Govt severely rattled; coalition in turmoil-JO


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Joint Opposition spokesman MP Udaya Gammanpila yesterday alleged that the police had made series abortive attempts to sabotage Pada Yathra at the behest of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.

The police acted as if they had been receiving directives from Sirikotha as regards the five-day protest, UPFA MP Gammanpila said. The MP was responding to a query by The Island in the wake of the police repeatedly seeking judicial intervention to restrain the protest. The police moved Kandy, Mawanella, Kegalle, Thulhiriya, Gampaha, Attanagalla and Colombo Magistrate’s courts unsuccessfully.

The Joint Opposition consists of nearly 50 MPs elected on the UPFA ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015.

The MP alleged that obviously some law enforcement officers really enjoyed taking directives from their political masters. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader MP Gammanpila said that they had never heard of the police seeking court interventions on about six occasions against Pada Yathra.

Having commenced the final day of five-day march, at Kiribathgoda, massive crowds moved along the Kandy road, crossed the new Kelani bridge and entered Fort via Borella. They converged at Lipton Circus and the surrounding area late yesterday afternoon to set up a mobile platform.

Gammanpila said that the police had arrested former Minister Basil Rajapaksa who was spearheading Pada Yathra project last month. The arrest was intended to intimidate us, he said, vowing that their resolve to take on the ruling coalition couldn’t be undermined by such arrests.

Referring to the hastily arranged media briefings at the Government Information Department on Sunday and Monday and police making an abortive bid to move the Fort Magistrate Court against 11 members of Joint Opposition on the final day of Pada Yathra, MP Gammanpila said that the protest had caused uncertainty and turmoil within government ranks. Responding to another query, the MP asserted that the government’s reaction exposed their growing weaknesses.

The MP stressed that the coalition’s actions belied its public pronouncements that Joint Opposition project was irrelevant at a time national level elections were not scheduled till 2020. The government had been rattled, severely rattled by large scale public protests within a year since the last parliamentary polls, the Colombo District MP said.

The former JHU stalwart dismissed on-going attempts by the government to deceive the public as regards the intention of the constituents of the SLFP led Joint Opposition grouping. "We are united in our efforts against the emerging authoritarian rule," Gammanpila said.

The police had been used brazenly to harass the Joint Opposition in a bid to discourage their activists, the Pivithuru Hela Urulaya leader said.

Kandy District MP Mahinda Aluthgamage said that the Muslim community of Thihariya on Sunday threw their weight behind the Pada Yathra. Key Pada Yathra organizer said that the Muslim community had publicly regretted voting for Maithripala Sirisena at January 2015 presidential polls. Former Sports Minister said that the Pada Yathra had proved that former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa still earned the respect and love of genuine SLFPers. The real SLFP responded spontaneously to the former President’s appeal to members to join the five-day campaign, MP Aluthgamage said.

Aluthgamage said that those who had expressed concern over Pada Yathra causing a split in the SLFP conveniently switched their allegiance to the UNP-led administration soon after having been re-elected to parliament with the former President’s blessings. The MP warned those who had joined the government at the expense of the party that they would have to pay a very heavy price.

MP Gammanpila said that the National Police Commission (NPC) should examine the conduct of the police in matters relating to Pada Yathra.

Ratnapura District UPFA MP Ranjith Zoysa told The Island that Pada Yathra was meant to express public anger at spiralling cost of living, moves to introduce a federal constitution, implementation of Geneva Resolution 30/1 at the expense of the armed forces, failure to arrest perpetrators of recent violence at the University of Jaffna, continuing harassment of those opposed to so-called yahapalana government and politically motivated actions directed by the police at Joint Opposition members of parliament. MP Zoysa said that Pada Yathra proved in no uncertain terms that the Joint Opposition couldn’t be intimidated and was a powerful political force capable of facing daunting tasks.

The Joint Opposition also dismissed claims of a conspiracy against the government.

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