Namal leads the way as JO holds major rally this week

With the Joint Opposition and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna pledging to bring ‘a sea of people’ to Colombo for its demonstration this week, the Government has dismissed the mass rally as just another stunt by pro-Rajapaksa faction.

The SLPP’s much-talked about ‘Jana Balaya Colambata’ – a play on the UNP’s highly successful Jana Bala Meheyuma in 2001, will be held on September 5, after it was postponed once since the date clashed with the advanced level examinations.

JO frontliners are being tight-lipped about the final venue for the demonstration, fearing pre-emptive moves by the authorities.

They fear of stay orders against the assembly if it disrupts transport services or causes major congestion on the city roads.

The march will gather groups of supporters from different areas largely on the outskirts of the Western Province and have them converge on one location in Colombo. Groups are also expected to join the demonstration from Galle, Matara and Hambantota. The groups will meet at a central location in Colombo at 2PM on September 5, organisers said.

Organisers of different groups of marchers have been issued specific instructions by the party hierarchy, Sunday Observer learns. They have been advised to gather their crowds in one location and start marching towards Colombo at an appointed time.

Halfway to the city, the organiser will be told where to lead his crowd. Supporters have been urged to bring plenty of water, handkerchiefs or towels to face potential tear gas attacks, and have also been asked to come prepared to stay overnight, Sunday Observer learns from sources within the SLPP camp within the Colombo District.

Instructions have been issued to local organisers to bring at least 50 people from one Local Government ward. There are nearly 4,600 Local Government wards in the country, JO MP Ranjith de Zoysa said.

Son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Hambantota district MP Namal Rajapaksa is the face of the demonstration, and has been instrumental in whipping up support by holding pocket meetings in different parts of Colombo and its suburbs. Officially, the Jana Balaya Colambata rally is organized by the SLPP Youth Wing, of which Namal Rajapaksa is the de facto leader, even though he remains officially a member of the SLFP.

According to JO front liner and UPFA Kandy District MP Dilum Amunugama the main aim of the demonstration would be to pressurize the Government to hold PC elections which are overdue. Amunugama confirmed that all constituent parties of the JO will take part in the demonstration.

Asked to comment on remarks by SLFP Senior Vice President Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva that if the SLFP MPs participate in September 5 demonstration, the party hierarchy would take action against them, MP Amunugama scoffed that they had been saying this since the JO launched its first rally at Nugegoda.

Meanwhile, another JO heavyweight told the Sunday Observer that the Government will leave no stone unturned to prevent the masses from attending the protest campaign as reported from many areas across the country, mainly the Western Province.

He said the JO has also sought legal advice to proceed with the protest campaign in the event the Government would take steps to sabotage it. He also hinted out the possibility of the protest campaign being extended to the following day (September 06) depending on the response of the Government to their demands. The “Janabalaya Colombata” protest campaign would bring the city of Colombo to a standstill, the JO member vowed.

A member of the SLFP Group of 15, Chandima Weerakkody told the Sunday Observer that all 15 SLFP MPs would participate in the JO’s demonstration. More than 250 buses from Galle district alone would bring people to Colombo on September 5, he said. “After this, the people will be able to clearly distinguish between the true followers of the SLFP and its traitors,” Weerakoddy charged.

UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam called the Opposition demonstration ‘pure showbiz’. “The same President and Prime Minister will be in Government the next day as well,” he said complacently. The Minister also explained that the JO was currently split into several factions.

In spite of the bravado however, in a lightning move, the Western Province Transport Authority has imposed a week-long ban on chartering private buses for special services citing the implementation of ‘model transportation week’.

A special circular was issued preventing all passenger buses registered in the western province from being deployed for special services until September 8. The move will prevent the transfer of large crowds from the borders of the Province, unless the buses are hired from outside the region.

Deputy Minister of Environment, Ajith Mannapperuma told the Sunday Observer that the JO is always daydreaming. “The people are well aware that the JO cannot topple the Government by bringing people to Colombo.

This Government is not scared of the people’s power because it is this very Government which paved the way to strengthen it. Incidents such those of Rathupaswala, killing of a Katunayake Free Trade Zone worker and a fisherman in Chilaw during demonstrations is a testimony to the former Government’s acting against the people’s power. Therefore, this Government cannot be frightened through demonstrations. The JO attempts to use the people as a cat’s paw to realise their narrow political objectives,” Mannapperuma explained.