Sirisena-Rajapaksa Talks on Tricky Political Issues on Wednesday
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa are to discuss a range of ticklish political issues when they meet at the parliament Speaker’s residence here on Wednesday.
A leading member of the Rajapaksa camp told Express on Tuesday that the talks will not be “one on one” but between two delegations, one headed by Rajapaksa and the other by Sirisena. The Rajapaksa group has sent its agenda for the meeting to Sirisena, and is awaiting a response.
Broadly, Rajapaksa’s demands include: an end to “victimization” of his supporters through “politically-driven” police investigations into charges of corruption and other misdemeanours; accommodation of his supporters in the nomination of candidates of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in the forthcoming parliamentary elections; and rejection of the idea of forming a National Government with the United National Party (UNP) after the parliamentary elections.
Sirisena and the UNP, are on the other hand, are touting the idea of a National Government of all parties to depoliticize governance and usher in a cooperative political culture.
After the enactment of the 19 th.Constitutional Amendment (19A), which bars Rajapaksa from contesting for the Lankan Presidency again (there is a two-term limit now), the former President seems inclined to cooperate with Sirisena and work under him in the SLFP hoping to become Prime Minister, at the very least. But interestingly, Rajapaksa’s followers themselves are against the SLFP declaring its Prime Ministerial candidate ahead of the elections. Rajapaksa loyalist Dilan Perera has said that the SLFP has never, in the past, named a Prime Ministerial candidate ahead of an election.
As for the Sirisena group, it is expected to allay Rajapaksa’s fears in a general way without committing itself to anything concrete. This is because Sirisena is acutely aware of the potential threat from Rajapaksa. He had earlier said that if he had lost the Presidential election, he would be six feet under the ground. However, Sirisena feels compelled to lend an ear to many in the SLFP who think that Rajapaksa should be accommodated because he is still popular among the Sinhalese-Buddhist rural voters.