Sajith, Karu lash out at UPFA

By Shamindra Fredinando

In spite of giving successful political leadership to Sri Lanka’s war effort, leading to the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009, the SLFP-led UPFA’s performance in every other field had been pathetic, UNP Reformists alleged yesterday.

Addressing the media at the Bodhi Ranasinghe Foundation in Narahenpita, UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa and Parliamentarian Karu Jayasuriya accused the government of failing to address grievances of those struggling to make ends meet.

While playing down simmering differences with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Premadasa and Jayasuriya vowed to press ahead with their campaign to unite the party.

Last week, the Reformists launched ‘Mahinda-Ranil secret partnership’ much to the anger of Wickremesinghe. The book alleged that Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa were cooperating with each other for their survival.Former Deputy Leader Jayasuriya emphasized that he along with parliamentarians Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekera had contested the Dec. 19 election for top positions in the party due to numerous requests from the party. "The UNP didn’t belong to one person or a group of persons. Subsequent to the Dec. 19 elections, some were targeted by the incumbent leadership causing further rifts. Such actions are detrimental to the party and undermine our efforts to re-build the party. As elections for top party posts are normal in a democratic society, members expected the party to continue normally following the Dec. 19 polls. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case," Jayasuriya complained.

He said that the Reformists weren’t trying to divide or embarrass the party. A smiling Jayasuriya said: "We aren’t terrorists. We are not plotting to sabotage Opposition efforts," Jayasuriya assured. "Ours is, nothing but an effort to prepare the party to meet future challenges," the parliamentarian said.

"Wherever we went, the public accused the Opposition of not being active and failure on its part to take on the government," he said.

Commenting on accountability issues, the one-time UPFA Minister alleged that in spite of the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, disappearances were continuing. The Gampaha District MP estimated the number of persons reported missing in 2010 and 2011 at 850, while alleging the government was responsible for the deterioration of the law and order situation. Jayasuriya accused the government of operating death squads using white vans, turning a blind eye to underworld operations and the nexus between ruling party politicians and the underworld. Democratic freedoms had been at stake, the MP alleged, recalling how UPFA goons targeted a group of UNPers, including MPs protesting against the government on Feb. 4 last year. The names of those involved in the attack transpired even in parliament, he said.

Acknowledging the leadership given by President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to the war effort, MP Jayasuriya regretted that former Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who spearheaded the ground offensive, was languishing in jail. On Feb. 8, the war veteran would be completing two years in jail, the MP said, adding that the international community had declared Fonseka as a political prisoner. In spite of being in the Opposition, Jayasuriya said that he wouldn’t hesitate to praise the leadership given by the Rajapaksas, though he couldn’t agree with the way General Fonseka was being harassed and humiliated for political reasons.

MP Jayasuriya reiterated the long standing Opposition demand to unconditionally release the war hero and allow him to live freely. He strongly condemned what he called ongoing efforts on the part of the government to erase General Fonseka’s role in Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism.

The alleged involvement of UPFA politicians with the underworld, particularly land grab and extortion rackets, had been exposed, the UNPer said. While the national economy was in an extremely bad shape due to waste, corruption and irregularities on the part of the government, the UPFA leaders were squandering public funds. They would spend Rs. 20 mn for a project, which could be completed with just one million rupee, he said.

Jayasuriya alleged that recent night races in Colombo exposed the callous attitude of those in power. Nothing could be as shameless as having night faces, in the wake of the collapse of farmers’ pension scheme. Referring to the Christmas night killing of a tourist at a Tangalle resort by an SLFP Chairman of Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, the MP said that rapid deterioration of law enforcement operations now posed a serious threat to the country.

The UNP also warned of the danger posed to the private banking sector by constant government interference, while expressing concern over what was going on at the Colombo Stock Exchange. The government shouldn’t ignore those critical of how the national economy was performing under the Rajapaksas, the MP said.

Parliamentarian Premadasa said that there couldn’t be a better example than the GCE (AL) examination results mess-up to expose the government. Despite having 13 ministers at different levels, the government couldn’t rectify the crisis to the satisfaction of those who sat for the examination, their parents and teacher unions. The entire education sector was in crisis, with the Universities on fire, he said.

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