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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 113

Sri Lanka opposition rally forges ahead despite Police checks and hovering choppers

By Joseph Thavaraja

Colombo, 26 July, ( enhanced security checks and helicopters hovering above the city armed with video equipment, the opposition rally in Colombo drew more than secerak thousands protesters and is continuing to draw more.

The "Janarala rally" in Colombo is even now drawing crowds to the Central Colombo's Hyde Park, and the Lipton Circus area is now "virtually traffic blocked" said the Police.

Amidst claims of harassment, the government enforced more security checks, and let loose helicopters above the city to video the rally.

"The government has been trying its best to stop this. Even now it's spending lots of money at this moment by videoing us from the helicopters that are hovering above" said the UNP MP for Kurunegala, Johnston Fernando.

Labour Minister Mervyn Silva, rejected claims that the protesters were subjected undue security checks. "Checking of people arriving in Colombo is pretty routine. Who knows, with these crowds the LTTE too can come in..Even Sinhalese Tigers can creep in. Therefore, it is wrong to criticize these checks."

From yesterday, the government has been enforcing additional security checks along the main entry points to Colombo.

A passenger bus carrying protesters to the rally was attacked by suspected government supporters this afternoon at Kelaniya, a suburb of Colombo lying on the Kandy-Colombo arterial route. Reports said that the incident took place near the landmark Tyre Corporation factories at Kelaniya. The bus was damaged and the driver sustained injuries.

The march began at Borella (Colombo 8) at 2.00 pm. In the UNP rally in Colombo, in addition to carrying of various displays and banners, "several cultural events too featured in it" sources said to Asian Tribune.

"When the last UNP government was (very) close to bring the LTTE leader to the negotiations table, the government was dissolved suddenly" said S.B Dissanayake, UNP chief organiser, addressing the protest rally held in Colombo today. The rally has been organized by the opposition UNP and the SLFP(M) parties to protest against the policies of the Government.

"No ethnic conflict in the world has been solved by military means. Not even the East Timor issue in Indonesia nor the Irish problem. All these were solved by power sharing" Dissanayake said. "The cost living today is unbearable. This war is not going to help" he said.

Mangala Samaraweera of SLFP (M), the key ally of UNP in the event, addressing the rally at the Hyde Park, said "We worked so hard to bring this government to power-day and night. Minister Jeyaraj Fernandupulle has now become the top communicator for this government!" He added "I thank all the SLFP MPs who helped to organize this rally." The sacked Minister arrived with "large cut-outs of SLFP pioneer SWRD Bandaranaike", sources said.

Minister Fernandupulle, in response said "We are not at all bothered-this is no challenge for the government…Not even five cents worth of trouble taken by the government."

Meanwhile, in a tit-for-tat move, the ruling party SLFP too has organized 150 countrywide protests in 19 Districts starting from 9.00 am against the UNP today.

Piliyandala, Maharagama, Dehiwela, Kaduwela, Badulla and Homagama SLFP rallies were "full of protestors", reports said. A large number of SLFP organizers took part in these SLFP protests, reports said.

Addressing the SLFP rally in the southern city of Matara, SLFP's Lakshman Yapa, said "SLFP rallies are to protest against UNP's anti-Buddhist and anti-Sri Lanka statements."

- Asian Tribune -

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