MR tells JO not to vilify MS on unsubstantiated bribery allegation


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Joint Opposition not to engage in a mud slinging campaign in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena being embroiled in an alleged bribery scandal involving an Australian company at the time he was a Cabinet minister.

Top JO spokesman and Matara District MP Dallas Alahapperuma quoted former President Rajapaksa as having told the group that it wasn’t fair to go on the offensive without verifying facts.

A section of the Australian media recently reported that Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC) was under investigation in the wake of revelations that the company’s overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a USD 2.3 million aid funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011.

Addressing the media at Dr. N. M. Perera Centre, MP Alahapperuma said that they wouldn’t behave in the way was the government, which repeatedly alleged that the former President had stashed away a staggering USD 18 bn in overseas accounts. MP Alahapperuma quoted the former President as having said he had undergone untold suffering due to unsubstantiated allegations of ill-gotten wealth.

Alahapperuma expressed confidence that the government would inquire into allegations levelled by the Australian newspapers and take appropriate action.

The MP said the government, in an obvious bid to humiliate the Rajapaksas had accused them of planning a military takeover in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 8, 2015 presidential polls. The SLFPer said that the then President had invited the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to Temple Trees as Maithripala Sirisena couldn’t be contacted. In fact, the former President invited the Opposition to take over even before the announcement of final results. There had been serious issues pertaining to the results in the Northern polling Divisions, MP Alahapperuma claimed, adding that rulers sought to discredit both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on the basis of a fictitious military coup.

Alahapperuma accused Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera of leading the campaign against the Rajapaksa with the attempted coup allegation.

Responding to SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake’s recent assertion that the party could have avoided unnecessary trouble had the former President quit active politics after experiencing two defeats at national level in 2015, Alahapperuma pointed out that President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed a person who had suffered 19 electoral debacles as the Prime Minister of his 100-day government. At the time the premiership had been offered to UNP leader Wickremesinghe, he had 46 members in Parliament whereas the SLFP group alone comprised 126 members, the MP said.

He accused the new SLFP leadership of rapidly weakening the party by removing key electoral organisers as well as Central Committee members. Pointing out that since the removal of S. M. Chandrasena and Kanchana Wijesekera as organisers, the new leadership replaced experienced organisers. Subsequently, the 16 members of the UPFA Central Committee, too, had been removed much to the dismay of the supporters.

Alahapperuma said that the UNP was making a determined bid to reorganise the party and increase its membership whereas the new SLFP leadership was acting contrary to the best interests of the party.

The former minister castigated the new leadership for causing turmoil in the party and acting in a manner against the basic principles and vision of the party.

Responding to a query, the MP said that SLFP members loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would shortly announce their decision whether they would attend the 65 anniversary of the party. According to him, the final decision would be made consequent to consultations with all party organizations at electoral level. However, so far all party organisations where consultations took place had decided to boycott the event. The MP indicated that the outcome of the remaining consultations wouldn’t be different, therefore a unanimous decision on the boycott was likely.

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