UNP Spokesperson Minister Harin Fernando flanked by MP Mujibur Rahuman and Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara speaking to the media at Party HQ Sirikotha
Bringing out all the theatrics in response to last week’s Janabalaya rally by the Joint Opposition, United National Party spokesperson Harin Fernando claimed the MPs are now pointing fingers at the Government to hide their shortcomings.
Speaking at the UNP headquarters, Minister Fernando accused the organisers of the Janabalaya Kolambata rally were trying to pin blame of food poisoning on UNP Deputy Ministers Nalin Bandara and Mujibur Rahuman, in an attempt to deflect public attention from the failures at the rally, which according to Fernando, “fell below expectations.”
Calling the rally a flop, Fernando claimed that it is disappointing that Namal Rajapaksa is trying to put the blame of the failure of the rally on the UNP, through this milk packet incident.
JO Parliamentarians, including Wimal Weerawansa, have made public accusations against Central Colombo MP Mujibur Rahuman and Deputy Minister of Public Administration & Management and Law & Order Nalin Bandara, of having given contaminated milk packets to some of the rally goers.
Flanked by the two UNP parliamentarians accused of meddling with the rally goers, Fernando launched a scathing criticism against the main organiser of the event, JO MP Namal Rajapaksa, calling on the young politician to take ownership of his failures. “For all the issues, Namal Rajapaksa should take responsibility. We condemn that he is blaming the UNP and trying to provoke racism and hatred among different party supporters.”
“Namal has reduced the once strong JO to nothing - we are thankful to Namal for what he did,” the Minister claimed.
Fernando, who was also accused of involvement in the incident, came to Rahuman’s defence, saying that he has been targeted by the JO to give racial undertones to the issue.
“They picked the Muslim MP out of us all to accuse, there too they are trying to bring in racism, now you can figure out who was behind the Ampara incident involving alleged sterilisation pills,” he said. “They are now trying to create a friction between people, to spread hatred among people in the village saying the UNP supporters tried poisoning SLFP supporters. Namal is trying to cover his lack of capacity as a politician by creating friction among people and communities.”
The three Parliamentarians submitted a written complaint to Mirihana Police at noon yesterday, requesting that a full investigation be conducted on the incident. Another is to be submitted to the Inspector General of Police, Fernando said.
Rahuman, speaking in his defence, claimed that even at the UNP group meeting, a decision was taken to facilitate the rally and not block their movement in any way. “If we wanted to stop them, we have learnt lessons from them on how to harass the protestors, we have undergone harassment under their regime.”
According to the MP, there were contradictions in the story told by JO MPs, where the timeline and locations where the incidents have occurred differs.
“Because the accusation was made at a public gathering by JO Parliamentarians Weerawansa and MP Shehan Semasinghe, I can make a complaint under the provisions in the Penal Code Clause 208 for making false accusations, knowing it is false,” he said. “Their accusations are hurting my reputation, an accusation without any evidence or witnesses. So I will take action and will follow up as far as possible in the legal system.”
Rahuman also claimed that the JO protestors who came to stage a change similar to the Arab Spring and take over the Government only managed an “arrack spring.”
Law and Order Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara, adding to Fernando’s comments, also said that as the Government in power, strict instructions were given to the police to not interfere with the rally unless it posed a threat.
According to the Deputy Minister, although there were intelligence reports to say that they may attack the Court complex or Temple Trees, they were not going to block the rally from reaching Colombo.
“We didn’t block, we just allowed them to go where they wanted without incident. They were gearing up for a clash, that’s what they wanted, but we didn’t give in,” he said.
Comparing the young Rajapaksa to infamous Interuniversity Student Federation Leader Lahiru Weerasekara, Bandara claimed that the latter showed more skills in organising and crowd mobilising than the politician.
“If Lahiru came, he would have worked up the moral of his fellow students and gone off in high spirits, Namal couldn’t even do that,” he said.
Bandara said that the Police, which comes under his Ministry, should hold a proper inquiry. “We don’t stoop to such lows, we are a party who respect democracy, and we are not morally bankrupt to mess with milk packets given to people.”
To date, the complaint made to the police does not record any suspected persons, he said, urging the JO MPs to make complaints to the police and submit any evidence they claim to have.