President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa seeking to consolidate power attracted massive crowds Monday in the vicinity of the Parliament Round about in Battaramulla as they addressed a common rally organized by Sirisena’s SLFP, Rajapaksa’s SLPP and Joint Opposition, themed ‘Rata Surakina Jana Mahimaya’ (People power that protects the people). The rally attended by all key leaders of the SLFP and SLPP, came a day after it was announced in a Gazette notification that parliament would re-convene on November 14. Meanwhile former enemies Rajapaksa and Sirisena buried their hatchet and pledged that no one could part them now as they have come together ‘for the benefit of the people.’ Sirisena who became President from the UNP ticket in January 2015 attempted to defend himself stating his appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM following the ousting of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was because two senior UNPers, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and UNP Deputy leader Sajith Premadasa had refused the offer.
Meanwhile Wimal Weerawanse, of the National Freedom Front (NFF) one of the key lobbyist for Mahinda Rajapaksa set the base for the rally by a speech that cast insult after insult at the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, at his former party, the JVP and at the ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Demonizing the United National Party (UNP) for allegedly ‘ruling the country according to foreigners, destroying Sinhala culture and Buddhism, harming the stature of the military, heaping taxes on the people and letting crime rise,’ Weerawanse urged the people to usher in a truly patriotic regime led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
While President Sirisena and the newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa calmly listened, Weerawanse, a former member of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) screeched out his insults, at one point asking Speaker Karu Jayasuriya not to become ‘kamkaru’ (labourer) and at another instance likening the soured alliance between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to a marriage between a westernized townsman and a village farmer.’
It is following Weerawansa’s speech that ex President and current Prime Minister took the stage, commencing with Rajapaksa whose speech promised to ‘free the country from foreigners,’ to reduce taxes and protect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
“They wanted to live in luxury and heap taxes on the people. We will start development once again. We will protect democracy and work with the world. I am committed to this,” Mahinda Rajapaksa told the hysterically cheering mass as he pledged ‘I will not let this unison with President Maithripala Sirisena be broken by those carrying tales.’
President Maithripala Sirisena in his speech said that he appointed ‘his friend Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post of Prime Minister,’ to change a trend that ‘did not match the culture of Sri Lanka,’ that sought ‘to reverse the path of leading the country according to wishes of foreigners,’ and change a system of governance that did not have the well being of the country but only an elite few.
“It is not two persons that changed seat. We changed a mismatching ideology that did not suit this country. We appointed a man that suits you and I, who is one of us,” Sirisena told the crowds.
“I am asked by the UNP why I appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa. I am asked whether I did not have any option. When I met the Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya four days ago I was asked this same question and I reminded him that 8 months ago I had offered him the post of Prime Minister where I pleaded with him, the only thing I did not do is worship him, to please take the post of Prime Minister. I said I cannot work with Wickremesinghe and that his principles and ideologies do not match mine,” Sirisena said stating that Jayasuriya had the next day brought Wickremesinghe along with him to refuse the Premiership.
The President further said that he made the same appeal to the Deputy leader of the UNP, Sajith Premadasa two months ago and asked him to be the PM. “I consistently got him to come home and persuaded him to accept the post. He too finally declined, stating they could not tussle with their leader,” Sirisena said.
“When both of them refused I was seeking a man who would be suited to the culture of this country. I now have chosen a man who can not only tussle Wickremesinghe but can topple him,” Sirisena told the rally declaring that unlike Rajapaksa who in the past few days of being appointed met the Buddhist and Catholic and other clergy members, Wickremesinge was ‘worshipping’ in front of foreign embassies.
Sirisena insisted that he did not individually take the decision to appoint Rajapaksa and that he consulted all legal experts and dismissed claims that his acts were unconstitutional.
President Maithripala Sirisena further insisted that he and his new Prime Minister had the 113 MPs needed to hold Parliament.