COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday skipped the inauguration of the India-built super fast rail line between Jaffna and Kankesanthurai.
Sources close to the President told Express that he had to skip it because he was short of time. Given the crowded schedule, he decided to keep his date with the Jaffna public at the Duraiappah Stadium rather than attend the Indian railway function they said.
Rajapaksa was on a one-day tour of the Northern Province primarily to campaign for the January 8 Presidential election in which he is a candidate.
Other sources said that the President skipped the rail function because most of the track passes through a High Security Zone into which civilians are not allowed for security reasons.
“As a candidate in an election he would not have wanted to waste his time in a programme sans the masses,” one informed official source said.
Some political circles said that the absence could be due to the meeting the Indian High Commissioner Y K Sinha had had with the Joint Opposition Candidate Maithripala Srisena in Colombo on Thursday.
Meanings are read into every move of India’s, as Lankans believe that India plays a key role in Lankan politics especially at election time.
In the event, the 18-km stretch between Jaffna and Kankesanthurai was inaugurated by the Northern Province Governor Maj Gen G A Chadrasiri and the Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama. Both the Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran and the Indian High Commissioner were absent. Wigneswaran and the TNA had sworn not to attend Rajapaksa’s functions in the North for political reasons. At the mammoth Jaffna public meeting attended by over 50,000 people, Rajapaksa appealed to the Tamils to vote for him saying that he will take them on the path of development marked by individual and collective progress.
“Tamils should stop living in the past and think of the future and reject political leaders who harp on the past,” he said.
He then referred to the fact the student who scored the highest marks in the last school finals is a Tamil from Jaffna. Rajapaksa held him up as an example for all Northern Tamils to follow.