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President’s speech excellent, says Mangala; Twitter reacts

ECONOMYNEXT – Hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the nation in his Independence Day address that his government welcomed dissenting views, praise came from an unlikely source.

United National Party (UNP) MP Mangala Samaraweera, one of the harsher critics of Rajapaksa and his brothers since his very public defection from their camp in 2007, tweeted that the speech was excellent – albeit with a caveat.

Coming from a man who once said he was “terrified of Gotabaya Rajapaksa” and who worked tirelessly to defeat him at last November’s presidential election, Samaraweera’s statement – a backhanded compliment though it may well have been – was unexpected, to say the least.

Sri Lankan Twitter has been testy with Samaraweera for some time now, and the reactions to yesterday’s tweet were predictably unsympathetic. While the verified blue-tick accounts of his parliamentary colleagues did not engage, regular Twitter users, partisan or otherwise, had much to say.

Former Sri Lanka Treasury Director of IT Anuruddha Pebotuwa reminded Samaraweera of similarly impressive speeches made in the recent past.

Shardha Sosa, the finance director of a food and beverage company, was less kind.

Some offered a somewhat cynical analysis of Samaraweera’s surprising statement in terms of sheer realpolitik.

Some were unflatteringly scepitcal of his sincerity.

Others were openly bigoted and homophobic.

A self-styled true Sri Lankan whose Twitter bio is the most quotable quote in Kumar Sangakkara’s 2011 MCC speech faulted Samaraweera for facilitating the Rajapaksa presidency.

A sentiment echoed by this gentleman.

In a toxic sea of vitriolic takedowns, one lone voice was heard approving Samaraweera’s words.

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