As of yesterday, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members, chosen for candidacy, started signing their nomination papers. In most cases, the lists have been sorted out. But, a serious problem had arisen in the preparation of the Gampaha District list.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has examined the list and expressed her strong objection to the inclusion of Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Western Provincial Council Members Samanmali Sakalasuriya and Sahan Pradeep as candidates on the UPFA ticket.
All these members were in the forefront in the campaign to bring back former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Alongside, there was yet another reason for her to scorn nomination to Mr. Ranatunga. His two brothers- Arjuna Ranatunga and Ruwan Ranatunga- are also seeking nomination from the same district.
They are, in fact, close aides of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Mrs. Kumaratunga has come out with the excuse that nomination could not be given to three persons from the same family.
It has led to discontent within the UPFA. Mr. Rajapaksa was fighting tooth and nail to make sure that Prasanna Ranatunga secures nomination.
Some UPFA seniors opined that the matter could be sorted out within the next couple of days.
MR to tender nomination today
Despite the communiqué by UPFA Secretary Susil Premajayantha that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would receive nomination, his supporters harboured doubts about a last minute attempt to block candidacy to him.
In fact, Mrs. Kumaratunga, who served before Mr. Rajapaksa, reportedly berated President Maithripala Sirisena for agreeing to accommodate Mr. Rajapaksa at the behest of a faction of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and other allies of the UPFA.
A pall of uncertainty prevails in certain political circles that nomination would be denied to Mr. Rajapaksa at the end of the nomination period, placing him in a precarious political situation even being unable to consider fallback options.
In an effort to pre-empt such attempts, the faction loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa, insisted that the nomination list of the UPFA should be handed over the election authorities at least by July 13, three days prior to the closing date.
Normally, the main parties used to do it on the last day of the nomination period. But, the UPFA faction sought a clear departure from this traditional practice, apparently sensing possible mischief to prevent nomination.
There is a bad precedent set in this regard in politics. At the 2010 General Election, the name of Uva Provincial Council Member Chaminda Janaka Tissakuttiarachchi had been altered with correction liquid from the United National Party (UNP) list of the Moneragala district, and replaced it with a new one, much to the dismay of the candidate concerned.
Later, it became common knowledge that a powerful politician from the district had done it to prevent Mr. Tissakuttiarachchi from becoming a threat to him during the election campaign in vying for preferential votes.
It is difficult to conclude whether the pro-Rajapaksa group fears such mischief this time.
But, it has even advanced their date of choice for handing over nomination papers. It is learnt from the sources close to Mr. Rajapaksa that he would contest from the Kurunegala District.
The nomination list for this district, is to be handed over to the Kurunegala Returning Office today.
Accordingly, Mr. Rajapaksa, as the group leader of the Kurunegala district, will tender nomination today at the Kurunegala District Secretariat.
SB, Arjuna still mount pressure against MR
Former Parliamentarians S.B. Dissanayake and Arjuna Ranatunga are among those still objecting to nomination for Rajapaksa. They relentlessly keep pressure on the President to deny nomination.
In the meantime, a group of SLFP MPs, who backed the President right from the beginning, complained to him about the inability to get nomination for some provincial council members such as Prasanna Solangarachchi.
Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Deputy Minister Thilanga Sumathipala and others brought this to the notice of the President as well.
CWC still undecided on Badulla
Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), led by former Minister Arumugan Thondaman, has decided to align with the UPFA to contest the election Ratnapura, Kegalle and Matale.
However, the party has not given its final word regarding its plan for the Badulla district. The UPFA leaders await Mr. Thondaman’s word for the finalization of nomination lists.
UNP ready for battle, be it with Mahinda or not
While the UPFA is riddled with internal squabbles on the nomination lists, the UNP is set to position itself ahead of the election. The UNP leadership, it is learnt, has instructed the candidates to be geared up for campaigning, without being bothered about the presence of Mr. Rajapaksa in the campaign.
Veena to appear on ballot paper after a decade
Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), an ally of the UPFA, has decided to contest alone this time in the north and the east. The party will contest under its Veena Symbol for the first time after 2004.
Since then, it has participated in elections under the betel symbol of the UPFA. But, party leader Douglas Devananda has decided to do otherwise due to the change of political landscape in the country.
Hizbullah, Karuna , Pillaiyan in the same list
M.L.A.M. Hizbullah has decided to contest the election on the UPFA ticket. Included in the same list are former LTTE military leader -turned -SLFP politician Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman and another LTTE leader- turned- Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan.
Hizbullah said he would be the team leader of the Batticaloa district.
“I will sign the nomination paper today,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)