By Zahrah Imtiaz and Rathindra Kuruwita
Eight Local Government councillors, from the United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA), crossed over to the common Opposition yesterday (16) to extend their support to Maithripala Sirisena, citing corruption and nepotism as the main reason for their decision.
SLFP member of the Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, Municipal Council (MC) Ranjan Ponnamperuma, SLFP Chairman of the Ja-Ela Urban Council, Anju Perera and Athula Senaratne, former SLFP Kandy Municipal Council Member and campaign organizer for Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga crossed over.
Ponnamperuma, speaking at a media briefing, held at Solis Resturant, said he was on the verge of retiring from politics as he could not stand the corruption that was going on at the Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte MC. Along with Ponnamperuma, three other UPFA Members too had crossed over yesterday and thus, both Opposition and ruling members were in equal numbers at the Council. Previously the government occupied 14 out of the 20 seats while the Opposition had six.
Ponnamperuma, speaking to Ceylon today said the President had removed the provision to dissolve the Council through the defeat of a budget, thus, the only option they had was an impeachment.
Perera reasoned that over the years, the SLFP had been subjected to the whims and fancies of one family and that the top leadership had not listened when the councillors at the bottom had complained that the people were not happy.
“The government has continuously used excessive force to suppress the people when they come forward to fight for their rights. When the people in Rathupaswala wanted clean water, the government could have just given them that. When the fishermen in Chilaw protested, they could have solved the problem by giving them the fuel subsidy. There were simple solutions to these problems, they did not need to use the military,” said Perera.
He added this trend of using military force on people, signalled that the President was interested in moving towards a dictatorship where civil unrest would not be tolerated.
Senaratne, who also spoke, said the common Opposition was ready to face any threat put forward by the government, “The regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa has come to an end.”
Meanwhile, Attanagalle Pradesheeya Sabha Member, Indika Rajapakshe and Meerigama Pradeshiya Sabha member, Somaratne Diyanetti also pledged support to common Opposition candidate at a press briefing at the official residence of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike. In addition Chilaw Municipal Councillor Jeevani Kariyawasam also spoke at the briefing. she crossed over on 12 December.