March organisers blame pro-Ranil groups and govt. for violence

By Lal Gunasekera

Those who organised a protest march demanding the removal of Ranil Wickremasinghe as leader of the UNP, yesterday accused Ranil loyalists and the government of jointly executing Saturday’s (05) attack on the marchers.

The protest march from Devinuwara to Colombo organised by Southern Provincial Council member Maithri Gunaratne and Western Provincial Councillor Shiral Lakthilake, came under attack in the Matara town.

Speaking to The Island yesterday (06), UNP reformist Maithri Gunaratne said that the protest march had begun at the Devinuwara Devale and was to reach Colombo on Saturday (12) via Weligama, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Kosgoda, Kalutara and Moratuwa.

He said that protesters numbering over 1,500 had assembled at the starting point, but as the march wound its way it had gathered momentum with about 3,500 joining it on the way.A leading well known, Wickremasinghe loyalist, UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera had come with about 80 of his goons near the Devale, Gunaratne said, adding that they were armed with poles etc.

Gunaratne said that a police officer told him that about 60-70 Ranil loyalists had been waiting near the Matara Bodhi to assault the protesters and the march should be halted. He said that when the protesters had come under attack in Matara, the Police had not acted swiftly and those responsible for the assault had gathered at the Matara Municipal Council premises.

He said that his father Herman was warded at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Tangalle Hospital, while son Charitha was still in hospital, Maithri’s security officer Roshan was struck by a bullet on his foot. Herman has been remanded.

Matara District Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera said that the protest march had been a contract by the government to destabilise the UNP and was carried out by a group claiming to protect the UNP. He said neither he nor his supporters had a hand in the attack.

He said that he was not present with thugs, but with about 1,000 UNP supporters, including local government politicians. He also said about 22 UNP office-bearers of branches in Matara had been illegally arrested by the Police.

Samaraweera claimed that the so-called protest march against the UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had been led by a close confidante of the Rajapaksa family.

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