MR: I won’t give up politics even if my entire family is thrown behind bars

by Dasun Edirisinghe

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he would not give up politics even if his entire family was put behind bars.

Addressing the Joint Opposition’s first rally at Hyde Park, Colombo, Rajapaksa said he had been in prison for a period of three months and he second son Yoshitha for 41 days. His elder son Namal might also be thrown behind bars for about six months, he added, vowing to continue to raise his voice for the people.

The Rajapaksas had been in politics since 1930 and no one could force out them from politics, he said.

All SLFP MPs in the Joint Opposition, except six participated yesterday’s well attend rally thought the SLFP leadership had banned them from attending political events organised by other groups. Gampaha District MPs Prasanna Ranatunga and Prasanna Ranaweera, Kalutara District MP Vidura Wickremanayake and Polonnaruwa District MP Roshan Ranasinghe were abroad and two others sick.

Four of five SLFP Vice Presidents including Kumara Welgama, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Dullas Alahapperuma and Chamal Rajapaksa were on the joint opposition’s stage yesterday.

Former JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe also join the rally.

Roads leading to the Town Hall and the Ibbanwala Junction had to be closed due to the rally.

Rajapaksa said what hurt him more than the suffering of his family members at the hands of the government was the harassment of the warriors who had saved the country. "They did not have chance to see their children while fighting the war, but even after finishing the war they have missed that opportunity due to political harassment," he said.

Rajapaksa said the present government had failed on all fronts and was trying to cover up its failure by blaming him for obtaining foreing loans.

"I took loans and completed several mega projects. I obtained USD 190 million and built the country’s second international airport at Mattala. I obtained USD 426 million loan and completed the country’s second international port in Hambantota. I obtained USD 1,340 million and completed the Norachcholai coal-fired power plant. It obtained USD 630 million and completed the Southern Expressway up to Matara and completed the Colombo – Katunayake expressway at a cost of USD 248 million. But, this government has obtained loans but it hasn’t implemented any development project."

The government had obtained a loan of USD 400 million from India, USD 650 million by issuing treasury bonds in May 2015, USD 1,100 million from India in June, 2015, USD 1,500 million by issuing bonds in Oct. 2015, he said.

Rajapaksa said that present government obtained borrowings worth Rs. USD 6,361 million since January 09, 2015 but not a single culvert had been built.

"The government has blamed me for obtaining what it calls hidden loans, claiming that had to increase taxes to pay them back. I ask the government not to pay back loans if I have obtained them illegally."

The former President said that when he was elected President in 2005, he had faced several problems as country’s economy was in crisis due to the 2004 Tsunami, a 30-year-long war and extremely high petroleum prices in the word market, but he had not blamed the previous government. "We developed the country and achieved an economic growth of 7.2%.

Rajapaksa said his government had continued with all welfare projects such as fertiliser subsidy, elder’s allowances and pensions while fighting a war but the present government was had scrapped all those scheme though there was no war to be fought.

"I ask the government to hand it over to me without making lame excuses and I’ll show them how to run the country while implementing development projects and giving relief to the people.

He said that Tamil and Muslim people had benefited more than the Sinhalese from the eradication of LTTE terrorism.

Rajapaksa said that Prabhakaran had chased out Muslims including Minister Rishad Bathiudeen from the North and some parts of the Eastern Province, but they had forgotten the past.

Former Minister and Colombo District MP Wimal Weerawansa said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had failed to bring people to fill Hyde Park on Tuesday and shifted their rally to the Lipton Circus. "Today, he will see the power and strength of the joint opposition."

Weerawansa challenged the government to conduct the local government election immediately. He said that country’s judiciary had been politicised under the UNP-led government and Bar Association of Sri Lanka was silent.

"Why the money laundering laws did not apply to Former Army commander Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka’s frozen assets of USD 800 million," Weerawansa demanded to know.

He alleged that the present government was planning to sell Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, SriLankan and already sold 50% shares of the Lanka Hospitals to a company run by the Tamil diaspora.

Former Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena, Bandula Gunawardena, Kumara Welgama, Prof. Tissa Vitharana, Gamini Lokuge, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Colombo District MP Udaya Gammanpila, Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Communist Party Secretary Raja Collure, Sri Lanka Mahajana Party Secretary Asanga Nawaratne, Leader of the Deshawimukthi Janatha Party Ven. Galagama Dhammaransi thera, Sri Lanka Nidahas Trade Union Federation leader W. H. Piyadasa, Senior Lecturer of the Sabaragamuwa University Mahinda Pathirana and former JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe also addressed the rally.

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