Phone scandal rocks Sri Lanka’s Opposition party


A Sri Lankan politician’s alleged practice of recording phone conversations has led to a scandal, after some of the conversations were leaked on social media, putting several judges, police officers and politicians under the spotlight and delivering a huge blow to the main Opposition party.

Earlier this week, police arrested actor-politician Ranjan Ramanayake, a legislator with the United National Party (UNP), that suspended him following the phone call leaks.

The recordings reveal what appear to be the politician’s conversations, with senior judges, police and celebrities, pertaining to ongoing court cases.

On Thursday, the Judicial Services Commission suspended a magistrate court judge in connection with the leaked audio. The Attorney General has also directed the Colombo Crime Division to record statements from current and former judges reportedly heard speaking to the politician. A senior police investigator has been suspended pending an inquiry initiated against him.

High-profile cases

Most of the leaked conversations in Sinhala language have raised serious questions about possible political interference from the former UNP government in high-profile cases involving members of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration that the UNP-led coalition unseated in 2015, promising good governance and rule of law. In the November 2019 presidential election, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a huge mandate, prompting the UNP to step down from the government.

Ministers and MPs of the new government, helmed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, have slammed the opposition UNP for “politicising” the judiciary and police services while in power. It remains unclear who leaked the conversations on social media after police obtained hard drives and CDs, reportedly with one lakh call recordings, including some with indecent language.

Mr. Ramanayake, a former State Minister, was also heard criticising his party’s leadership, according media reports. Police have denied any involvement in the leak— that have been widely shared on traditional and social media.

Mr. Ramanayake, nicknamed ‘One Shot’ after one of his successful films, has in the past made news for his sensational phone calls. He once called a fellow MP during a press conference and put her on speaker phone, reportedly without her knowledge.

Meanwhile, the UNP is caught in an internal power struggle, a month after its candidate Sajith Premadasa — now Leader of Opposition — lost the presidential election. While Mr. Premadasa and his supporters are keen on obtaining party leadership from Ranil Wickremesinghe, the factions are yet to reconcile and resolve the tussle within.

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