Intra-party election violence appears to have reached a pinnacle in the North-Western Province (NWP), with the main financial supporter of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidate, Dayasiri Jayasekara, being abducted, assaulted and dumped in Anuradhapura.
Jayasekara yesterday accused those who are engaged in the preferential vote race of being responsible for the disappearance of his closest supporter and the police suspect the person had been abducted by a group. Jayasekara’s supporter, Sarath Ratnayake, a millionaire businessman had reportedly gone missing since Wednesday (4) night and Ratnayake’s wife has lodged a complaint with Hettipola and Wariyapola Police Stations stating that her husband had been missing since 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
Following investigations, the police yesterday said Ratnayake had been admitted to the Anuradhapura Hospital and is currently under observation. Police also said he was unconscious, and as such they could not record a statement on the incident until the late hours of yesterday evening.
Though the police said they could not observe any external injuries, sources said there is evidence of Ratnayake being physically assaulted.
“I see this as a gross violation of the people’s right to engage in a free and fair election by those who are engaged in a campaign of gaining preferential votes by hook or by crook. They also want to show that those who supported me once are now aligned with another candidate of the same party. This incident also raises concerns whether they are providing ammunition to the opposition and foreign forces, who are against the government, by engaging in violence during the election period,” Jayasekara charged.
Ratnayake, who is the Basnayake Nilame of the Kataragama Devalaya in Tissamaharama, is also known as the biggest strength in Jayasekara’s election campaign and in fact is the person who provided a Hummer jeep for Jayasekara, to facilitate his campaign.
“He is a long-time supporter of me. I contacted the President and the Defence Secretary to inform them regarding the disappearance and requested assistance to find Ratnayake as soon as I heard the news, as I feared for his life. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa informed me that two special security teams had been detailed to commence investigations into the disappearance,” he said.
Jayasekara believes this may be a result of a conspiracy to tarnish his image and credibility, maintained thus far with a campaign sans liquor or violence, by a certain group that is embroiled in a battle for preferential votes.
“This is a clear act of intimidation, to scare my supporters and to send the message that their lives will be in danger if they align with me. These groups are engaged in a shameless game of either buying over or intimidating my supporters to declare in public that they no longer support me,” he added.
By Gagani Weerakoon