Addressing a large crowd that had gathered at the ‘Jana Satana’ rally organised by the joint opposition against the UNP – led government in Colombo today, former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would show them how the country should be run if it were handed over to him — as the government was doing an abysmal job of it.
“If you can’t run the country, give it to me. I will show you how to run it,” said Mr. Rajapaksa, at the rally held at Hyde Park — which was attended by 46 MPs of the joint opposition, including Chamal Rajapaksa and four SLFP vice presidents. The former president said the government was taking revenge on its political opponents and accusing the previous government of causing an economic crisis and various other problems in the country, in an attempt to cover up the its ineptitude.
He said he, too, could have pulled skeletons out of closets but had decided to develop the country instead. “If I had searched closets, I would have found skeletons too. But I decided not to do so when I took over the country,” he said. Mr. Rajapaksa said he had built expressways, ports, power plants and airports with the loans he had obtained during his tenure. He said the government had not even built a culvert after obtaining US$ 6,361 million worth of loans last year.
He said the government accused him of obtaining loans without declaring them and also said that that was why the government had to increase taxes. “The government should have refused to repay the loans if they were obtained in a secret manner. Then there would have been no problem,” he said. He pledged to remain in politics even if he and his entire family were put behind bars. “I will engage in politics for the sake of the people of this country even if my entire family is put in jail,” he said.
MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said the government led by the UNP was leading the country towards anarchy and an economic crisis and that the joint opposition would send it home. “Jana Satana is the first move towards achieving that goal,” he said.
MP Kumara Welgama faulted SLFP Minister S. B. Dissanayake for leaving the party more than once and for threatening disciplinary action against SLFP MPs who attended the rally. “Mahinda Rajapaksa never left the party — unlike Chandrika Kumaratunga and S.B. Dissanayake. S.B. Dissanayake has lost direction and knows nothing about what he speaks of,” he said.
NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had increased taxes and put people into difficulties but had increased the privileges of ministers. “Bitter medicine for the general public and sweet medicine for the ministers from Dr. Wickremesinghe,” he said. He said the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which had criticised the excessive number of ministers in the previous government, had sold itself to the UNP. He critisised JVP leader Anura Kumara Disssanayake for remaining silent on the appointment of ministers.
MP Udaya Gammanpila said the joint opposition was ready to take over the reins. “The government is ruining the country. We can’t wait any longer. We are ready to take over,” he said.
Janatha Sevaka Party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said he would pledge support to any people’s movement which opposed the UNP and imperialism. “If there are real anti-UNPers, this is the place for them. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should stop his traitorous actions. We wish to remind him that he was sent home after two years in power, in 2004; and that we can still do it,” he said.
Joint opposition leader Dinesh Gunawardane, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Bandula Gunawardane, Rohitha Abeygunawardana, Gamini Lokuge Professor Tissa Vitharana, former chief justice Sarath N. Silva, trade union activist W.H. Piyadasa and songstress Neela Wickramasinghe also spoke at the rally. (Lahiru Pothmulla)
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