Sinhala opposition to peace deal gathers momentum

[TamilNet, Thursday, 16 May 2002, 18:55 GMT]
More than five thousand protestors Thursday afternoon thronged the Virodhaya (oppose) campaign by Sri Lanka's main opposition alliance against the ruling United National Front's policy on peace talks, the economy and style of governance at Nugegoda Junction, a busy intersection in greater Colombo.

The Virodhaya campaign, scheduled to be held in all the Sinhala majority districts of the island in the next hundred days, slams peace talks between the Premier Wickremesinghe's government and the Liberation Tigers as a "move to divide the country."

Opposition leader, Mr. Mahinda Rajapksha, led the demonstration. Rush hour traffic was jammed for more than an hour at two of the busiest intersections in outer Colombo this afternoon, as the Virodhaya demonstrators marched from Nugegoda Junction to Kohuwela Junction.

Ms. Ferial Asharaff sitting behind Mr. Anura Bandaranaike and Mahinda Rajapksha of the main opposition PA. Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena is seen on the left. (Photo TamilNet)
People's Alliance strongmen Mr. Anura Bandaranaike and Mangala Samaraweera and coalition partners Ms. Ferial Asharaff (National United Alliance) and Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) took part in the demonstrations. Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council Mr. Reginald Cooray and many opposition trade union leaders too were in the protest. The leftwing coalition members of the PA, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Communist party boycotted the protest.

"The United National Front government has not fulfilled its election promises but it has laid down the path to hand over the northeast province to the Liberation Tigers," said a former minister and Kandy district parliamentarian Mr. Sarath Amunugama addressing the rally.

Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse, leader of the opposition said that the demonstration showed that that the PA had the ability to stand on its feet without relying on others, in an obvious reference to the JVP.

"The PA has decided to launch this anti-government campaign throughout the island to muster the support of the masses against government's repression, betrayal of the country, privatization of public properties and retrenchment of workers," said Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sinhala nationalists charge that the UNF is betraying the nation by granting regional autonomy to the Tamils, which, according to them would be an irrevokable step towards separation.

The Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council Mr. Reginald Cooray said it was only the President, the Prime Minister and Mr.Anura Bandaranaike who could together extricate the country from the current crisis.

Mr.Sarath Amunugama further said it was necessary to establish a People's Alliance regime under the leadership of President Chandrika Kumaratunge to save the country from separatist forces.

"We expect the campaign to gather even greater momentum as it spreads to the other parts of the country. The large crowd at today's demonstration clearly show that the people are fed up with this government," an opposition trade union activist told TamilNet.


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