UPFA rift booms into blows

The rift that split the UPFA during the recent Southern Provincial election erupted in full force at a Hilton dinner on Friday with provincial councillor Nishatha Mutuhettigama and Deputy Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage exchanging blows, eyewitnesses said.

They said fisticuffs broke out at the Royal College old boys’ dinner after a heated exchange of words between the two politicians.

Prior to this, Mr. Mutuhettigama was seen talking to Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP MPs Lakhsman Kiriella and Ravi Karunanayake – all old Royalists. The controversial Southern politician who hit the headlines recently over his open clash with actress Anarkali Akarsha, who was also elected to the Southern Provincial Council on the UPFA ticket at last Saturday’s election, told the UNP politicians that he was invited to the dinner by a Royalist friend.

Later, Gypsies Band leader Sunil Perera who was entertaining the guests took Mr. Mutuhettigama to the stage and introduced him as Anarkali’s friend and got him to sing.

Mr. Mutuhettigama, who secured the third highest preferential votes at last Saturday’s poll, told the Sunday Times that it was while he was on stage that Mr. Aluthgamage, a Royalist, walked up to him and abused him, saying he was bending too much for the opposition.

Eyewitnesses said an argument that erupted between the two politicians led to an exchange of blows and they were aghast at the behaviour of public figures at a social gathering attended by distinguished people. They said the terrified guests were seen leaving the hall in disgust.

Mr. Mutuhettigama said the deputy minister and his security officers attacked him and after the brawl they even tried to abduct him, but he managed to escape. He said he lodged a complaint with the Police Chief Jayantha Wickremaratne.

The hotel’s security officers confirmed the incident but refused to elaborate. When we tried to contact the deputy minister’s residence, a person said he would be available in 10 minutes, but when we called again he said the deputy minister had left the house.

When we tried to contact Mr. Aluthgamage on his mobile, a person who answered said the minister was at the gym and when we called again, he said he was sleeping.

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