COLOMBO: To whip up support for himself among Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-Buddhist majority in the run up to the August 17 parliamentary elections, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has alleged that there has been a revival of militant separatism in the Tamil-majority Northern Province since he lost the Presidential election on January 8.
“Girls are not able to go out alone in the North. People from the South have stopped going to the North by bus or train. They are checking with the chief monk of the Nagadwipa Buddha Vihara in the North if it is safe to travel there. The situation is the same as it was in 1980 before the full scale outbreak of Tamil militancy,” Rajapaksa told a huge rally of the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at Anuradhapura on Friday, his first since he was given a ticket to contest the election.
But to win over the Tamils and Muslims, he promised “equal rights and religious freedom.”
Wanting to mend fences with the West and the international community, he said that a new foreign policy will be worked out. Acknowledging that the January 8 Presidential election defeat had taught him many lessons, he said that he will not repeat the mistakes.
Nation In Jeopardy
Rajapaksa recalled that it was he who had rid Lanka of terrorism in May 2009 and immediately put it on the path of rapid development. But the same country is now facing a national security threat and its economic development has come to a halt. Decisions are being taken as per the wishes of foreign powers who he had kept at bay when he was President.
He accused the United National Party (UNP), whose leader is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, of always doing the bidding of foreign powers and betraying the nation. President J.R.Jayewardene’s signed the controversial India-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 and President Premadasa surrendered 600 policemen to the LTTE who were subsequently massacred, Rajapaksa recalled.
“Wickremesinghe had entered into a peace deal with the LTTE in 2002 which could have divided the country. He has been going around saying that he will destroy Rajapaksa, but has he ever said he would destroy LTTE leader Prabhakaran?” the former President asked.
UPFA/SLFP Defy Sirisena
The Anuradhapura rally was organized by the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of which Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is the main constituent.
The rally projected Rajapaksa as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA/SLFP, despite open objections from President Maithripala Sirisena, the Chairman of these two organizations. In fact, the Leader of the UPFA/SLFP in parliament, Nimal Sripala de Silva, told the rally that, come what may, Rajapaksa will be installed as PM, though Sirisena, as the constitutional appointing authority, had publicly said that he will not appoint Rajapaksa as PM even if the SLFP wins the elections.
Most UPFA and SLFP leaders, barring a few closely associated with Sirisena, attended the rally.