As the leadership crisis in the United National Party reached an extraordinary climax with the Sajith and Ranil factions clashing in the southern city of Matara yesterday the Party’s Communications Chief and Matara District strongman Mangala Samaraweera accused the owner of a leading private television station of backing the anti-Ranil groups on contract from the ruling Rajapaksa regime.
At least seven people were injured when clashes erupted between protesting pro and anti Ranil factions. UNP Provincial Councillor Pushpakumara was suffered a gunshot injury to his leg. The march from Dondra to Colombo was led by ousted UNP provincial councillors Maithree Guneratne and Shiral Lakthilake. Guneratne’s father Herman Guneratne a loyalist of the Rajapaksa regime was arrested in connection with Pushpakumara’s shooting. Herman Guneratne was found to have a holster on his person to hold a personal weapon.
Maithree Guneratne’s marchers were demanding the resignation of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“A businessman by the name of Kili Maharajah is on contract from the Rajapaksas to destroy the UNP,” Samaraweera charged at a media confrerence in Matara yesterday. The outspoken UNP Parliamentarian said Maharajah who owns the Sirasa media network had provided free advertisements to the tune of millions for the Maithree Guneratne led march against Wickremesinghe’s leadership.
“It was proved beyond a doubt today to the country at large that what began today at Devinuwara was not a peaceful march but a demonstration by heavily armed thugs,” Samaraweera accused.
Samaraweera said that expelled UNP Councillor Maithree’s father Herman Guneratne was a presidential advisor and the close associate of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. “He shot UNP members,” he said.
Samaraweera said that Maitree Guneratne had a personal grouse against injured UNP Southern Provincial Council member Krishantha Pushpakumara because he obtained more preferential votes at the last election.
According to Samaraweera several army personnel in civil clothing were also stationed around the Guneratne marchers to give them protection.
Pushpakumara is currently receiving treatment at the Karapitiya Hospital, Samaraweera said, adding that another UNP PC member’s brother Janaka Sanjeewa had also suffered gunshot wounds. “The UNP Matara District Council Vice Chairman and former General Secretary Jaliya Jayawardane had also been badly injured,” he charged.
Samaraweera said another young man who was just a passerby had been shot and is currently undergoing emergency surgery at the Matara Hospital.