Sri Lanka: Media Ministry Secretary to be Replaced!

( December 26, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mass Media and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry Secretary Nimal Bopage is likely to be replaced, highly placed Government sources said yesterday.

A new official will be appointed early next month, these sources said.

Mr. Bopage is alleged to have embarrassed the Government through a news conference he held early this week.

The purpose of the news conference was to provide details of an alleged plot to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena. The claim was based on a forecast made by an astrologer though most of his colleagues say it is bunkum. This forecast has been made in the Facebook page by Vijitha Rohana, a one-time naval rating who attempted to assault the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during a guard of honour in Colombo in July 1987.

Secretary Bopage held the news conference together with an astrologer he had brought along. The latter was to say that President Sirisena’s erashthraka or malefic period was different from other assassinated political leaders including the late Rajiv Gandhi, Minister Lalith Athulathmudali and President Ranasinghe Premadasa. He said therefore Vijitha Rohana’s claims were wrong.

Mr. Bopage said he had earlier written to Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera asking him to investigate the matter. However, there has been no response. A Police Headquarters official said, “if we are to probe every astrological forecast, we may have to have a new division.”

A state run television network aired Mr. Bopage’s assassination claim in its early evening news bulletin. By then, officials in the President’s Media Division have spoken to other media organisations and appealed to them not to run the story. They explained that President Sirisena did not share the views expressed by Mr. Bopage.

At the same news conference, the Secretary said he had not heeded a request from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to sign a letter to facilitate the issue of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for 58 MPs to carry out development work. Mr Bopage said Premier Wickremesinghe had said if he could not place his signature, he should resign. A Government Minister said Wickremesinghe’s request came only after he obtained official sanction to provide the MPs with the luxury vehicles.

Mr. Bopage had said that he had been asked to sign for the lease of the vehicles in question for 60 months when the tenure of the Government was only 45 more months. This position was dismissed by ministers who pointed

out that there were other similar transactions where contracts had been signed for 60 months.

Premier Wickremesinghe, Government sources said, had also raised issue with President Sirisena over Mr. Bopage’s conduct. He has pointed out that by officially holding a news conference and making statements, he had given credence to claims by the Opposition that there was a rift in the Government. No official at Secretary level is allowed to hold news conferences without the permission of the Government, he had pointed out.

– Sunday Times, Colombo

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