COLOMBO:Following the granting of the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) parliamentary election ticket to former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his rival and serving President Maithripala Sirisena is set to form an anti-Rajapaksa alliance with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
This was evident on Sunday when Sirisena and Wickremesinghe attended Kumaratunga’s 70th birthday celebrations and spoke about Kumaratunga’s contribution to Sri Lanka in glowing terms. While the function was attended by key supporters of Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, supporters of Rajapaksa were conspicuously absent. Speaking on the occasion, Sirisena praised Kumaratunga for not being corrupt and for promoting ethnic reconciliation when she was Lankan President from 1995 to 2005. He was indirectly contrasting her with Rajapaksa, who had become known for being corrupt and being against ethnic reconciliation. Sirisena also praised her for the respect she enjoyed internationally.
Sirisena openly acknowledged that it was due to the recommendation of Kumaratunga that he had become the common opposition candidate backed by the UNP in the January 2015 Presidential election. Wickremesinghe recalled the long ties his family had with Kumaratunga’s family and the way the two of them worked to make Sirisena Lankan President and bring about a “revolution” in the country. Sirisena had made it quite obvious that he gave the UPFA ticket to Rajapaksa against his will when he spoke at a function in Matara recently. He promised he would not let down the revolution that he had ushered in January. He said he was still committed to ridding the country of family rule and corruption by which he meant the “Rajapaksa Raj.”
According to informed sources, the Sirisena-Ranil-Chandrika group will fight the August 17 parliamentary polls as an alliance with the “Swan” as the symbol- their symbol for the Presidential election. This means that Sirisena will be breaking away from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the UPFA along with other anti-Rajapaksa elements. His continuation in the two outfits had become untenable after the General Secretaries of the two outfits opted to side with Rajapaksa along with the majority of its leaders and members.
The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU ), an anti-Rajapaksa party, announced on Sunday that it has quit the UPFA.