The journalists, assigned for the coverage of United National Party (UNP) MPs’ visit to Mattala International Airport last Thursday, sensed the impending danger as they noticed a gang assembled near the entrance. The provincial journalists, among them, even recognized some faces notorious for criminal track records under the political patronage. So, they had justifiable fear that anything untoward could happen to the MPs on their return from the airport.
" Eggs were pelted at the MPs and the media men. Eyewitnesses said the gangsters bought eggs from a nearby grocery. Since the situation escalated into a major commotion, all of them boarded the bus to rush back to Colombo for safety and the next course of action"
Likewise, security guards, on duty at the airport, alerted the visiting members on security concerns, and so to speak, the four UNPers were confronted by these men as captured on film by the media crews. The five UNP MPs were Ajith P.Perera, Eran Wickramaratne, Nalin Bandara Jayamaha, Ajith Mannapperuma, and R. Yogarajan
First, they wished the MPs for the New Year with sarcasm, and then started verbal abuses and catcalls. They warned the visiting parliamentarians not to lie the international community about the mega development projects in progress in Hambantota. Soon, there was a hullabaloo, and the MPs aided by bodyguards got into the bus to speed away to the next spot- the Hambantota Port.
A black cab followed them, and the MPs became more concerned about their safety. So, MP Yogarajan contacted Southern DIG Macarthy Perera and asked for additional security to avert a similar fiasco at the port that was to be observed by them next.
As anticipated they were confronted by a similar gang that even included Government Party Mayor of the Hambantota Municipal Council Eraj Fernando. The MPs managed to visit the 12th floor of the administrative building for a panoramic view of the port. After that, they arrived near the entrance gate of the port, where they were harassed and manhandled by an unruly gang.
Eggs were pelted at the MPs and the media men on duty. Eye witnesses said the gangsters bought eggs from a nearby grocery. Since the situation escalated into a major commotion, all of them boarded the bus to rush back to Colombo for safety. But, the gang did not relent. They chased the bus up to a point even throwing rocky stuffs at the bus damaging its window screens.
" For some time, the UNP MPs were planning to visit these two projects which the government boasts of as its key development achievements in its ambitious target of making Sri Lanka ‘the Wonder of Asia’. "
All on board were terrified when they saw the mayor, on chase, menacingly brandishing his pistol.
MP Ajith P.Perera screamed and asked everyone to lie down to avoid being hit by a possible pistol fire. MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha laid down fully on the floor since he was so scared. After the dramatic scenes, MP Eran Wickramaratne’s mobile phone started ringing, and he recognized that it was a call from a VVIP. He paused for a while and asked whether he should answer the call. Everyone advised him not to take it, as was seen by them as an attempt by the VVIP concerned to apologize to them over the incident.
“This is just to apologize, and then get media publicity for it. The real intention is not to tender an apology,” one MP advised.
Harsha, Gayantha , Harin miss Hambantota melee
For some time, the UNP MPs were planning to visit these two projects which the government boasts of as its key development achievements in its ambitious target of making Sri Lanka ‘the Wonder of Asia’. Nevertheless, the UNP, as the main opposition pooh-poohed these projects citing them as sheer wastes of public money with little or no economic benefits. They even ridiculed the port, comparing it to a giant swimming pool.
UNP MPs Gayantha Karunatilake, Harin Fernando and Dr. Harsha de Silva were to join this observation tour on that day. But, they did not join because they had to remain engaged with some other public activities –some matter related to the National New Year festivities.
Besides, UNP MP Ajith P.Perera invited party’s Hambantota district MP Dilip Wedaarachchi for the visit, but he refused to join because of his work planned for the day in Colombo. Yet, he took steps to organize lunch for the team at Tangalle Rest House. Also, MP Sajith Premadasa, the district leader of the party, has been asked to join, and he too declined to accept the offer citing his programmes arranged for the day in advance.
However, it is rife in political circles that MP Premadasa did not join because he was not consulted formally on the tour in his constituency.
International spotlightof incident
There is criticism over the economic rationale of the port and airport projects in Hambantota , a district located further away from Colombo , and thinly populated. Leading economists are also divided on the pluses and minuses of the two projects. However, one cannot rule out the right of the Opposition members to observe them, in a democratic society.
