By Revata S. Silva
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the Joint Opposition’s May Day rally at the Galle Face Green, said the mammoth gathering signified that the end of the government had come.
“This massive gathering will pave the way for a new government,” an elated former President told tens of thousands of people who had converged at the Galle Green, encompassing about 18 acres.
After elaborating on some of the development programmes initiated by his government, Rajapaksa tore into the present administration for bringing the country’s development to a halt.
“Talking about a false ‘Rajapaksa debt trap’ they have stopped all the development work.”
Members of the Joint Opposition, leaders of parties of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance and various worker organisations addressed the rally.
Pointing to the nearby Port City, Rajapaksa said during his rule foreign investors were falling over themselves to come here. He cited as examples the star-class hotels coming up near the Galle Face Green and the Lotus Tower.
“Nobody is investing here at present. The government is trying to pin the blame on me.”
Referring to Wimal Weerawansa, who had spoken before him, former President said the present government was carrying out a political witch hunt the victims had been Opposition politicians like Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Namal Rajapaksa. He said the JO had promised to hold the biggest ever May Day rally in the country.
“We took up that challenge and succeeded. Now I ask them to hold the local government elections soon if they dare.”
Rajapaksa said he and the Joint Opposition would never allow the proposed Constitution aimed at dividing the country to be promulgated. If the government tried to do so people would take to the streets, he warned. Neither would the JO allow the country’s assets to be sold to foreigners.
He said the late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike had regained the control of the Trincomalee harbour by abrogating an agreement. “Was it to hand over that harbour to foreign powers again that the SLFPer voted for this government?”
According to new laws the government was introducing, even he would be held responsible, as the wartime President, for alleged accountability issues, Rajapaksa said.
May Day success emboldens JO to go it alone at poll
by Shamindra Ferdinando
The Joint Opposition yesterday declared that it would go it alone at whatever the next election, under the leadership of war winning former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Local government polls are two years overdue while provincial council polls are scheduled in Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provinces in September, 2017.
Declaring that JO’s May Day rally at Galle Face had given a clear signal to the country and the world as to which way the wind was blowing, Chairman of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said that the new party would go ahead with planned project.
Prof. Peiris was addressing the media at Dr N.M. Perera Centre, Cotta road, Borella. “We are committed to form a new government under former President Rajapaksa’s leadership”, he said.
Prof. Peiris asserted that massive public participation at the JO May Day rally reflected the growing resentment towards the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government with the former blindly following UNP policies severely inimical to the country.
“Give the electorate an early opportunity to exercise their franchise at long overdue local government polls,” Prof. Peiris said. The former law professor said that President Maithripala and his group within the UNP led administration weren’t acceptable to genuine SLFPers.
JO heavyweights Dallas Alahapperuma (Matara District MP) and National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa (Colombo District MP) warned yahapalana rulers of dire consequences unless they heeded public demand for local government polls.
MP Alahapperuma admitted that even they had been nervous when the JO accepted the daunting task to organise the May Day rally at Galle Face. But former President Rajapaksa had always accepted overwhelming challenges, Alahapperuma said, adding that securing local government polls was their priority now.
Underscoring that the JO May Day rally had attracted much more people than the SLFP (Getambe), UNP (Campbell Park) and JVP (BRC grounds) rallies combined, Alahapperuma warned that the government could not indefinitely put off LG polls. The MP said the JO would surround all those responsible for the present situation. Alahapperuma urged the National Election Commission (NEC) to take meaningful measures to hold LG polls and Western diplomatic missions to examine post-May Day situation.
MP Weerawansa estimated the number of people attracted by the JO at 2 mn, surely the largest ever gathering at any event in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history.
Weerawansa said the next time those called to Colombo wouldn’t leave. The firebrand politician said that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe couldn’t survive political mine field by having what he called an artificial two-thirds majority in parliament.
The NFF Leader urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to accept the ground reality. Urging Speaker Jayasuriya to watch some serial video footage of the Galle Face crowds, MP Weerawansa urged the senior UNPer to give due recognition to the JO.
Reiterating that twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been a victim of political conspiracy also involving Western powers, Weerawansa explained US strategy here and ongoing efforts to explore ways and means of using Sri Lanka as a US military base as well as a major listening post. The MP alleged that former UK High Commission complex that adjoins the American embassy in Colombo had been taken over by the US to set up an intelligence post and the yahapalana government was fully cooperating with the super power.
Asked by The Island whether the JO accepted the yahapalana government’s shortsighted and wrong policies contributed to public resentment hence the large crowds at Galle Face rather than due to their organizing capabilities, JO members Alahapperuma and Keheliya Rambukwella explained ill fated decisions taken by yahapalana rulers. They explained how yahapalana rulers had earned the wrath of the electorate by taking decisions inimical to the country and the public. A smiling MP Rambukwella said that there had been several meetings at Sirikotha where so called experts decided that the JO could not under any circumstances bring in crowds required to fill Galle Face.