ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ought to hold some high office within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) while Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to lead the party, Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa said.
Speaking to reporters today, Weerawansa refused to retract a remark he had made to a Sinhala-langue weekly last Sunday (07) that President Rajapaksa must lead the SLPP. His comment drew the ire of SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam who yesterday demanded an apology and a retraction from his colleague.
Offering a clarification, Weerawansa said he never meant that the Prime Minister must be removed from the SLPP leadership as claimed by Kariyawasam.
“The position we articulated was that President Rajapaksa must hold some high office within the SLPP. That doesn’t mean Prime Minister Rajapaksa must no longer lead the party. While he remains leader, if President Rajapaksa could be appointed to a suitable position, relations with the political forces of this country would improve, which would prove beneficial to the government as well as the country,” said Weerawansa.
The clarification notwithstanding, the National Freedom Front (NFF) leader held his ground, refusing to issue an apology.
“If it was wrong to pioneer the Mahinda Sulanga movement that brought Mahinda Rajapaksa back to power, I should apologise to the nation. If it was wrong to be at the forefront of the calls to nominate Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the presidential candidate for the SLPP and ensure that it became a reality, I should apologise,” he said.
The MP further said there is no rule preventing one from commenting on the affairs of another party.
“The constitution has not restricted freedom of speech. If that’s the case then we can’t talk about the UNP or the JVP or other parties in our alliance. There is no such limit. These are limits made up by certain individuals,” he said.
Asked what he makes of a junior MP in the government making such allegations against a seasoned politician such as himself, Weerawansa said: “Little children sometimes [throw their toys out of the pram]. We must not take them too seriously.”
The minister also refuted a more serious allegation levelled against his party by SLPP Administrative Secretary Renuka Perera who told reporters yesterday that two doctors on the payroll of foreign intelligence agencies had taken part in a discussion held at Weerawansa’s residence.
“If there are indeed individuals in our party, doctors or otherwise, who are linked to foreign intelligence, I request the president to instruct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to investigate immediately. First get a statement from the person who made the allegation and then investigate the doctors in question and if found that they’re connected to foreign intelligence, take action if needed,” said Weerawansa.
“These are just fabricated insults,” he added. (Colombo/Feb09/2021)