Rajapaksa roars in Rajarata!

Saturday, 18 July 2015 00:50 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Mahinda steals the show at UPFA maiden rally
  • Mahinda issues strong national security message
  • SLFP seniors defy President: make Mahinda face of UPFA campaign
  • Nimal Siripala vows to nominate Mahinda as premier
  • Gammanpila thanks President for uniting UPFA
  • UPFA leaders pledge to uphold election laws, make MR PM


Untitled-2Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses UPFA’s inaugural rally yesterday at Anuradhapura attended by thousands of his 

supporters – Pix by Shehan Gunasekara


By Dharisha Bastians

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the star attraction and central focus of the UPFA’s inaugural rally in Anuradhapura yesterday, with SLFP top brass and alliance leaders pledging to work towards his election as Sri Lanka’s next prime minister.

Thousands gathered at the Salgado grounds in Anuradhapura for the UPFA’s campaign kick-off, where SLFP office bearers and UPFA party leaders pledged to uphold election laws and make Mahinda Rajapaksa Prime Minister following their polls victory.

The UPFA’s Anuradhapura District Leader and Sirisena loyalist Duminda Dissanayake declined to attend the rally and the party’s MPs and leaders from other districts appeared to take a lead role instead.  The rally was distinctly presidential in nature, with the former President looking like the only candidate on the UPFA ticket.

 “Ranil Wickremesinghe and certain foreign missions tried hard to stop me from getting the nomination for this election. The people managed to defeat that conspiracy,” Rajapaksa told the crowds, in a message that was strongly focused on national security issues.

The former President raised fears about a LTTE resurgence, saying people were afraid to travel from the south to the north of the island again by bus and train.

 “Are people going the way they used to? They call the Nagavihara priest and ask him if it is safe to travel to the north. This is how it was in the 1980s, when the LTTE was on the rise,” Rajapaksa thundered.

The ex President recalled how former Presidents had armed the LTTE and allowed the massacre of 600 policemen in the east, appearing to forget that the main protagonist of those killings was brought to parliament during his own presidency.

The new Government under his leadership would work towards a new foreign policy and new economic direction, the former President claimed.

 “Now all the racists and those who stirred up racism are on the other side. They are no longer with us. So we can think anew about reconciliation and harmony between the communities,” President Rajapaksa charged.

Large cutouts of the former President marked both ends of the main stage and his face was plastered on the backdrop bearing the new UPFA campaign slogans: Let’s give life to the country; let’s start afresh!

As party leader of the SLFP and the alliance it leads, President Maithripala Sirisena featured nowhere in the propaganda or the rhetoric of the UPFA’s maiden rally, except to be berated by the leaders of smaller parties in the coalition. President Sirisena and his remaining loyalists appeared to have lost all control of the party, after senior SLFPers colluded to make the UPFA’s first campaign rally all about Rajapaksa’s prime ministerial bid. 

SLFP leaders openly defied President Sirisena’s assertion this week that Rajapaksa would not be appointed prime minister even if the UPFA wins the 17 August election, and his written declaration on 30 June that the former President would not be named the UPFA’s prime ministerial nominee.

Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala De Silva told the crowds that he himself would nominate Rajapaksa as prime ministerial candidate when the UPFA wins the election in August.

“Your leadership will ensure we win a majority of the electorates in this election. The SLFP needs a strong leader, so we will nominate you as prime minister,” the Opposition Leader said.

For the first time, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha admitted he had been part of the plan all along to make Rajapaksa a candidate at the election. Premajayantha admitted he had done a great deal of ‘behind the scenes’ work to win the ex President the nomination and claimed to have always been part of the Rajapaksa team.

SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said President Rajapaksa had saved the country from the clutches of terrorism.

“This country must have gratitude, he is still under threat from terrorists,” Yapa charged.

Other UPFA party leaders took President Sirisena on directly during the rally.

“The UPFA wishes to thank President Sirisena for unifying the alliance. Last Tuesday, everyone in the party knew where he stands and it has unified us all. We can’t blame him. He is indebted to the UNP for winning him the presidency,” UPFA Colombo District candidate and Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila told the crowds.

Also making an appearance at the Anuradhapura rally was former Chief Justice Sarath Silva, who has flip flopped on supporting Rajapaksa several times in the past. The ex Judge told the crowds that there was no truth to the legal arguments that as a former President, Rajapaksa could not be Premier.

“Today thanks to the 19th Amendment, the Prime Minister has more powers than the President. We are trying here today, not to put you on President Sirisena’s chair, but to install you as Prime Minister, which is much more powerful,” Silva asserted.

LSSP Leader Tissa Vitharana said the party would push for the abolition of the presidency entirely to ensure Rajapaksa would be given all powers as Prime Minister.

“I never betrayed the motherland like other politicians, I never struck secret pacts,” the ex President told supporters. “Every leader from 1978 to 2005 has gone down on bended knee before Prabhakaran,” he said.

The former President who said he would respond to President Sirisena’s speech in Anuradhapura yesterday, told the crowds that the people would give their own answer to that speech by his party leader.

Making a strong case for mega development undertaken during his reign, President Rajapaksa said his administration only four years to turn Colombo into the world’s fastest growing city.

“It has taken them only 100 days to reverse all this development,” Rajapaksa charged.