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Roshan Ranasinghe’s Tokyo trip self funded: State Ministry

  • Keheliya backtracks on assumption 

By Buddhika Samaraweera

Despite the statement made by Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella that certain private sector organisations have sponsored State Ministers D.V. Chanaka, Thenuka Vidanagamage, and Roshan Ranasinghe, who had recently left for Japan to witness the Olympics, the Provincial Councils and Local Government Affairs State Ministry has said that all expenses incurred by the Provincial Councils and Local Government Affairs State Minister Ranasinghe’s visit to Japan had been borne by him privately.

The trio left for Japan last week along with Youth and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa to witness the ongoing Olympic Games. Chanaka is the Aviation and Export Zones Development State Minister and Vidanagamage is the Rural and School Sports Infrastructure Improvement State Minister. 

Accordingly, a media release issued by Ranasinghe’s Media Secretary Prasanna Adhikari on 28 July claimed that all the expenses for Ranasinghe would be privately borne by him and that he has held several discussions to obtain the support of the Government of Japan and the business community for several projects currently in progress in Sri Lanka during the visit. “He has had discussions on development projects currently being implemented in Sri Lanka with the assistance of Japan, as well as regarding matters pertaining to a number of projects such as solid waste management and building an organic environment in the country,” the release further read. According to it, in addition to the above, discussions have also been held with Japanese politicians and the business community on matters of trade, employment opportunities, tourism, cultural activities, and educational opportunities.

In the release, it is further stated that Ranasinghe had denied the propaganda that he had left for this visit at the expense of public funds or with the assistance of some other institution.

When queried about the expenses for said State Ministers’ visit at the weekly Cabinet media briefing in Colombo recently, Rambukwella noted: “My understanding is that they have been sponsored by a certain Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) and that the Government has not spent any money on it.”

When contacted by The Morning to clarify the statement he made, Rambukwella yesterday (29) said: “What I said very clearly was that maybe they were sponsored by some organisations. At that point of time, I was not aware of how Ranasinghe participated and I had heard from some outside sources that there were a few organisations that sponsored a few Ministers (including in this instance, State Ministers) to participate. So I presumed that they were sponsored by those organisations.”

He further said that there were widespread reports on social media platforms that some organisations, in particular, the LOLC, were to sponsor some participants, which led him to presume that the State Ministers in question have also been sponsored by such organisations. “However, what Ranasinghe now says is correct. It was only an assumption on my part. I know that Ranasinghe’s family lives in Japan. Not only him, but his family also holds Japanese citizenship. It is like his second home there,” he added.

The Youth and Sports Ministry claimed on 28 July that it is not aware as to who is bearing the expenses of the political delegation that travelled to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics, but said that no money had been paid for Sports Minister Rajapaksa’s visit through the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Meanwhile, the main Parliamentary Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian and Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said on 28 July that action could be taken against these State Ministers as per the code of ethics for MPs. Adding that a MP is expected to inform the Parliament if they receive some benefit from anyone, even from the private sector, Kiriella stated that the State Ministers in question should have informed the Parliament if they were sponsored by someone.