Artistes’ campaign supporting MR voluntary, says Namal

Namal Rajapaksa yesterday rejected accusations that the government had paid Rs. 500,000 each to artistes and sports personalities now campaigning for President Rajapaksa at the forthcoming presidential election.

Responding to criticism that artistes and sports icon Sanath Jayasuriya had been bribed by the UPFA, Rajapaksa junior emphasized that none of them had received any money to join what he called a hugely successful electronic media campaign.

He said that he had been ready with it even before former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka officially announced his candidature.

He appreciated the artistes and sports personalities for their role in the campaign. According to him, about 80 persons are involved the on-going campaign.

Veteran musician Rohana Weerasinghe told The Island that artistes had joined the President's campaign on their own and there was absolutely no truth in allegations that they received money. He said that there was overwhelming support for President Rajapaksa's re-election bid and the vast majority of artistes wanted to campaign for the incumbent President. In fact, several artistes who had been with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the last presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2005 April 2004, respectively, had switched their allegiance to the President, Weerasinghe said.

Responding to our queries, Weerasinghe said that they campaigned for Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga at the 1994 presidential election at the height of UNP power. Although the then government reacted angrily, many artistes came out openly in support of Mrs. Kumaratunga, he said. According to him, the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's last presidential campaign did not receive the support of many prominent artistes. But today there was overwhelming support for the President, he said, while accusing the Opposition of propagating lies to undermine a popular leader.

Namal Rajapaksa said that the Opposition, too, could ask artistes to campaign for their candidate. He said the UNP and the JVP were worried due to the success of his campaign.

Former UNP MP Ravindra Randeniya and Malini Fonseka, who campaigned for the UNP at the last presidential elections, are now with President Rajapaksa.

The artistes will meet the press at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre on Tuesday (Dec. 15) to launch a campaign in support of the President.

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