MR Recalls Gory Past on President Gotabaya’s Second Anniversary
|By Gagani Weerakoon|
“May Sri Lanka never see blood baths and massacres and may the people in Sri Lanka never experience fear for their lives again!” Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Thursday (18), at the unveiling ceremony of the Sandahiru Seya.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa vested the Sandahiru Seya in Anuradhapura with the Buddhist clergy amidst religious observances. The sacred pinnacle and the Chuda Manikya were unveiled during the ceremony. Devotees could now pay homage at the sacred site. The Premier said LTTE terrorists never had mercy for the common people in the country. “They massacred the clergy, political leaders and innocent civilians in cold blood.
They bombed public places and killed many civilians. They even attacked sacred places like the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. They attacked political leaders, even those who tried to hold peace talks with them,” he said.
The Premier recalled the supreme sacrifice made by soldiers to bring peace in the country and also others who lost their lives in the brutal war. “We always follow the humane approach adopted by King Dutugemunu. That was how we were able to win the decades-long bloody war. We only want freedom and national security,” he said.
“When I was the Prime Minister, I wanted to visit the Northern Province but the Norwegian representatives who were brokering the peace process told me to get permission from the LTTE. I said one day I would tour the Northern Province with ease. I was not prepared to get permission from the LTTE to visit a part of my own country,” he said. “The LTTE had established a separate country. They had separate laws, banks, and Police Stations. Former Presidents and political leaders allowed the LTTE to secure power in the North without doing anything about it.
When I met the UK Premier and told him that I want to free the country from the LTTE, he said it was an impossible task. The UK Premier said the international community would exert pressure and prevent such a move. He said the LTTE was well-fortified with suicide cadres, weapons, ships and missiles. He queried as to whether we could take the LTTE on.” Premier Rajapaksa said, future leaders should protect the freedom of the country. “Our war heroes won the freedom we enjoy today by making immense sacrifice that could hardly be imagined.
I request everyone to protect this freedom,” he said. The Maha Sangha and a number of distinguished invitees attended the Chuda Manikya unveiling ceremony including First Lady, Ioma Rajapaksa and the Premier’s wife, Shiranthi Rajapaksa. Families of deceased veteran war heroes and disabled servicemen who served in the war also participated in the ceremony.
Most Ven. Niyangoda Vijithasiri Anunayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and Most Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Thera, Anunayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter delivered anusasana. Defence Secretary General (Retired) Kamal Gunaratne delivered the vote of thanks. The Sandahiru Seya is the second tallest Chaitya in the country after the Ruwanweli Seya. The construction was initiated during the Presidency of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Defence Secretary. The Chaitya was erected in honour of war heroes who made the supreme sacrifice to end the LTTE war.
The construction of the Sandahiru Seya was initiated in 2010 by the Tri-Forces with the assistance of the Department of Archaeology and Sri Lanka Engineers. The Chuda Manikya was placed at the apex of the sacred pinnacle on 8 November. The Chaitya is about 283 feet in height and has a circumference of 801 feet.
The SJB held the rally on Tuesday (16), at the Galle Face Green Roundabout. Despite the Government introducing revised health guidelines a few hours before the rally commenced, banning public gatherings and protests, the SJB mustered a large gathering. Roads leading to the Liberty Roundabout and Galle Face were blocked as protesters marched on the streets.
The Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court on Monday (15), dismissed a request by 18 Police Stations in its jurisdiction to issue an Injunction to halt the protest rally organised by the SJB scheduled to be held in Colombo on Tuesday (16). The protest rally has been organised under the banner ‘16th People’s Power to Colombo’.
The Court rejected the request to issue an injunction as the Police failed to submit the request specifying details. The Court further said, as per the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution, the public have the right to engage in protests or demonstrations. It also pointed out that if anyone flouts the Circular issued by the DG Health Services to curb the spread of COVID-19, then such persons should be arrested and produced in Court. The Police submitted its request in 20 Police Divisions to seven Courts coming under the jurisdiction of the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court.
The requests made by the Bloemendhal, Kirulapone, Narahenpita, Bambalapitiya, Dam Street, Welikada, Gothatuwa, Mulleriyawa, Maligawatta, Wellampitiya, Borella, Mutwal, Cinnamon Gardens, Dematagoda, Grandpass, Harbour Police, Mattakkuliya and Keselwatte Police Stations have already been rejected. Meanwhile, requests made to the Nugegoda Chief Magistrate by the officers of the Mirihana, Maharagama, Kohuwala and Boralesgamuwa Police Stations to issue an Injunction preventing the staging of protest or demonstration in violation of the health circular issued by the Health Services DG to curb the COVID-19 spread in the aforesaid Police Divisions was also dismissed.
