Addressing the opening of the Lotus Tower in Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena revealed that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government siphoned off Rs. 2 billion in the guise of an ‘advance payment’ for the project.
“We came to know that Rs. 2 billion had been paid in 2012 to a Chinese company as an advanced payment. The said Chinese company is also a signatory to the tripartite agreement relating to the construction of the project. When we inquired, there was no Chinese company under that name. I directed the then Sri Lankan Ambassador in China, Dr. Karunasena Kodithuwakku, to visit the address of the company, and he informed us that there was no company at the address mentioned in the agreement,” Sirisena said.
“We don’t know where that money went. In other words. Rs. 2 billion ‘disappeared’ even before the commencement of the project. After our government came to power, we had to raise money through loans to complete the project. Over the next 10 years, we will have to pay Rs. 2400 million per year to settle those loans,” Sirisena said launching a scathing attack on his predecessor, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“While we see the bright picture of the Lotus Power, we must not forget the challenges it has presented us with,” the President also said.Sirisena’s critical remarks came as the SLPP, led by Rajapaksa, and the SLFP are drawing up plans to form an alliance for the next Presidential election.
Although former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was invited for the opening of the tower, he did not attend the event due to undisclosed reasons. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was also not in the audience when President Sirisena delivered his controversial speech. A spokesman attached to the Prime Minister’s Office said Wickremesinghe had to “skip” the event as he had to chair an important parliamentary group meeting this evening.