President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a committee headed by former higher education minister S.B. Dissanayake to conduct talks with the group of SLFP and UPFA members who are backing former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, with a view to mending fences with them, party sources said yesterday.
The president dissolved parliament last Friday and announced a general election. In the proclamation, he fixed August 17 as polling day.
The UPFA is ridden with crises, with a group pressing for the nomination of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime ministerial candidate. This group is adamant that Mr. Rajapaksa should get nomination to contest the election under the UPFA’s betel leaf symbol. It also has ready some fallback options in the event Mr. Rajapaksa is denied nomination.
Against the backdrop of these developments, the president has appointed this committee, comprising Mr. Dissanayake and Ministers Rajitha Senaratne, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane and Sarath Amunugama.
Asked for comment, Mr. Dissanayake told Daily Mirror that the committee was not solely for the purpose holding talks with the faction supporting Mr. Rajapaksa.
“We will speak with those who are with us and those who have have left us for the moment. We have to unite all possible factions to win this election,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former minister who backed Mr. Rajapaksa, said it was yet uncertain whether the two factions could be united ahead of the election.
“We have back up plans to use in such an event,” he said.(Kelum Bandara)