A request made to the Mount Lavinia Chief Magistrate by the Mount Lavinia Police Station and another request made to the Minuwangoda Chief Magistrate by the Minuwangoda and Katunayake Police Stations were similarly rejected. Meanwhile, on requests made by 12 Police Stations in the Gampaha Police Division, the Mahara and Welisara Magistrates and Horana Magistrate’s Court imposed Injunction preventing the staging of any protest or demonstration.
Addressing the gathering, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa ridiculed the Government for fighting the Opposition and for failing to notice the power of the people that flocked around SJB after every failure of this Government. “We have defeated the suppression of this corrupt system by holding a protest and have rejuvenated freedom of speech. The Government was attempting to use COVID-19 health guidelines as a ruse to suppress the Opposition and public freedom, instead of defeating the pandemic. There were many other political parties which held protests and ceremonies in the midst of the pandemic but no circulars or orders were issued to prevent them from going ahead.
Those whom the Government favoured were given the freedom to hold protests ensuring their freedom of speech with no restrictions whatsoever but when it came to us they tried every means to curb the protest.” MPs Harin Fernando, Harshana Rajakaruna, Mujibur Rahman, Kavinda Jayawardena, Manusha Nananayakkara, S.M. Marikkar and other politicians attended the rally.
Attention of many was drawn towards MP Patali Champika Ranawaka who is reportedly having issues with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the SJB seen walking beside Premadasa during the rally. It is reported that many were mumbling to each other as to why Ranawaka stayed near Premadasa like that. While the rally was preceding, heavy rain started to pour.
A bodyguard of Premadasa gave him an umbrella. Premadasa then invited Ranawaka to come under the umbrella. The duo walked like that for at least 1 km. Ranawaka’s conduct has reportedly created confusion among his supporters. They have allegedly expressed their displeasure over Ranawaka behaving like that without informing them.
Meanwhile, party members cried foul in Parliament on Tuesday (16) over the Police posting random checkpoints in the country and turning away those heading to Colombo to participate in its anti-Government protest to mark President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s second year in office. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa queried, “Hundreds of roadblocks had been set up by the Police. They turned away people who were on their way to Colombo. They checked buses and it was reported that they also tried to force people not to participate in the protest.
Don’t the people in this country have a right to bring their agitations to the Opposition Leader? Can’t they come to Colombo without being subjected to harassment?” Speaking further, Premadasa said he does not want to insult the Police. “Our supporters have been threatened and forced not to participate in the protest. The Police had taken down the names of participants. I can provide video evidence. The Police on Monday (16) went to Court to get Injunction Orders against our protest. The Courts gave a clear directive regarding the protests.
But the authorities seem to be neglecting such directives. This type of behaviour cannot be justified. Do not act in this way. It is not ethical. This is not a Police State,” he said. “You should deploy Police and military teams to find the truth about the Easter Sunday terror attacks in 2019, instead of hunting us down,” he said. SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana also alleged that the Police had stopped four buses with people coming from Matara. “You want evidence. I will provide all the details now,” he said.
MP Chaminda Wijesiri: “There are several laws in this country. The first one is Ali Sabry’s Law, the second one is Gnanasara Thera’s Law and the final one is Sarath Weerasekara’s Law.”
MP Harshana Rajakaruna: “The Police had come to my office in the morning and told our supporters not to participate in the protest. They even set up a checkpoint in front of my office in Kirindiwela.
This is a violation of my privileges as an MP. The Government treats people like terrorists.” Earlier on in the Sittings, MP Nalin Bandara questioned the Government as to whether there was information that Parliament was going to be attacked on 16 November. Bandara said that he was stopped at 10 Police checkpoints on the way to participate in the Appropriation Bill 2022 debate.
Several other MPs raised similar concerns during the Sittings. “There were 21 such checkpoints on the road and I was stopped at 10 checkpoints. The Government should give an explanation for this. Is Parliament facing a terrorist threat?” he queried. In response to the allegations, Minister Weerasekara said the Police have to ensure the safety of all the people in the country. “The Police have the responsibility of preventing the spread of the pandemic. You have to understand and support that. We have ensured national security and there is no question regarding that. Police are supporting the health officials. So, you should not blame the Police.
