Critical moments in the campaign!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

From ‘The Great November Revolution’ by Dinesh Weerakkody

​Chinese Embassy

In the middle of the campaign I got a call from John (Amaratunga) saying the Chinese Deputy Head of Mission wanted to talk to me urgently. I asked John why. He said it was about a statement made by Ranil that he would close down the much-hyped Port City Project. I was out of Colombo. I told John it would have to be in the evening. 

He said he would arrange the meeting for around 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy. I met the Political Councillor at the Embassy well after 7:30 p.m. We had a long discussion for about an hour. He pointed out that they were neutral and they were ready to work with any government the Lankan people elected. He said: “We don’t help parties directly. That is our policy. We have not given any funds for the Rajapaksa campaign.” Then he said the UNP Leader’s statement that he is going to scrap the Port City Project had upset “our President”. 

“Can we get a clarification from the Leader of the UNP?” He reminded me that the UNP has had a long-standing relationship with the Communist Party. Why upset that now! 

I told him let me talk to the UNP Leader and arrange a meeting with the Ambassador. He walked me to my car, repeating that message three times. Next, I called Ranil and told him what had transpired. I told Ranil, “let us do this meeting and then issue a statement, better keep them on our side.” Ranil said, “I can meet the Ambassador, but it would have to be after 11 p.m.” I quickly got in touch with the Political Head. We arranged the meeting for 11:15 p.m. John and I picked Ranil in our KIA. We arrived at the Embassy around 11:20 p.m. with no security. 

John briefed Ranil in the vehicle. The Ambassador was with a glum face. He looked very worried. He certainly showed his displeasure about the statement made by Ranil. He wanted an immediate clarification. He said the Chinese President and Government were very unhappy over his statement. It was all over their news channels. Ranil said he would issue a statement clarifying his position, but he was very clear that the Port City contract had to be re-negotiated to address the concerns of the people affected by this major development project.

We left the Embassy well after midnight. We discussed the contents of the message. I said I would write up a statement and discuss with the Deputy Head of the Mission. It was nearly 3 in the morning when I got home. That morning, I emailed the statement to Sandra (Ranil’s Secretary). She said she would show the UNP Leader and revert.

The entire morning the Deputy Head of the Mission was after me for the statement. True to her word, by 11 a.m. the rehashed statement was passed on to the Chinese Embassy. I must say they were very surprised when Maithri won the hustings on the 9th morning. They were the first to give the new Government a $ 2 million+ grant for flood relief.