De­spite po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, Pres­i­dent flies to Kilinochchi

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

The on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, which has left Sri Lanka with no func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment for the first time since in­de­pen­dence in 1948, did not de­ter Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena, from fly­ing in a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) VIP he­li­copter from Colombo to Kilinochchi.

He went there to open the sluice gates of the sprawl­ing Irana­madu tank. The wa­ter flow­ing from there is said to ben­e­fit an es­ti­mated 10,000 farm­ers in the area. Last week, he went by he­li­copter to Mor­a­ga­hakanda to open the sluice gates there.

Un­til the de­feat of Tiger guer­ril­las in May 2009, the Irana­madu tank area was a strong­hold of the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam ( LTTE). When the UNP gov- ern­ment was hold­ing peace talks with the LTTE, the guer­rilla ide­o­logue, the late An­ton Balas­ing­ham, ar­rived by sea plane that landed on the Irana­madu tanks. A “rest house” lay close to the sluice gates.

The sea planes were given by the then Ma­lidi­vian gover nment of Pre s i d e n t Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom. Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment of­fi­cials were flown by he­li­copter to seal Mr. Balas­ing­ham’s pass­port and later to place the de­par­ture stamp.

Af­ter open­ing the gates, Sirisena ac­com­pa­nied by his con­fi­dant Mahinda Sa­ma­ras­inghe and North­ern Prov­ince Gov­er­nor Regi­nal Cooray vis­ited a vil­lage. Moth­ers sur­rounded the Pres­i­dent, who was un­der tight se­cu­rity, to de­mand the where­abouts of their chil­dren. He told them that the gov­ern­ment had ap­pointed an Of­fice of Miss­ing Per­sons and it would go into the mat­ter.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena and his en­tourage were en­ter­tained to lunch at the Se­cu­rity Forces Head­quar­ters. He later took the one and half hour re­turn flight to Colombo.

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