If you have any concern, you can file a complaint and it will be investigated,” he said. The SJB staged a protest in the Parliament Chamber on Wednesday (18) alleging that Police had assaulted and killed a supporter who was coming to participate in the party’s antiGovernment protest held on Tuesday (17). Several SJB MPs including Chief Opposition Whip, Lakshman Kiriella and Gayantha Karunatileka said the public were inconvenienced due to the conduct of the Police on Tuesday (16). They said although the many Magistrates’ Courts permitted the rally, the Police did not follow the Order.
“The IGP had told the Police not to allow anyone to park vehicles in Colombo. He even ordered Police not to allow people in other provinces to enter Colombo. As a result many people were inconvenienced,” the MPs said, querying from the Government whether it is was running scared of the SJB. The Speaker told MPs not to drag the conversation into a different debate when SJB MPs repeatedly raised Points of Order.
When MP Ranjith Maddumabandara was given time to speak on the Appropriation Bill 2022, other SJB MPs rose from their seats and some of them came close to Maddumabandara with placards having slogans such as ‘Lajjai Sarath Lajjai’ (Shame on you Sarath), ‘Niliyanta Yata Andum, Janathawata Polupahara’ (Underwear for Actresses, Assaults for People) and “Polispathi Anduwata Kade Yayi’ (The IGP in favour of Government).
Maddumabandara slammed Public Security Minister, Sarath Weerasekara claiming that the latter should be held responsible for the behaviour of the Police on Tuesday. The Police had even killed a person who was coming to attend the rally after arresting and assaulting him, Maddumabandara alleged.
While Maddumabandara was speaking, Weerasekara was seen entering the Chamber and SJB MPs chanted slogans against Weerasekera referring to his giving undergarments to an actress. MPs seated on the Government side, did not respond to the protest. Former President Maithripala Sirisena was seen observing the protest while MP Mujibur Rahman hurled charges against SLPP MP, Mohommed Muzammil saying Muzammil’s party leader, Minister Wimal Weerawansa was also frustrated with the Government. Some MPs were seen recording the protest on their phone cameras.
Later in the day, Minister Weerasekara refuted the SJB MPs' allegation that the Police had arrested a youth and beaten him to death. Weerasekera said, “This person was Indika Jayaratne. He was a 37-year-old resident of Panamure. He was a drug addict and the Police had received complaints that he was constantly abusing his wife and children.
His daughter had filed a complaint with the Police that he had beaten her with a club on 12 November. She was later admitted to hospital and was still undergoing treatment. The man had gone into hiding and the Police were looking for his whereabouts. The Police arrested him around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday so it has nothing to do with the protest. When he was attempting to take his life, a police officer had rescued him and taken him to hospital. He died before admission,” Weerasekara said.
God Given Ganja
Claiming that cannabis is a ‘Godgiven gift’ to Sri Lanka, MP Diana Gamage on Tuesday (16) proposed to make it a commercial crop in Sri Lanka and start exporting products made with cannabis to uplift the country’s hardhit economy. Participating in the debate on the Appropriation Bill 2022, Gamage said Sri Lanka should legalise cannabis. “Tea, coconut and rubber are considered as commercial crops in Sri Lanka. But now, we are importing all of them. Many African countries and China have started to export tea. But Sri Lanka is blessed with a god-given gift named, cannabis. We should legalise cannabis and start exporting products made with cannabis. We can uplift the country’s economy in that way,” she claimed.
Gamage said she has many products made with cannabis such as toothpaste, cannabis oil and food products in her home. “I wanted to bring some of these products to the House, but I could not. Cannabis oil is beneficial in various Ayurvedic treatments. We should not see it only as a forbidden drug. Instead, it should be seen as a medical alternative.” Even if the Government collapses it will not seek the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Minister of Water Supply Vasudeva Nanayakkara said on Tuesday (16) in Parliament. In response to UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who proposed that the Government should seek the support of the IMF to solve the current financial crisis, Nanayakkara said the Government should not let the people suffer the conditions the IMF could impose. Wickremesinghe: “The economy should be stabilised.
So, I request the Government to go to the IMF and seek its support. I don’t think that they will tell us to reduce the number of jobs. Even if they recommend us to do so, we in Parliament could discuss it. You also have to discuss it with other countries such as India, US and China. We will give our fullest support for that. First we need to stabilise the economy.” Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena: “The IMF will impose certain conditions if we go to them. Some conditions could be in violation of our principles.
