By Shaahidah Riza and Lankesh Gooneratne
Cabinet spokesperson, Minister of Health and member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Rajitha Senaratne stated that only 25 SLFP MPs attended the Pro-Mahinda Rally on Friday (12) though the Pro-Mahinda faction claimed the figure was 62.
Senaratne who also rubbished claims indicating the attendance of an enormous crowd, added that the people were with the President. “There were 212 buses in which people were transported there. There were over 200 vans. The stage was erected at the centre, not at the rear of the grounds. In essence, there was only an illusion of a large crowd. They did the same at other rallies in the past”, Dr.Senaratne asserted.
The former President, who was an absentee at other rallies in his support had made an appearance at Friday’s rally, said Western Province Councillor and General Secretary of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Udaya Gammanpila. The rally held at Matara last Friday (12) in support of the former President Rajapaksa’s bid to candidacy as the Prime minister was an enormous success he said, adding that 71 UPFA MPs attended the rally. “The former President emerged from the stone hinges while I was addressing the crowd. He actually spoilt my speech because the attention of the people was diverted towards him. They were cheering; he was given a rousing welcome. He only stayed for a few minutes”, Gammanpila said.
He also added it was a clear sign that the former President has won the hearts of the people.
“There is no split in the SLFP. The MPs are on the fence. The fact that they don’t support Mahinda does not mean they are against him. The SLFPers including the UPFA Members in the local government are in support of the former president,” he claimed.
Senaratne, who vehemently opposed Gammanpila’s stand, said the latter was not the best authority to comment on the SLFP and added that the local government member were supportive of the President. He continued, “Who is Gammanpila to comment on SLFP? What does he know? He is not from the SLFP. He is not even a Pradeshiya Sabha Member.”
Meanwhile, when Ceylon today contacted SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa but he refused to comment.