It appeared that the government invited further trouble from sections of the international community waiting on the wings to pounce on Sri Lanka. Already, Sri Lanka has been put on the notice board. Accusations against Sri Lanka are not solely on those that happened during the war time. The resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) highlights even the Ratupaswala shooting incident killing three civilians and attacks on places of religious worship- both happened well after the war was over. The attack on the Opposition legislators, the flaunting of a pistol by the Hambantota Mayor and the silence maintained by the police gave credence to the allegation that the rule of law had broken down in Sri Lanka. MP Ajith Perera said four heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Colombo- three from Europe and one from Asia – contacted him over the incident.
“All these countries have taken note of what happened. They informed it to me,” he told Daily Mirror.
Karuna’s golden day
Deputy Resettlement Minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman had what he called ‘ the golden day in his life’. He made such a remark during the opening of the 200 metre Manmunai Bridge across the Batticaloa lagoon during the weekend.
“Today is a golden day in my life. I thought of building this bridge. I negotiated it with a Japanese Bank for International Cooperation and lined up funds. Within three years, they completed the work connecting the mainland with Batticaloa across the lagoon,” he said.
Karuna was the Eastern Commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) before he fell out with its leader Velupillay Prabhakaran and defected from the organisation. A few years after he reneged from the LTTE, he teamed up with the government and became a Deputy Minister. He negotiated the deal for this bridge in 2010. The bridge, which is 210 metres in length, improves accessibility to the hinterland of the Batticaloa district from Batticaloa via Kattankudy. Only a ferry service was available in the past to cross this lagoon, and it hindered the public mobility. During the height of conflicts in the East, there was a checkpoint manned by the army and the police at one end. At the other end, the LTTE had a post. During nightfall, security personnel could see Tiger cadres flashing torches at the other end, and with constant exchange of gunfire between the two sides.
Karuna was very well familiar with the terrain at that time as a guerilla leader even with conventional fighting capacity. So, he would have felt the need of a bridge, at that stage, for military logistics.
Today, he is a politician in the democratic stream. His contribution, is probably the greatest in his political life, for civilian purposes.
TNA bars Mavai Senathirajah from South African tour
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah is distraught with the party hierarchy these days since he was not included in the party’s delegation that undertook a visit to South Africa before the New Year. Instead, a Sinhalese lawyer working for the TNA as a consultant was included in the delegation led by leader R. Sampanthan. The others members were Suresh Premachandran, Selvam Adaikkalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran. The Sinhalese lawyer is practicing law as a junior of Mr. Sumanthiran.
Mr. Senathirajah is subjected to discrimination by the party quite often these days. Instead, he even aspired to be the chief ministerial candidate for the election to the Northern Provincial Council. He was not given the chance. He told the party openly that he was against the decision to sideline him to make way for Justice C.V. Wigneswaran to seek the top office in the north. Mr. Senathirajah is a senior Tamil politician representing the Federal Party.
Dinesh cracks whip on bottling water industry
The Water Supply Minister Dinesh Gunawardane was in for a shock when he realised that pipe borne water was taken to be bottled and sold at a higher price at some leading hotels. Therefore, he felt the need to regulate the bottling water industry, mainly to control prices and to ensure quality.
Today, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board is the sole authority supplying drinking water to the public. Besides, there are private companies involved in the bottling water industry. However, the Board has no control over monitoring them.
“These companies directly take water from our pipelines to be bottled. They price these bottles exorbitantly. We have to end it. We need to introduce some regulations that empower the Board to regulate this industry,” he said.
Bandula to get doctoralcredential from China
Education Minister Bandula Gunawardane is pursuing his doctoral studies under a scholarship granted by the Chinese government. He is doing his thesis on the historical trade and cultural relationship between Sri Lanka and China. Recently, the Chinese government opened a bank account in the name of the minister and deposited Rs. 4 million to be used in research work. The Minister is busy these days researching extensively on Sino-Lanka relationships, with particular emphasis on the historic Rubber-Rice Pact signed in 1952.
Geetha occupies Gayantha’s seat
Government member of the Southern Provincial Council Geetha Kumarasinghe met UNP MP Gayantha Karunatilake at a funeral in Elpitiya on Monday. Mr. Karunatilake made his eulogy and returned to his seat, only to find that it had been occupied by Ms. Kumarasinghe.
“You seem to be trying to unseat me. If you are interested in, I will arrange a seat for you in the Opposition,” Gayantha told her jovially.
Ms. Kumarasinghe responded in lighter vein. She, during the election campaign, aspired to be the chief minister. But, she did not get it. However, she said she was happy about her vociferous critique Ajith Prasanna being defeated.
“I am happier about his defeat than becoming the chief minister,” she said.