Rajapaksa Resolves to Contest Parliamentary Elections
COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday resolved to contest the August 17 parliamentary elections with a view to forming a new government to safeguard Sri Lanka’s national interests and sovereignty.
Speaking to a huge crowd of supporters at his native village of Medamulana in South Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said that he could not disregard the feelings of his followers and opt out of the coming electoral contest.
Rajapaksa’s speech assumes significance in the light of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Chairman Maithripala Sirisena’s statement on Tuesday, that the SLFP will not have a “Prime Ministerial candidate” in the run up to the elections. Sirisena’s statement had ruled out putting up Rajapaksa as the Prime Ministerial candidate when there was a clamor for it from the Rajapaksa faction. Rajapaksa had himself been desperate to contest as the SLFP’s Prime Ministerial candidate because he could not contest as anything less, having been Lankan President for two terms.
However, interestingly, Rajapaksa made no mention of the Prime Ministerial post in his speech at Medamulana, though his followers shouted slogans hailing him as their Prime Minister.
Some commentators pointed out that Rajapaksa did not use the term “I” when he talked about contesting the elections, and used the term “we” instead. They said that the non-use of the term “I” meant that his group would contest and not he himself. But others said that in Sinhalese, “I” and “we” could be used interchangeably. There were others who said that by avoiding the term “I” Rajapaksa was keeping open the option of his not contesting.
Rajapaksa did not indicate which party he would contest from, whether it would be from his own SLFP; or the larger alliance, namely, the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA); or from one of the small registered parties.
The prospect of contesting from the SLFP seems remote now because its Chairman, Sirisena, had made it very clear that the SLFP will have no Prime Ministerial candidate as such. Contesting from the UPFA is also problematical because the UPFA is dominated by the SLFP. But Rajapaksa could contest from a small UPFA breakaway party and hope others will join him attracted by his mass popularity.
In what looked like the first campaign speech, Rajapaksa said that the government to be formed will “rectify errors committed in the past.”
In view of Lanka’s fractured polity, Rajapaksa said that he would invite all those who loved the country to join the government. He even sought the cooperation of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the United National Party (UNP), which is presently in power.
Meanwhile in Colombo, President Sirisena was closeted with his lieutenants to chalk out his group’s strategy in view of Rajapaksa’s latest move.
Photo credit Mahinda Rajapaksa media Unit