பசில் ராஜபக்ச தெரிவித்தார் என சண்டே டைம்ஸ் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளது.

பிரதமரின் ஊடக செயலாளருக்கு தான் என்ன செய்கின்றேன் என்பது தெரியாது உண்மைக்கு மாறான விடயங்களை தெரிவிப்பதன் மூலம் பிரதமரின் பெயருக்கு களங்கத்தையும் அவருக்கு தர்மசங்கடமான நிலையையும் ஏற்படுத்துகின்றனர் அவர்கள் ஏற்படுத்துகின்றனர் என பசில் ராஜபக்ச சீற்றம் வெளியிட்டுள்ளார்.

என்னை பற்றி அவர்கள் தெரிவித்ததும் பிழையான விடயங்கள் என அவர் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.

அது நடந்திருக்க கூடாது அவர்களிற்கு அதற்கான அனுமதியில்லை எனவும் பசில் ராஜபக்ச தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

பிரதமர் எதனையும் மறைக்கவிரும்புபவரில்லை அனைத்து சந்தர்ப்பங்களிலும் வெளிப்படையானவர் முகத்துக்கு நேரே பேசுபவர் என பசில் ராஜபக்ச குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.

நாங்கள் வெளிப்படையானவர்களாக மக்களிடமிருந்து உண்மைகளை மறைக்காதவர்களாகயிருக்கவேண்டும் எனவும் அவர் தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

உண்மையை மறைப்பதால் என்ன பயன்? பிரதமர் மகிந்த ராஜபக்ச கூட முடக்கலின் பின்னர் அலரிமாளிகைக்கு செல்லவில்லை என பசில் ராஜபக்ச குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.

The truth behind ‘Temple Trees’ lockdown

Wearing protective gear, Police guards are seen at the entrance to Temple Trees which is in lockdown

The lockdown at Temple Trees, historically one of the main centres of power in the country, continues amidst the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Last week’s exclusive revelation in these columns, over a matter of great public importance, was ridiculed by some officials. Their lackeys, like slippery worms eating into deadwood, burrowed their way to annihilate the truth. There is no fact checking, no verification and no clarification. They lap up anything served on an official platter. That seems the daily norm now. Some did it more than once in the belief that the public would swallow a lie as the unvarnished truth when it is repeated. All in the name of good journalism!

One is reminded of the words of one of the world’s most respected journalists, Carl Bernstein. It was Bernstein who together with Bob Woodward, both from the Washington Post, who revealed that high officials of President Nixon’s administration broke into the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate building in 1972. A Senate investigation confirmed there was a cover-up thereafter — the beginning of events that forced President Nixon out of office — in the infamous Watergate scandal.

Bernstein said, “The lowest form of popular culture — lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives — has overrun real journalism……” How true. Untruths, half-truths topped with hand woven lies like icing on a cake, are used to jam reality and market them as nothing but the holy truth. They believed the truth will not emerge and those saying it were purveyors of lies. However, it did in this instance. This is how it all began.

After the Sunday Times hit the streets last Sunday, it was Rohan Weliwita, who once operated in Kirillapone a small video production parlour that went bankrupt, and now the Prime Minister’s Media Secretary, who issued a media release. This is what he said:

“The report that the Temple Trees has been closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 situation is false.

“I wish to assure that no officer at the Prime Minister’s office or at the Temple Trees has been infected with COVID-19.  There is no truth in the report in a national newspaper that the Temple Trees was temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 situation. The report is baseless and inaccurate.

“The work at the Temple Trees and the Prime Minister’s office is being conducted without any interruption in accordance with the guidelines of the government and health officials under the COVID-19 situation.

“Only selected officers from Ministries and other state institutions are called in for official duties at the Prime Minister’s office. Also, the Task Force office headed by Mr Basil Rajapaksa operating from the Temple Trees  continues without any interruption.

“The persons infected with COVID-19 were detected from an external unit linked to the Prime Minister’s security division. The security staff at the Prime Minister’s office and within the Temple Trees continue to operate as they operated previously.

