State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene today refuted former President Mahinda Rajapakse's accusation that the navy was sent to sabotage the Hambantota protest and it was a deliberate act to tarnish the Navy's image.
“I completely refute former president Mahinda Rajapakse's accusation,” State Minister Wijewardene said.
He said that the Navy was deployed to the Hambantota port to secure and release two ships that were held captive by the protesters. The ships were of Japanese and Singaporean origin. “When ships are held captive, that amounts to piracy and the navy has the right to use the appropriate force needed to secure the ships in such a situation,” he said.
He also said there was a genuine threat of sabotage not only to the two ships but also to the oil tanks situated near the port.
“The protesters had already damaged the gantry trains, tug boats, pilot boats and generators. The total cost of damages are more than Rs. 15 million, excluding the 400,000 US dollars we have to pay as damages for the ships,” he said.
“Does the former President want Sri Lanka to be branded as a safe harbour for pirates like in Somalia?" he questioned. The reputation of Sri Lanka was at threat and the Navy's action protected the image of our country.
“This is all a political game played by the Joint Opposition. These employees were not at any point employed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), but were hired through a manpower company during the time of the former regime. If they are so concerned about these protesters why did they not employ them directly to the SLPA labour force at that time?”
“Such actions and statements are not only disrespecting the navy but also creating a bad image of Sri Lanka to the rest of the world,” the State Minister added.