UPFA Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse`s campaign chief Mangala Samaraweera yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Commission to Investigate Bribery and Corruption, Ceylinco Chairman Lalith Kotelawela and two private newspapers, all of whom he alleged were biased towards the UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Addressing his penultimate campaign news conference on behalf of Premier Mahinda Rajapakse, Minister Samaraweera charged that Mr. Kotelawela was engaged in an attempt to create racial and religious tensions in the country, by portraying the Prime Minister as a candidate advocating religious and ethnic chauvinism.
?It is obvious that Mr. Kotelawela has no comprehension of history when we see these ads he inserts into the newspapers. He should remember that we are all Sri Lankans first,? Mr. Samaraweera said.
Mr. Samaraweera added that the Society for Love and Understanding which is publishing the advertisements appeared to be a one-man show to fulfill Mr. Kotelawela`s ambitions.
?These ads are just cheap tactics by Mr. Kotalawela to bolster Ranil Wickremesinghe`s campaign and it is pathetic,? the minister charged.
Moving on to the Bribery Commission which dismissed his complaint against the UNP candidate`s alleged computer fraud earlier this week, Mr. Samaraweera said that the commission had seen it fit to inform the newspaper owned by Mr. Wickremesinghe`s uncle and another pro-UNP publication about the dismissal of the case, even before letting him know.
?I received this letter on November 9th, which was dated November 8th and the secretary to the commission had written that they had decided to dismiss the complaint after intense scrutiny of the documents submitted because the case did not appear to be a violation of existing corruption laws. I would like to know how the commission can have claimed to intensely scrutinize the complaint in three weeks, even without recording a statement from me?? the minister said.
Mr. Samaraweera claimed that he was shocked that the complaint had been rejected, but added that the UPFA planned to take further legal action in the future. ?But this is not about the elections, so we will look into the matter further only after November 18,? he said.
Also going on the offensive against Mr. Kotelawela was Consumer Affairs Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle who said that the Ceylinco Chairman who was not even a Catholic by birth appeared to be more protective of the Christians in the country than generational Christians themselves. ?Why is he so worried about them, if we`re not? We are Christians by birth,? charged the Minister.
Also addressing the press briefing, Joint Campaign Spokesman for the Premier Wimal Weerawansa denied that he had ever said that the pledges of the Mahinda Chintanaya would be included in the budget. In a major retraction of a statement Mr. Weerawansa made at a similar press briefing last month, he said that the budget only set out certain policies that would enable the promises in the Chinthanaya to be implemented.
?The Mahinda Chinthanaya is a six year plan, this Budget is only for 2006,? the JVP MP said explaining away the lack of campaign pledges in the budget presented to Parliament on Tuesday. He added that most things will be approved via Cabinet papers after Mr. Rajapakse took office as President. Meanwhile, Chief Economic Advisor to the Premier Ajith Nivard Cabraal explained that there was insufficient time to include the Chinthanaya pledges in the budget for 2006. He said that a budget is drafted as early as a year before it is presented and said that since the manifesto was released only recently, theFinance Ministry did not have sufficient time to study the proposals and incorporate them. ?Besides, some things do not need budgetary allocation to implement,? he added.