Also, if that happens, what will be the Opposition’s response?” Wickremesinghe: “I never said we should not seek assistance of the IMF. First we have to seek their assistance. There should be financial discipline in the country.” Nanayakkara: “If we go to the IMF, it would feel like a prison. This should be the last resort. Prisoners at least get their food, but if the IMF intervenes in our economy, we would not get even food. They will eat us alive. So, even if the Government collapsed, we would not seek the support of the IMF. We will not let our people suffer.”
When UNP Leader Ranil Wickeremesinghe visited Parliament last Saturday (13) and had a rare scene where dissatisfied ruling party MPs who gathered in small groups murmuring to each other. Wickremesinghe saw such a scenario in Parliament for the first time in his entire political career, the ruling party MPs behaving irritated like this just after the day of Budget Speech. Wickeremesinghe, who was curious, approached a group of MPs and asked what was going on. “As a senior politician, please speak about the true situation of the country. We have no say in this Budget. How can we face our supporters in the village?” one ruling party member told the UNP leader.
“What do we have to tell to the people? Can we ask them to make more sacrifices because our pension was cut?” he said. Another MP joined the conversation saying that although the pension of MPs was cut, they do not see how the Budget gives any benefit to the common people. Wickremesinghe went on to say that the frustrated MPs should direct their inquiries to the Speaker, and then should consult with the Prime Minister to find solutions for their agitations. He even promised that he would intervene in it to a certain extent.
During the sitting, the UNP Leader recalled the tradition of Parliament and said that the Finance Minister should be in the Chamber during the Appropriation Bill debate. The Opposition frequently questioned as to why Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa failed to attend the Sittings during the debate. Wickeremesinge also expressed his opinions regarding the matter.
On Tuesday (16), he was given the time to deliver the first speech of the Opposition as a former Prime Minister. However, the Leader of the Opposition’s office later informed him that the opening address of that day would be delivered by another MP. Wickeremsinghe’s speech had been scheduled as the third after the ITAK. Wickeremesinghe did not oppose this and was ready to deliver the speech as in the schedule. However, ITAK MP Siddharthan, who was nearby, said that Wickeremsinghe should speak first as a senior MP. Wickremesinghe then thanked him and joined the debate as the Opposition’s second speaker for the day.
After that, Wickremesinghe went straight to the Sirikotha. When he arrived, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara, and Chairman Vajira Abeywardena were also present and holding UNP’s Colombo District Committee.
Wickeremsinghe participated in the discussion. “We staged a successful protest after short preparation within 36 hours. Nobody expected that so many people would show up. I appreciate everyone’s effort,” Wickremesinghe said. They also discussed about organising numerous more protests in remote areas. Accordingly, protests were planned in Attanagalla, Matara, and several other cities throughout the budget debate season.
“The Police also went to court against our demonstration in Colombo, but the Police were powerless to intervene because our lawyers handled the situation with accurate facts,” Vajira Abeywardena noted. Range Bandara, who spoke after that said that the Government is ruining itself as a result of their own activities. This is what called Karma. They must face the consequences of their actions that disrupted activities of Yahapalana Government, he stressed. According to Sandith Samarasinghe, the people expected to come up with a budget that would provide them essentials.
‘They wanted three meals a day at fair prices and sufficient income from the budget, but now they have to stay in queues to fulfil even their basic needs like obtaining food.” Ruwan Wijewardene said that Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa proved that CBSL Treasury bond scam did not cause any loss to the country. We might have to thank him for proving what he kept saying all the way to the people.
We had 12 billion rupees at the Central Bank. They cut it down to 8.5 billion. Now we have to figure out where the rest of the money is.” There are long fuel queues and LP Gas queues on the roads everywhere in the country and that the Sapugaskanda oil refinery is closed for fifty days, former MP Saman Ratnapriya said.
Wickeremsinghe, who listened to all these concerns, stated that the root cause for all of those problems is the forex crisis in the country. That is why I emphasised in Parliament that I would meet with IMF personnel, but the Government does not appear to like it. The other thing was that I urged them to resume the projects commenced by our Government. Those projects have USD 4 billion of investment. The IMF will support us when those projects are resumed. If not, the country will be in great difficulty, he pointed out.
They also discussed holding a number of rallies across the country. Wickremesinghe directed the group to pick the nearest city in remote areas and hold protests with lesser persons. He also spent the weekend away from Colombo, while the Deputy Leader also travelled to Moneragala and Ampara for party activities.