This is NOT an image of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s personal residence library, before being burnt down!

Misleading Protest Social

Sri Lanka is  currently experiencing a severe political and economic crisis. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country in the early hours of 13th July, the day he was said to officially resign, appointing Ranil Wickremasinghe as the Acting President.

Earlier, on the eve of July 09, after the protestors had taken control of the President’s House and Presidential Secretariat, a tense situation arose, when the security forces had attacked the media personnel near the private residence of then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile, a group of people who had entered the PM’s house, damaged large portions of the house and set it on fire. The PM’s personal library was also severely damaged. Three people had been arrested in connection with the incident and investigations are underway on this incident.

Many had condemned the act of damaging and setting fire to the Ranil Wickremasinghe’s private residence and there were many sentiments over the damage to invaluable books and other items which were part of this library.

Here we looked at some misleading posts which had used an unrelated image to indicate that it was PM’s library.

Social Media Posts

An image implying to be the library of Ranil Wickremasinghe is being shared alongside the caption “Reading makes us a full man…Ranil-Maithri Wickramasinghe’s priceless. .Library which had already been donated to the Royal college , has been destroyed by fire. Very sad

Facebook | Archived 

The text inside the viral image indicated a wealth of knowledge reserved for the future was set on fire, implying to Ranil Wickremasinghe’s library. Below is a post with the same image with over 1000 shares

Facebook | Archived

These posts were viral among Facebook users

Also, we noticed posts carrying the same image, which had claimed it to be the scenes of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s library, before it was burnt down as seen below.

Facebook | Archived

Fact Check

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made a special statement, expressing his concern over the burning of his house, which also included the said library.

On 9 July, I postponed my meetings and stayed at home in the afternoon. During the evening, the Police said that people were passing my house, and that they may yell at me, and to therefore leave my home. So, my wife and I left the house. Only then was my house burnt. I only had one house. My biggest treasure was my library. There were 2,500 books. Some books were copies signed by their authors, like a book by American diplomat Henry Kissinger. I cannot keep them forever. Maithree (a reference to his wife, academic Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe) and I agreed to donate them to libraries – some to Royal College, some to the Peradeniya University and some to an institute. We had separated and kept them. 

I had paintings, including 200-year-old paintings, some commissioned when the British first landed in Sri Lanka. Only one is remaining from the Dutch period that shows King Wimaladharmasuriya meeting Dutch ambassadors. I had the thripitakaya, books about Buddhism. I had 15 special Buddha statues. I had Buddhist paintings. All of those are lost now and completely destroyed. Only fascist Hitler types destroy houses like this,” said Wickremesinghe in a summarized report of PM’s statement as reported here.

Condemning these atrocities on the PM’s house, Deputy Leader of UNP, Ruwan Wijewardene stated that valuable books, valuable artefacts along with belongings inherited from parents and generations have all been burnt in the fire. Here are some video footages and images he had reported from the scene

Below is a video showing the extent of the damage to Ranil Wickremasinghe’s house along with the books which had been burnt down by the mob attack.

We noticed some Facebook posts of media reports from 2021, which had reported that Ranil Wickremasinghe’s last wish was to  donate his private residence to his alma mater, Royal College.

Below is a post which includes images published by a social media user and a person known to Mr. Wickremasinge, on how his library looked before it was burnt down.

Archived

These images looks different to the one that got viral on social media, giving reference to Ranil Wickremasinghe’s library in his private residence.

A Google Reverse Search showed that the viral image belonged to a villa from Milan, Lombarady in Italy. The Airbnb posting of a villa for rent from Italy carrying the same picture can be seen below.

Airbnb | Archived

Another article listed this charming villa in Italy as one of the most recommended Airbnb’s with libraries, for book lovers, as seen below.

Link | Archived

Many social media users also had identified that the viral image was not related to Ranil Wickremasinghe’s library, as seen here

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Conclusion

According to our investigation, we were able to find out that the image used in viral posts implying to be the personal library of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe before it was burnt down are misleading. The image was in fact taken from a posting in Airbnb and depicts a villa in Milano, Italy, a recommended place for book lovers

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Title:This is NOT an image of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s personal residence library, before being burnt down!

Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Misleading

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