Sri Lanka’s main opposition launched its parliamentary election campaign declaring war against an alleged group of 5,000 young men and women deployed to “discredit” former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
UPFA affiliate Wimal Weerawansa told the inaugural campaign rally at Anuradhapura on Friday evening that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has recruited 5,000 youngsters to attack the opposition via word-of-mouth.
“There was one such person slating Mahinda Rajapaksa at a restaurant,” Weerawansa said. “The restaurant owner was angry over this and pretended to accidentally spill boiling hot water on that person.
“I am not asking you to assault them, but you can throw boiling hot water on them… accidentally of course,” said Weerawansa who is facing a string of allegations over falsifying official travel documents and a host of other financial frauds while he was a minister.
Weerawansa said the Foreign minister had also launched a successful campaign to spread what he called falsehoods over social media.
The UPFA rally also demonstrated the deep divisions within the party. The main Anuradhapura district leader Dumina Dissanayake boycotted the meeting, but sent his cut out with a bold number 9, his preferential list number.
Dissanayake was one of the first batch of SLFP MPs to quit Rajapaksa’s government last year and support Maithripala Sirisena.
The play ground at the Anuradhapura town was packed when former president Rajapaksa addressed the crowds. He was assisted by a teleprompter, but his officials said he deviated from the prepared text.
He talks about the need to learn from his previous mistakes and ensure ethnic reconciliation and freedom for minorities to practice their religion, but had minutes earlier noted that it was the minority Tamils who defeated him.
However, he ended his speech with a Ramadan greeting to Muslims.