By Anura Balasuriya and Rathinda Kuruvita
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that the Joint Opposition (JO) had been compelled to launch ‘Jana Balaya Colombata’ campaign as the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had deprived it of the post of the Opposition Leader.
Rajapaksa said that the government had recognized the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentary group consisting of only 16 members as the main Opposition party though the JO had 70 MPs.
Rajapaksa said so addressing JO activists opposite Lake House last night following a Satyagraha.
Rajapaksa declared that ‘Jana Bala’ operation had been successful and the protesters would remain there till morning.
The former President said that the controversial tax policies had caused further hardships to the masses struggling to make ends meet.
The businesses, too, had suffered due to increased taxes, he said, adding that attempts were being made to divide the country on ethnic lines.
Commenting on the restoration of democracy following the successful conclusion of the war in May 2009, the former President said his government had held northern PC polls in 2013.
Rajapaksa said that President Sirisena, PM Wickremesinghe and others could visit Jaffna and criticize him because his government had brought the war to an end.
The former President declared that ‘Jana Bala Colombata’ was the first step in JO campaign to dislodge the government.
Such a large contingent of police had not been called into Colombo even during the height of the war, Joint Opposition (JO) MP Namal Rajapaksa said yesterday, as large crowds converged near the lake House roundabout for a protest march organised by the Joint Opposition.
JO MP Wimal Weerawansa said the proteters would stay overnight.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his sibling Gotabaya joined the protest march, Jana Balaya Colambata (People Power to Colombo), in the evening near the Pettah Bo tree. They worshipped in the shrine there. Rajapaksa’s son Yoshitha, too, had joined the protest.
Joint Opposition MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that protesters, converging on Colombo from several directions and two processions had commenced from P. D. Sirisena Ground, Maligawatte and Vihara Maha Devi Park.
A special meeting was held at the former President’s house in Wijerama prior to the commencement of the protests.
Most institutions were closed early to allow their employees to leave the city prior to the commencement of the protest. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said school attendance was low in Colombo.
Police Spokesperson, SP Ruwan Gunasekera said that a large number of policemen had been deployed in Colombo, including six vehicles with water cannons, riot squads and detachments of the Special Task Force (STF). The vehicles with water cannon were placed near the Presidential Secretariat, Temple Trees, President’s Official Residence and at Cinnamon Gardens, Fort and Parliament.