Govt. abusing Ports authority funds, staff, premises for presidential election – Yogarajan

‘We found Port workers constructing 24 stages amidst Mahinda’s cutouts’

by Zacki Jabbar

The Security Training Centre of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at Slave Island was being used by the government to prepare propaganda material for the presidential election, the UNP charged yesterday.

R. Yogarajan, one of the four UNP MPs who visited the SLPA training facility yesterday morning on being tipped off that state resources were being used to prepare propaganda material for Rajapaksa’s re-election bid, told The Island that they had found port workers in uniform constructing 24 stages, some of which were about 50 feet wide, stands used to erect large television screens and cutouts of the President with a small image of the Deputy Ports Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena on it.

"The stages, television stands and the other propaganda material that we found must have cost hundreds of millions of rupees," the MP noted, adding that it proved what they had been saying right along that the government was abusing state funds and using public servants for political purposes in clear violation of polls laws.

When Rajapaksa, who was the Minister in Charge of the Ports Ministry was blatantly flouting the law, how could he discipline members of his ruling alliance, Yogarajan whose vehicle was damaged by a stone throwing mob, queried.

"No sooner had our team comprising Ravi Karunanayake, Ajith P. Perera, Nalin Bandara and myself had entered the Security Training Center of the Ports Authority, than the guards at the gate attempted to lock us in, but our security personnel prevented it. Having observed the election preparations that were going on, we returned to our vehicles. A mob of about 50 persons then started throwing stones at our vehicles. Some of it struck an Island photographer and a Swarnavahini television journalist. Extensive damage was caused to my vehicle, but I escaped unhurt. We then proceeded to Parliament and lodged a complaint with the Speaker Chamal Rajapksa. We were attacked by stone throwing mobs even during our fact finding mission to the Hambantota port," he said.

The MP observed that if state resources were being abused in this fashion even before a presidential election was announced, one could imagine the extent to which it would be done once the campaign proper got underway.

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