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Rajapaksa calls for peace and calm


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  • Says willing to work with Government to bring about peaceful solution to turmoil 
  • Plans to initiate an inter-community dialogue to forestall future clashes 
  • Blames Govt. for inefficiency in controlling situation and allowing tensions to escalate
  • Believes Local Government election results given opportunity to turn back communal tide

 

By Skandha Gunasekara

Joining the voices for restraint, patience and calm, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (7 March) called on the people not to fall prey to gossip and false stories, recapping Sri Lanka’s rich history of diversity and outlining plans to initiate an inter-community dialog for peace building in the future.    

Addressing a media briefing at his residence on Wijerama Mawatha, former President and Kurunegala district MP Mahinda Rajapaksa said that they were duty bound as public representatives to ensure peace among all sects of society.

“We have a responsibility to take all measures in our power to have a peaceful nation and so we urge all communities to keep calm and maintain peace. We ask the people not to panic and fall prey to gossip, rumours, fake news and hateful propaganda,” the former President said, expressing regret for those who have affected by the crisis.

Releasing a statement on the sidelines of the press conference the former President also said he would initiate a dialog between different ethnicities in the future. 

“Obviously this is not a situation that can be allowed to continue. There is a need to create in this country a nationalistic alliance comprising of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders resembling the first post-independence government. This is not going to be an easy task, given the poisonous contagion of communalism that has spread in this country over the past several decades. However on the basis of the recently concluded local government elections, I have reason to be cautiously optimistic that a window of opportunity exists to be able to turn back the tide of communalism. I intend initiating a dialogue in this regard with national-minded Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim individuals and organisations in due course,” the statement said. 

Staying on theme at the press conference, Rajapaksa also said MP Dinesh Gunawardena had spoken with both the President and the Prime Minister, offering the help of the JO to manage the situation. “We are willing to join hands with the Government to bring about calm and peace among the communities. We are ready to put aside political and party differences to bring the country back to normalcy.”

The former President however laid the blame on the Government’s feet for failing to take action at the offset of the turmoil. “The inefficiency of the Government can be clearly seen by the way they have handled this situation so far. The Government is blaming its own members as well as the police. The Police has been slow to act but the Police doesn’t act independently, it acts on the directives of the Government. The Government has failed miserably in bringing a quick end to all this chaos,” former President Rajapaksa charged.

Referring to the Aluthgama riots during his tenure as President, MP Rajapaksa said that even though he had been abroad when the clashes had occurred, his Government had been able to quell the violence and ensure it did not spread any further than Aluthgama. 

“The Government’s inaction has allowed the unrest to spread from one town to another. This Government, on repeated occasions, were unsuccessful in addressing issue of rising ethnic tensions. We have learnt that 166 such incidents, in addition to Gintota, Ampara and Teldeniya, have taken place across the country since this Government came into power,” the former President alleged, adding that instead of making a proper statement on the crisis situation, the Government only makes statement accusing other groups.

Furthermore, Rajapaksa criticised the Government decision to block social media platforms and curtail wifi speeds. “Social media is how we can learn more of such incident and even future incidents, blocking these platforms will not help. The loss of wifi has also affected many businesses.”

In addition, the former President pointed out that imposing a State of Emergency will deter tourists while foreign investors too would lose confidence in the country’s economy.

 



No confidence against PM to go ahead 



Joint Opposition Parliamentary group leader, Dinesh Gunawardena, speaking to the Daily FT at the former President’s residence in Wijerama, said that the No-Confidence motion against the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be moved without fail.

“We are definitely bringing in the No-confidence motion. We are on track. The timing is not right with what is going in the country. We have no intention of politicising the situation,” MP Gunawardana told the Daily FT.

The Joint Opposition were scheduled to present the No-Confidence motion to Parliament on Tuesday (6 March), but later postponed its submission stating that more discussion were needed with other political parties regarding the motion.

 


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