An ugly battle of words between the country’s former presidents continued yesterday, with UPFA Kurunegala District candidate and ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa hitting back at his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga over what he called her ‘betrayal’ of the party.
Rajapaksa issued a two-page rebuttal of Kumaratunga’s four-page statement issued on Wednesday, accusing her of supporting the UNP on pretext of putting the country before her own party.
“She should not betray the party because she has a personal grudge against Mahinda Rajapaksa,” the Rajapaksa campaign said in its statement.
Washing SLFP dirty linen and raking up Kumaratunga’s family history publicly, Rajapaksa said that his former Party Leader had nursed a grudge against him for decades because he was a close confidant of her late brother Anura Bandaranaike. “Since there was hot competition between the brother and sister for the party leadership, Chandrika Kumaratunga has always disliked Mr Rajapaksa,” the campaign said.
Rajapaksa also accused former President Kumaratunga of transferring Rs. 650 million from the President’s Fund to a foundation set up by her shortly before the 2005 presdiential poll. “One of President Rajapaksa’s first acts after taking office in 2005 was cancel those cheques,” the statement claimed.
He also accused his predecessor of gifting herself 1.5 acres of state land in Madiwela, but said she had been forced to return the property when it caused a stir in the country.
“She says that the pseudo revolution of 8 January waged against grave oppression and terror must be protected. But the people do not rally around such leaders. The people rally around Mahinda Rajapaksa because he did not rule that way,” the statement adds.
“Since Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the presidency in 2005, every election in Sri Lanka has been violence-free and free and fair,” the statement said. “It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave the North and the East the freedom to vote by disarming all Tamil groups in the region and allowing the people to vote for politicians of their choice,” it added.
“The difference between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chandrika Kumaratunga is that she bowed before terrorists and destroyed political parties; while Mahinda Rajapaksa dealt directly with terrorists and was also a just leader who caused no harm to democratic forces,” the statement added.
In her statement, Kumaratunga slammed the ex-President, accusing him of trying to stage a counter revolution and dragging the country back towards authoritarianism and family rule. “In order to fix the party, we must first rebuild the country,” President Kumaratunga asserted in her statement.