COLOMBO: Reginald Cooray, an acclaimed leftist liberal and a veteran Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) politician who had been Chief Minister of the Western Province twice, is most likely to be appointed Governor of the Tamil-majority Northern Province succeeding HMGS Palihakkara, who has expressed a wish to demit office at the earliest.
A source close to President Maithripala Sirisena told Express on Friday that Cooray was the front runner and his appointment will be announced “soon”.
Cooray was Minister of Minor Crops Export Promotion during the Rajapaksa regime, but was critical of the family-based politics of that regime and was thought to be a natural ally of Maithripala Sirisena, who broke away from Rajapaksa to contest the January 8, 2015 President election as the Joint Opposition Candidate.
Cooray did not contest the subsequent parliamentary elections held in August 2015, saying that he lacked the financial resources necessary to contest successfully.
If appointed, Cooray will have the support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). “ He would be an appropriate choice. He has very liberal views,” said TNA chief R.Sampanthan. The Minister of National Coexistence, Mano Ganeshan, said that Cooray is a staunch leftist and liberal, having been with Vijaya Kumaratunga’s Sri Lanka Mahajana Paksha (SLMP). “He understands the Tamil question,” Ganeshan said. Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said that though a Sinhalese, Cooray can speak Tamil too.
In the late 1980s, the SLMP had sought peace with the Tamils led by the LTTE, and favored rapprochement with India. Subsequently, it merged with the SLFP when Kumaratunga’s wife, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, became SLFP leader.
Incumbent Governor of the Northern Province, former Lankan diplomat HMGS Palihakkara, had taken up the appointment only for six months and had requested to be relieved at the end of it.
According to sources in the Northern Provincial Council, his relations Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran were none too good as the latter had not been cooperative. Palihakkara is a “dove” having been a member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which gave an internationally accepted blueprint for post-war ethnic reconciliation.