3RD LEAD

Thousands march against Rajapaksa govt. in Colombo

[TamilNet, Thursday, 26 July 2007, 09:25 GMT]
Around 100,000 people marched in Colombo Thursday in the first main rally jointly organised by Sri Lanka's opposition United National Party (UNP) and the breakaway Sri Lanka Freedom Party's (SLFP) Mahajana faction, headed by former SL foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera. The campaigners used Samaraweera's charge against President Mahinda Rajapakse that he had a "secret deal" with the Tigers, to discredit Mr Rajapakse. "The Great Betrayal of the Great Buddhist," was the main slogan of the march where Mangala Samaraweera invited the JVP to join hands with him, in the agitation against Rajapaksa regime.

UNP-SLFP(M) rally
Banners with manipulated photo of SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa as hugging LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan


UNP-SLFP(M) rally
"The big betrayal by the great Buddhist," says a banner that displays a manipulated photo of LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan with SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa
UNP-SLFP(M) rally
UNP-SLFP(M) rally
Samaraweera supporters wearing blue t-shirts
The anti-government march, begun from Campbell Park at 1:30 p.m. reached Hyde Park in Union Place, around 4:30 p.m.

Ranil Wickramasinghe, Mangala Samaraweera, Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, S.B. Dissanayake were among those who addressed the crowd at the end of the rally. The meeting lasted till 8:00 p.m.

Mangala Samaraweera, when he was media minister in the UPFA government under Chandrika Kumarathunga, had alleged a secret Tiger-UNP deal (Ali-Koti Givisuma), was also known for attacking the peace broker Norway in 2003 as a "nation of salmon-eaters" who turned into "international busybodies".

Mr. Samaraweera was a central figure in forging a tactical alliance between Kumaratunga government and the extreme nationalist JVP and later between the JVP and Rajapaksa's UPFA alliance in 2005.

Opposition Leader, Mr. Wickremesinghe, addressing the gathering at the end of rally on Thursday, charged that Mahinda Rajapaksa had come to power on illegal terms, "colluding with the Tigers."

Meanwhile, only a small number of people participated in the marches organised by the government Thursday morning at various places.

Security was beefed up in Colombo and many roads remained blocked Thursday.

UNP-SLFP(M) rally
UNP supporters
SLFP (M) supporters
Ranil Wickramasinghe and Mangala Samaraweera


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