AS Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa campaigns for the presidential election, his son, Namal Rajapaksa, on Monday got his “friend”, Bollywood actor Salman Khan, to visit the island country for a “social cause”. (See Pics: Salman, Jacqueline off to Sri Lanka)
Salman Khan, was who was accompanied by Sri Lanka-born actress Jacqueline Fernandez, donated lens for cataract operations in Sri Lanka. They were participating in a health camp organised by the Sri Lankan ruling party’s youth wing, headed by Namal, and Being Human Foundation, a charity promoted by Salman Khan. Their pictures with Rajapaksa and his son went viral on social media throughout Monday.
Within hours of the public event, Namal thanked Salman and his charity, Being Human Foundation in his tweet.
However, Salman Khan’s presence in Sri Lanka was widely seen as an attempt by the Rajapaksa to bolster the incumbent Lankan President’s prospects in the upcoming elections. Rajapaksa has been hit by defections in the last few weeks, although the impact of the mass defections from his ruling coalition to the opposition challenger, Maithripala Sirisena, are hard to ascertain in the middle of an election campaign.
“I can confirm that Salman Khan is here this morning. This is not at the invitation of the Sri Lankan President,” Mohan Samaranayake, Sri Lanka’s Presidential spokesman, told The Indian Express over telephone from Colombo. However, he added that Namal Rajapaksa is “close” to Salman Khan.
The presidential election is scheduled to be held on January 8. Rajapaksa called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to seek a fresh mandate before his party’s popularity tumbles further, after dropping over 21 per cent in the September local elections.
According to reports, Namal and Salman Khan have been friends for the last few years. Jacqueline Fernandez, a former Miss Sri Lanka who acted with Salman in Kick, is a common friend.
Quite predictably, the Tamil parties, including DMK and MDMK, condemned Salman Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka.
In 2010, Salman Khan visited Lanka to attend the IIFA awards, despite protests by Tamil groups and boycott by Tamil actors. This came after the 2009 victory of the Lankan armed forces against the LTTE and was projected as an endorsement of the regime.
Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez had then announced their support for the planned IIFA Hands for Humanity Village which was meant for 100 war affected families living in the northeast of Sri Lanka, as they were going to move into their own homes. More recently, Namal attended Salman Khan’s sister Arpita’s wedding ceremony. It is learnt that Namal had then requested Salman to visit Sri Lanka ahead of the elections.
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