When he walked into the Matara police station last weekend following violent clashes on the streets of the southern town between warring factions of the United National Party, Herman Guneratne was smoking a cigarette and asking to speak to Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera claimed yesterday.
Guneratne, the father of former UNP Provincial Councillor Maithri Guneratne who is leading a radical reformist movement against UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was arrested in connection with a shooting spree against Samaraweera’s supporters that left at least three persons injured from gunshots.
“There he was cool as ever at the police station where he was served coffee, smoking a cigarette and speaking to Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” Samaraweera told a press conference at the UNP’s Sirikotha Headquarters yesterday.
He said the police had no option but to arrest Herman Guneratne because there were so many eyewitnesses and footage of his shooting spree on the streets of Matara.
Samaraweera said the actual witch-hunt was against his own supporters. “28 of them have been arrested and are still being arrested by the police. When I went in and asked the police why they were harassing my supporters when some of them had nothing to do with the incident, they say these people were being identified by the footage provided by Sirasa TV and the Mawbima newspaper,” he charged.
“I asked them whether it was now to Sirasa dictates that the Matara Police was now working,” Samaraweera said.
The UNP MP said that while there was ample video and photographic evidence of the assualts by the anti-Ranil faction that was marching to Colombo from Matara to seek Wickremesinghe’s ouster, these persons were simply not being arrested.
“At least 11 PSD members were inside that procession in civil clothing and their identities have been revealed in the media in detail. Yet there is no action,” he charged.
Samaraweera raised the issue in Parliament which oddly drew angry retorts from Government Ministers all of whom took a vehemently anti-Ranil, anti-Mangala position and praised the pro-Guneratne Sirasa and Mawbima media organisations for doing their jobs.