Prime Minister’s Media Secretary”

I asked Basil Rajapaksa, head of the Presidential Task Force on Economic Recovery, who works from the Temple Trees, whether Welivita’s press release was correct. His reply: “It is a complete lie. The Temple Trees is under a lockdown and I cannot use the offices there. If you want to find out, you can send someone there. The whole place is closed. The staff have been told to keep away from work. They have been told to work from home.”

Basil Rajapaksa was very livid when he declared, “The Media Secretary (Welivita) does not know what he is doing. They are bringing in a lot of embarrassment and disrepute to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa by telling untruths. The references to me arealso totally false. That should never happen. They do not have the licence to do so. The Premier is not one who wants to cover up these things. He is frank and forthright at all times. We have to be transparent and not keep hiding the truth from the people. What is wrong in saying the real truth?” Even Premier Rajapaksa has not gone to his office at Temple Trees since the lockdown, the main strategist responsible for the presidential and parliamentary elections said.

He said that after the lockdown, which the Sunday Times learnt began on November 18, he also had not been able to work from Temple Trees. He added, “I have been talking to several ministers and Air Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke, Governor of the Western Province, to find temporary office space to conduct meetings. I have no place. For most of the meetings, I cannot use the SLPP headquarters office at Battaramulla. It does not belong to the Government.

Last Friday, I held three of four different meetings at the conference room of the Highways Ministry located at Battaramulla. I had to get all my officials to come there to talk about some important business. These could not be put off.” He said getting his own staff for work had become a serious issue. He would have to find a location where food outlets are available. “Life has to go on. We need to meet almost every day since people’s needs will have to be attended to.” He warned that covering the truth could do more harm.

One of the meetings Basil Rajapaksa addressed from the auditorium of the Highways Ministry on Friday was for Governors of the different provinces. He said, “I cannot just wait at home saying ‘Temple Trees’ is closed. I cannot make this an excuse. Likewise, you also should not delay important issues without saying there was no place to conduct meetings. He also expressed the same sentiments at a meeting of all State Ministers, also held at the same venue.”

One of the reasons why Temple Trees remains under a lockdown is to allow the mandatory quarantine period to pass as an extra precaution. As reported in these columns last week, it is the result of some personnel of the Police commando arm, the Special Task Force (STF), who were on duty being found positive with Covid-19. Since the finding, Temple Trees, which has been home for many Prime Ministers, was disinfected many times. The matter has taken a more serious turn now.

It has come to light that Media SecretaryWelivita had allegedly found accommodation for his driver at Temple Trees. It is not immediately clear who had granted permission. He (the driver) is being suspected as a positive coronavirus case who spread the infectionto others at Temple Trees. This aspect is now being looked into, said a Temple Trees source who is familiar with the goings on. That raises the all-important question — did he canvass for the news release in a possible bid to say there was nothing serious? If that was the case, he had placed in peril the lives of members of the Rajapaksa family who were there on the night of November 17 — the 75th birthday of Premier Rajapaksa. The driver concerned, it has come to light, has visited many a crowded area doing errands for Welivitabesides his official work.

Premier Rajapaksa’s birthday was marked in different parts of the country notwithstanding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There were cutouts and portraits with slogans wishing him many happy returns. It is therefore not surprising that Premier Rajapaksa’s close family members also celebrated the occasion on a small scale at Temple Trees with the immediate circle taking part in cutting a cake and engaging in a low-key celebration on the night of November 17. That was a joyous moment for Premier Rajapaksa since his grandchildren too took part.

Thus, out of an abundance of caution, the Sunday Times learnt that both Premier Rajapaksa and wife Shiranthi underwent PCR tests. They were proved negative. Their son, Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, also underwent the test. Yesterday, when Parliament took up for Committee Stage discussion of his Ministry, Namal Rajapaksa was absent. The Premier is said to be in a location south of Colombo. However, both the Premier and his wife have taken precautionary measures by pruning down their official engagements. So did other members of the immediate family though some have come under very special care.

The thrust of last week’s political commentary, by a strange coincidence, was on information management by government officials in the current resurgent phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. It made the point that information relevant to the public was being deliberately withheld. In trying to prove the Sunday Times wrong, Rohan Welivita, the Press Secretary, has confirmed a much bigger reality — that there indeed are strong efforts to bury the truth and make the suffering public believe non-existing situations.

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