By Faraz Shauketaly
As Sri Lanka celebrated its 63rd anniversary of its independence, the main opposition party’s protest rally in the city centre suburb of Borella came under attack by an armed group. Eye witness reports from the scene stated that the armed group had started to gather towards the front of the protest rally whose crowd numbered around 500 party supporters. They added that the group were armed with iron bars, wooden batons (poles), swords and guns. One eye witness stated that he was almost certain that he saw what appeared to him to be a T-56 gun.
The rally was organised late on Friday evening at around 7:15 p.m. in a show of solidarity with Sri Lanka’s former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka. Fonseka, 60, is currently serving a 30-month sentence imposed on him by a Court Martial for violation of tender procedures whilst he was Commander of the victorious Sri Lanka Army in its battle with the extremist terrorist organisation the LTTE.
Senior members of the United National Party including its Deputy Leader, Karu Jayasuriya, Ravi Karunanayake a former cabinet minister, Rosy Senanayake a former ambassador to Malaysia and Dayasiri Jayasekera a vociferous member of parliament joined the march which was headed in the direction of the prison where General Fonseka is serving his sentence. Anoma Fonseka who turned up at the rally was quickly asked to leave immediately due to the chaos erupting at the front of the protest rally. Vehicles belonging to Karunanayake, Senanayake and Jayasekera were all reportedly damaged and all three had lodged official complaints at Police Headquarters.
The UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya told The Sunday Leader that it was ironic that on the exact date that the island nation was celebrating its 63rd Anniversary of Independence, a peaceful protest rally asking for the release of a national hero, once described as “the best Army Commander in the world” had descended into chaos amidst scenes of violence. Eye witness reports also said that the large police presence stood by apparently either unwilling or unable to bring order to the chaos which was “well planned and orchestrated.” Members of Sri Lanka’s media also came under attack, with one being taken to hospital and the camera of a private TV station cameraman disappearing in the melee.
President Rajapaksa back in the island after a private visit to the United States, which fuelled intense speculation as to his health, was celebrating Independence Day in Kataragama, in Southern Sri Lanka and appeared to be in the pink of health, helping to squash the rumours.
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