by Shamindra Ferdinando
Vidyajothi Prof. M.S. Rizvi Sheriff on Saturday (March 02) declared that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not just another Rajapaksa but a man with immense talent, skill and vision.
The academic said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his opinion a man well worthy of securing the political leadership in Sri Lanka.
Prof. Rizvi said so at a public meeting organized by prominent businessman A L M Farris, at Elamaldeniya, Gelioya in support of ‘Eliya’, a civil society organization, promoting Gotabaya’s candidature at 2019 presidential election.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahanuwa District UPFA MPs Keheliya Rambukwella, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dilum Amunugama and Anuradha Jayaratne, former Provincial Council members and Local Government were present.
Referring to how Rajapaksa had dealt with what he called the Development Plan for the City of Colombo, Prof. Sheriff asserted that Rajapaksa was suited for the leadership position.
Prof. Sheriff pointed out that Rajapaksa had assured that he would take tangible measures to revive the national economy and freedom of worship to secure the respect of the Muslim community. The academic also referred to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s repeated promise to bring about a just society.
UPFA Mahanuwa District MPs Lohan Ratwatte and National List MP S. B. Dissanayake weren’t present, at the event. MP Aluthgamage said that Ratwatte couldn’t attend due to a family commitment whereas Dissanayake had to attend the funeral of Upul Weerasinghe, Chairman of the Patha Hewaheta Pradeshiya Sabha.
Rajapaksa said that all communities had immensely benefited by the eradication of terrorism in May 2009. The conclusion of the conflict had enabled all communities to live in a peaceful environment, Rajapaksa said, stressing the military campaign had never been directed at a particular community but those who took up arms against the State.
Referring to the speeches delivered before his, Rajapaksa mentioned how the Muslims had been ordered out of the Northern Province, massacred in the East and the plight of the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Rajapaksa said that they had been labeled racists in the wake of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE.
The war veteran said that the eradication of terrorism had brought relief to all communities though various interested parties interpreted the war victory to suit their despicable agendas.
Rajapaksa complained bitterly how housing projects launched in Colombo during the Rajapaksa administration had been made out to be a conspiracy to drive the minorities out of the city and its suburbs. The housing project was meant to provide suitable housing to those who couldn’t afford to have houses of their own and distribution of housing units had been done purely on the basis of requirement. Unfortunately, minorities believed in lies, Rajapaksa said.
Declaring that there hadn’t been a cohesive strategy to address major problems, Rajapaksa alleged that issues were exploited at the time of elections to win votes. Rajapaksa said that the powers that be needed to address basic issues such as sufficient income, education for children, suitable employment, health and housing. Asserting that the basic problems faced by all communities were common, Rajapaksa alleged that politicians tend to blame difficulties faced by minorities on Sinhalese and vise versa.
Rajapaksa pointed out how after the conclusion of the conflict the then government launched an accelerated development programme for the benefit of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Rajapaksa said that as long as those in power neglected the basic problems faced by the people whatever their ethnicity be, the country would suffer. He said that poverty deprived people of their right to live respectfully.
The former Defence Secretary assured that a future government would take tangible measures to ensure the people’s right to live respectfully, enhanced religious freedom, eradication of the underworld and a disciplined society.
Rajapaksa recalled the allegations directed at him over the eradication of terrorism and action taken against the underworld.
Denying he in his capacity as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence authorised the use of ‘white vans’ during the Eelam War IV (2006-2009) and after, Rajapaksa said that such tactics were employed during the second abortive JVP inspired insurgency (1987-1990).
Referring to operations undertaken by intelligence services during the war, Rajapaksa said that at the time his brother won 2005 Nov presidential election, terrorists posed a massive threat. They had ‘safe houses’ and undercover operatives tasked to eliminate political leaders, take military and economic targets, Rajapaksa said, adding intelligence services adopted strategies in keeping with those in practice in other parts of the world. Rajapaksa insisted that innocents had never been targeted in anti-terrorist operations to clear Colombo and its suburbs.
Recalling terrorists attacks on buses, trains and political assassinations, Rajapaksa paid a glowing tribute to Muslim officers who served in the intelligence services at the risk of their lives. Some Muslims had paid the supreme sacrifice. Rajapaksa blamed the UNP for strategic blunders that had resulted in the deaths of officers and men assigned for intelligence services.
Rajapaksa insisted that the intelligence services and he in his capacity as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence had performed a national task and weren’t pursuing personal agendas. Rajapaksa said that he had fulfilled the responsibilities as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and a citizen though various interested parties were hell-bent on misinterpreting his actions.
Rajapaksa urged the Muslim and Tamils communities not to be misled by those propagating politically motivated lies. In addition to political opponents, foreign powers had paid a pivotal role in influencing the electorate against the war winning twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa to bring his reign to an end in 2015, he said.
Former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal explained the status of the national economy due to ill-fated policies and mismanagement of the current leaders. He discussed how the current government caused crisis in every sector with no hope in swift recovery.
Dr. Seetha Arambepola urged the Muslim community to be cautious of those who relished disputes among communities leading to death and destruction. For those bent on exploiting ethnic tensions, regardless of whether the targeted community comprised Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims, they secured political benefits. Dr. Arambepola declared it was time to stop this despicable political strategy. Minorities were ‘sold’ at the times of election.
Dr. Arambepola said that Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities had different values and it would be silly to expect all to embrace others’ beliefs. Dr. Arambepola said that if she claimed that there were no differences among them and their beliefs the common it would be nothing but a big lie. She stressed the right of different communities to uphold their values while respecting others.
The ‘Eliya’ activist explained how she worked closely with her Muslim friends and often depend on their advice.
Dr. Arambepola pointed out that since the successful conclusion of the war in May 2009, Western powers were busy teaching post-war national reconciliation. The country needed communities to work together for the betterment of all people without pulling in different directions at the expense of overall national development.