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Editorial Last Updated: May 16, 2022 - 11:30:05 AM

A Brief Review of the Rajapaksa Dynasty
By Dr. Gary K. Busch, 14/5/22
May 15, 2022 - 12:01:35 PM

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In 2015 I wrote an article about the Siloviki and Russia and the effect of sanctions. One example I gave was the role of the Rajapaksa dynasty of Sri Lanka and the titanium industry. Now that the renaissance of Rajapaksa rule has been rolled back in Sri lanka I thought it might be of interest to know some of the background.


It is not possible to understand Sri Lanka without understanding the vast empire of corruption of the Rajapaksa extended family. The President, his brothers, sons, nephews and cousins all hold major posts in the Sri Lankan government and have a finger and a fist in almost every major business transaction in the country.

The key to the major source of Rajapaksa wealth is the number of business deals made between Rajapaksa and several giant Chinese corporations. During the long war of the Sri Lanka Government against the LTTE Tigers China proved a close friend of the government. It sent weapons, supplies, and a variety of other assistance to Mahinda Rajapaksa (the President) and his brother Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Minister of Defence). It was China who spearheaded the defence of the Rajapaksas against the international outcry against the genocide and wanton destruction of Tamil Sri Lankans in the last stages of the war against the Tigers under orders from the Rajapaksas.

The main vehicle for the Rajapaksa wealth is the Sri Lanka Gateway Industries. According to local journalists in Colombo, “China has committed since 2005, as per treasury records, contracts and investments worth US$ 6.4 billion. So far, $ 3.6 billion has been disbursed; projects worth $ 2.8 billion are waiting to be signed. In another three years, the Chinese investment in Sri Lanka will nearly double and touch $ 12 billion… Available data shows that the First Family (FF) stands to receive in commission anywhere between US$1.2 to US$ 1.8 billion during 2005-15. It works out to an annual ‘intake’ of $120 to US$ 180 million from the Chinese projects.” (Rajeev Sharma, Colombo Telegraph 27/10/12).

Until 2005 the Chinese worked through a local agent in Sri Lanka, Bandula Weerawardena. When it became clear that the then current President Chandrika Kumaratunga was leaving office to be replaced by Mahinda Rajapaksa. Weerawardena switch sides to Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa joined up Weerawardena with his own business representative, Prabath Nanayakkara, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Gateway Industries. Using the strength of the Rajapaksa connections, the Gateway became a gateway for business to the family. Prabath’s main political partner is Dilshan Wickremasinghe. He is the son of the President’s brother-in-law, Nishantha Wickremasinghe, who is also the Chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines. Dilshan is CEO of Asset Networks (Pvt) Ltd and Asset International, both subsidies of Prabath’s Asset Holdings Pvt Ltd. (associated with Gateway). Metallurgical Construction Co. (MCC), China Harbour Engineering Co. (CHEC), Sinohydro Corp, China National Machinery & Equipment (CMEC), and China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corporation (HQCEC) are the main Chinese players in Sri Lanka. These companies are doing virtually all the Chinese funded projects in the countries. Prabath’s Asset Holdings is representing them.

This is also the pattern of hidden business control by the Rajapaksas in the exploitation of the titanium business. Just as Sajin Vas Gunawargena, the personal treasurer of Mahinda and his family, introduced Prabath Nanayakkara to the President to handle the family relations with China, Sajin Vas Gunawargena also introduced an unknown nonentity, Nandana Jayadewa Lokuwithana, to Mahindra to handle the Rajapakse overseas investments. At the time of his appointment as the semi-official proxy of the President, Lohuwithana was a bankrupt peasant villager from the village of Nattandiya.

What is of interest is the creation of a similar scheme by the Rajapaksas to control the titanium trade in Sri Lanka using   Nandana Jayadeva Lokuwithana as a proxy for the family. Recently, a little known company, Narayan Titanium Industries Ltd. submitted a project proposal to Board of Investment in Sri Lanka to set-up a Mineral Processing Plant at Trincomalee to transform ilmenite sands into value added Titanium Oxide Pigment with an investment of US$ 300 million. This little known company Narayan Titanium Industries Ltd. is a front company floated by Nandana Jayadeva Lokuwithana with the help of a Sri Lankan businessman Periyasamy Sunderlingam, who is very close to ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa, to sell Sri Lankan sands rich in ilmenite.

Periyasamy Sunderlingam is accused by the U.S. with one count each of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering, and two counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering. He is also charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is in connection with the fraudulent titanium deal in Andhra Pradesh, India, which was expected to generate more than $500 million annually from the sale of titanium products. Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States has charged six persons including MP KVP Ramachandra Rao and a Ukrainian businessman with participation in an alleged international racketeering to allow mining of titanium minerals.

While the Raghav team was meeting with the Indians at Andhra Pradesh, Raghav (on behalf of Stork) invited the participants to visit Russia to meet with the VSMPO-Avisma technicians and see the factory. In response to this invitation, an Indian government delegation visited Russia from June 13 to 22 in 2005. While they were there Raghav suggested to Periyasamy Sunderlingam that it might also be useful to think of working together in Sri Lanka.

The reason that they were looking at Sri Lanka was that, although there was a long history of the production of titanium ores (ilmenite and rutile) from the Pulmoddai Sands, 52 kilometres north of Trincomalee, the exploitation of these sands had been suspended for almost sixteen years because they lay in Tamil Sri Lankan areas and the LTTE Liberation Tigers had blasted its fresh water supply lines from the Yan Oya River and attacked ships coming to load the ores. When the Sri Lankan army launched its deadly attacks on Jaffna and the Trincomalee area the Pulmoddai Sands fell under the control of the Sri Lankan forces.

The Rajapaksas were the first to see the advantages to them. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's son, Namal Rajapaksa, demanded that the Village Officer of Kokku'laay in Mullaiththeevu district, hand over to him 10 acres of land belonging to Tamils to construct a mineral separation plant for titanium. A large area of land has been taken over and is divided into 60 pieces of quarter acres each and the land pieces have been fenced. 1,500 acres of lands belonging to Tamils have been illegally occupied carving out a Sinhala Regional Division, called Weli Oya (Ma'nal Aa'ru). In 1984, there were only 11 Sinhala families residing in Kokku'laay, when Tamils were chased out from Kokku'laay. Now, there are more than 500 Sinhala families in the area. A school has been constructed for the Sinhala colonists. A medical centre is also functioning two days in a week serving the Sinhala colonists, who have taken over the lands that belonged to Tamils.

Pulmoddai Sands has one of the richest deposits of titanium ore in the world. Almost 5 million tons of ilmenite are known to be in the region, which can theoretically be mined at the rate of 150,000 tons a year. In addition, rutile and zircon can be mined at the rates of 10,000 tons and 6,000 tons respectively. Raghav, Periyasamy Sunderlingam and Namal Rajapaksa prepared to exploit this treasure under the aegis of a Lohuwithana corporate vehicle. This  had the serendipitous advantage of opening the door to a closer relationship to Russia as a counter to the Chinese. Russians suggest that this was emphasised in discussions with the Sri Lankan foreign affairs minister and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister who is fluent in Sinhalese, having started his diplomatic career in Sri Lanka.

Despite the change of regime in Colombo, Raghav is active in trying to win control of the Pulmoddai Sands for VSMPO-Avisma. As an Indian he can travel the world freely and is free from sanctions. This is also true for his efforts in Mongolia. There are many other graduates of the Patrice Lumumba University active as ‘beards’ for Russian companies. As Third World nationals they can go pretty much as they please.

Source:Ocnus.net 2022

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