The elder son of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has been arrested along with two other parliamentarians for protesting outside the Indian consulate in Hambantota over the proposed lease of an airport to an Indian company. The members of the Joint Opposition backing ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa staged the demonstration to protest the Sri Lankan government’s deal with India to handover the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota in the country’s Southern Province.
This was a major infrastructure project of Rajapaksa during his presidency with loan support coming from China. Namal Rajapaksa and six other protestors were summoned by the Hambantota police last night to record a statement over the violence at the demonstration, police said. They have been accused of causing damage to public property, unlawful assembly and defying a court order not to hold demonstrations in the Hambantota judicial area. They were produced before the Hambantota magistrate and ordered to be remanded until October 16 at the Tangalle remand prison, the police added.
“We recorded statements from organisers and taken those responsible into custody,” a police spokesman said.
The number of people arrested since Friday over the incident now has risen to 40.
The Opposition said they stand opposed to the selling of state assets by the government to foreign entities. Namal on Monday during a zero-hour debate in parliament on the Indian airport deal charged that the government was making Sri Lanka a “playground” for international power games.
He was referring to China being given to handle operations of Hambantota sea port and an Indian company given operations of the airport. Both sea and airport at Hambantota were major infrastructure projects of Rajapaksa in his home constituency with commercial loans from China. In January, a similar protest was held by the Opposition against the move to handover the Hambantota sea port to China on a long lease. Scores of people were arrested then.
The government, which charged that Rajapaksa had built costly infrastructure projects in Hambantota with commercial loans from China, has been forced to enter the long lease with a Chinese company to set off debt on an equity partnership.