President helpless, say civil society activists

Election  ballot boxGiven the enormous pressure he is under to give party nominations to discredited former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his corrupt cohorts to fight the August 17 general elections, President Maithripala Sirisena is feeling helpless, say civil society activists who met him on Wednesday.

When the activists vehemently protested against the grant of nomination to Rajapaksa, Sirisena told them that he was “isolated” in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), of which the SLFP is part. He said that he had no option but to go by the wishes of the majority. The SLFP as well as the UPFA have been clamouring for Rajapaksa because he is thought to be necessary to win the elections, given the support he supposedly enjoys in the majority Sinhalese-Buddhist community.

However, Sirisena told the activists that he would make an important statement after July 13, the last date for filing nominations, but gave no hint as to what it might be. Activists expect Sirisena to say that he will be neutral in the elections and let the people decide who they want to see as Prime Minister of the country. On his part, he will only appeal to the voter to keep in mind the March 12 Declaration signed by political parties.

In the March 12 Declaration, all parties had pledged not to give nominations to candidates who had been to jail for a criminal offence; were proven guilty of corruption; had traded in alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution; indulged in activities destructive of the environment; abused political power; or entered into financial agreements or been party to agreements detrimental to the interests of the country.

If Sirisena makes an appeal based on the March 12 Declaration, it will be deemed to be a signal to vote against Rajapaksa and his cohorts. (New Indian Express)

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