COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), on Friday backtracked from his earlier stand and agreed to give an UPFA ticket to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to fight the August 17 Lankan parliamentary elections.
Sirisena’s chief political lieutenant and cabinet spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, told Express that the decision was a “compromise” between one group wanting Rajapakasa to be designated as the Prime Ministerial candidate and another wanting Rajapaksa to be discarded totally.
“The President has now agreed to allow Rajapaksa to contest the election as an ordinary candidate of the UPFA and not as its group leader or its Prime Ministerial candidate,” Senaratne explained.
Asked if the Sirisena group will stop attacking Rajapaksa and his group, discarding the virulent anti-Rajapaksa stand taken during the January 2015 Presidential election, Senaratne said that the Sirisena group will continue to attack Rajapaksa and his cohorts.
But he also said that the Sirisena group will attack the United National Party (UNP), though the two of them are running a coalition government.
Some political analysts say that the Sirisena-UNP alliance is heading for a crash, while others say that the pro-Sirisena group will break away and establish an alliance with the UNP.
Meanwhile, UNP MP, R.Yogarajan, said that his party will break with Sirisena as he has failed to carry out his election promise to politically destroy the corrupt and authoritarian Rajapaksa.
“The UNP put him up as the joint opposition Presidential candidate on the basis of this promise, but he has made up with the corrupt Rajapaksa. We will hold him responsible for not fulfilling the election promise to establish Good Governance and ask the people to give us the vote to establish Good Governance,” Yogarajan said.
Jathika Hela Urumaya
Ven.Rathna Thero, leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and a Sirisena supporter, said that one cannot say that Rajapaksa will emerge strong enough to be considered for Prime Ministership. It will depend on the overall results. As for the JHU, it will work to strengthen the Sirisena group in the SLFP/UPFA, Rathna Thero said.
Rajapaksa Faction Thrilled
National Freedom Front and UPFA leader Wimal Weerawansa said that the August 17 elections will throw up a “Maithri-Mahinda” government with Sirisena as President and Rajapaksa as PM. He congratulated Sirisena for preventing a split in the SLFP and UPFA.
UPFA leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara congratulated Sirisena for “rescuing the SLFP and UPFA from the clutches of the UNP.”