Even before the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the political combination led by THE Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), kicked-off its propaganda for the general elections, it ran into confusion over the remarks by President Maithripala Sirisena that he would not back the candidacy of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Instead, the President, in his eagerly-awaited and widely-received speech on Tuesday evening, set forth his views clearly pronouncing his undiminished political wrath against MR though some thought that it had dissipated with the passage of time.
But, it appeared otherwise as the President articulated in clear-cut terms that his dissent with his predecessor remained unwaveringly. He said he was opposed tooth and nail to the nomination of MR as a candidate, but gave in eventually due to his reluctance to see the party being split ahead of the polls. He announced that he would remain neutral in the election despite being the leader of the UPFA that fielded MR virtually as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Notwithstanding such articulation about a neutral position, the tone and tenor of his speech indicated beyond doubt that he had taken a slant in favour of the United National Party (UNP). In fact, he indicated that in case the UPFA receives the highest number of seats at the August 17 election, he would consider the appointment of someone, other than MR as premier.
“There are enough and more senior members in the UPFA, other than Mahinda Rajapaksa to serve as the Prime Minister,” he said. Yet, the members of the UPFA camp dispute this claim because the 19th Amendment to the Constitution clearly stipulates that the member commanding the majority support of Parliament should be appointed as the Prime Minister.
The President’s position, announced in the aftermath of closing nominations for the election, has baffled the party seniors. Initially, the President, during his interactions with the UPFA leaders, said he had no formal agreement with the United National Party (UNP), extended beyond the 100-Day Programme. Also, he remained silent till the nomination period ended to air out his standpoint. During the interim period, he saw how his loyalists, who worked hard day and night to ensure his ascendancy to presidency, aligned politically with the UNP to contest the general election. Alongside, some other loyalists signed nomination to contest under the UPFA. The UPFA leaders, in analyzing this sequence of happenings that preceded the final announcement of the President’s position, are now at a loss to understand what brought it about. One thought is that the President came under incredible pressure from both internal and external forces to block MR from coming to power in whatever way possible.
With the latest developments, voting is slated to get polarized between the pro-Mahinda elements and anti-Mahinda forces led by the UNP. Now, a clear drawing line has emerged between the two political camps.
Nonetheless, the President’s articulation has rendered his loyalists hopeless and helpless within the UPFA camp. The President’s loyalists such as Duminda Dissanayake, S.B. Dissanayake, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon have been fielded for the election under the UPFA. They face the risk of being electorally alienated and isolated by the pro-Mahinda faction during the election under the present circumstances.
The UPFA will kick-off its propaganda campaign at a rally to be conducted in Anuradhapura with the participation of MR tomorrow. Before that, the UPFA is in a predicament to sort out certain internal issues. The SLFP Central Committee was to have an urgent meeting as a result yesterday.
UNP launches battle in Kandy
The UNP, upbeat with the latest happenings in its favour, started its election rally in Kandy as per the party tradition. The party, backed by other political movements such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) and Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), is promising an economic revolution in the country for the creation of one million job opportunities for the youth within the next five years.
JVP set for a new political path
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a party based on Marxist ideologies, is set to undertake a new political path in view of this election. For the first time, JVP has formulated its National List for the election, comprising members who are not card- holding members of the party. Formerly, JVP used to consider only their members dedicated to the full-time work of the party for such key positions. In departure from this tradition, it has nominated persons such as former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne, and Environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara as its National List members.
The party has selected members from fields such as art, culture and academia of the country as it considers their service are essential for its new political path. Some see it as a deviation from the Marxist principles and founding ideals of the party. Yet, its General Secretary Tilvin Silva said the party would not abandon its founding principles. Instead, he said the party had modified such Marxist principles in conformity with modern world interests and requirements. People wonder whether it is Marxism with Sri Lankan characteristics, to be evolved by the JVP.
Also, the JVP is evolving strategies to win over middle-class voters concentrated in urban areas in view of this election.
Ex-LTTE combatants in battle
A group of rehabilitated LTTE combatants are contesting this election as an independent group from the Jaffna district. The group initially sought nomination from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). But, its leadership did not accede to its request. Instead, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan was enraged by the move, and he shouted at those who pushed for nomination.
It is learnt that these ex-combatants contest the election in the hope of bringing about a change in the Tamil political leadership.
The Independent Group released a statement to the media saying that though the TNA leadership talks high and mighty, it delivers little. The group accused the present leadership of promoting people who amass wealth instead of trying to solve the problems of the people. The group says it is reflected in the choice of candidates for this election.
Relatives in the fray
The two main parties have fielded a number of candidates who are relatives one another. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa contests from Kurunegala whereas his son Namal, brother Chamal and niece Nirupama contest from Hambantota. Likewise, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has joined the fray from Kalutara under the UNP, and his son Chatura from Gampaha. Also, former UNP MP Wasantha Aluvihare and his brother Ranjith contest from the Matale district.
On the UPFA ticket, Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and his brother Ruwan will be contesting, while his other brother Arjuna Ranatunga is in the UNP list contesting the same district.
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