President Mahinda Rajapaksa talked cooperation and signed seven pacts with India on Wednesday during his ongoing India visit. But in Colombo, a cabinet minister and one of Rajapaksa's most vocal allies spewed venom against Sri Lanka's biggest and closest neighbour.
Wimal Weerawansa, minister for construction and engineering services, let out a volley of criticism against Sri Lanka signing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.
It would allow India to fill-up the island nation with Indians, Weerawansa, also the leader of the National Freedom Front, told reporters.
The CEPA was ``not an agreement but a ploy to fill the island with Indians," charged Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) leader Wimal Weerawansa,'' a news website Ada Derana reported.
A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently exists between the two countries.
According to Weerawansa, the existing agreement allows more import of materials to the island. ``But CEPA will open the gates for workers too to flood the island,'' he said.
Weerawansa alleged that even now Indians who arrive here on tourist visas work in the fields in the north and sometimes leave with the harvests as well.
Weerawansa is perceived to be close to Rajapaksa and one of the few to have spoken openly about doing away with the two-term or six-year cap for Presidency; thus clearing the way for Rajapaksa to fight for the third term.
He, however, is not the only one talking against Sri Lanka signing CEPA.
Weerawansa's former radical Marxist allies of the Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna (JVP)-he broke away two years ago -- have also raged against the agreement, alleging that it would be a negative step for the local economy. Sri Lanka's service sector would be flooded by Indian service industry personnel, they have argued.
But what has surprised many here is the timing of Weerawansa's tirade against India when Rajapaksa was in India. One analyst said it could be an effort to show that Rajapaksa was trying to reach out to New Delhi in spite of so much criticism and anti-India emotion at home.