Security: UNP alleges unequal treatment

The UNP yesterday urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa restore police security afforded to Opposition MPs to ensure their safety and security during the ongoing campaign for the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

Former Gampaha District MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena told The Sunday Island that Opposition candidates had been deprived of even the basic security, though UPFA Ministers and MPs retained their security contingents.

He said that no previous government had removed members’ security on the basis of the dissolution of Parliament. The government had also conveniently forgotten that they had to campaign at the risk of their lives due to threats posed by marauding government politicians, he said.

Accusing the government of being vindictive, the former Rehabilitation Minister urged Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake for a level playing field at the election.

Referring to recent statements attributed to government politicians, he said that when the Opposition demanded equal treatment by way of adequate security personnel, we were told that the LTTE was no longer a factor and bodyguards weren’t a necessity.

If that was the case ruling party politicians, too, could set an example by moving without security units, he said. But contrary to what they preached, they retained large security contingents, including members of elite Special Task Force and security forces, he said.

He said the government unashamedly guaranteed security of its members and anyone switching his or her alliance for personal gain. Although the President, Prime Minister and ministers talk of equality, justice and fair play, even an ex-MP could not retain a couple of police personnel, though government ministers shamelessly enjoy perks and privileges regardless of the dissolution of the House.

The Island raised this issue with Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena at a recent press briefing at the Information Department only to be told that ministers, deputy ministers and non-cabinet ministers enjoyed perks and privileges in keeping with constitutional provisions.

Yapa, one of the UNPers who defected to the UPFA in early 2006 said that the government was ready to consider any reasonable request if Opposition MPs appealed for security.

Jayawardene said that the government had assigned bodyguards even to ordinary party organizers. He said that now that the war was over the police department could easily provide them with security personnel.

Government sources told The Sunday Island that the likes of Dr. Jayawardena never faced an LTTE threat, though he even went to the Supreme Court seeking an enhanced security contingent. They said that former members would have to learn to live without police bodyguards without causing unnecessary problems to the government.

Dr. Jayawardena said that today the police had become a political tool. On one hand, the police headquarters had prohibited all vehicle parades after the handing over of nominations, but on Friday the police escorted government politicians on parade in many parts of the country. This was nothing but a joke, an irate politician said.

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