President’s position on Rajapaksa’s nomination remains unclear

Election MS vs MRThere seems to be lack of clarity about President Maithripala Sirisena’s position on the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)’s move to provide former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with a ticket to contest in the August 17 parliamentary polls.

Ever since the UPFA general secretary Susil Premajayantha’s statement was made public on Friday last, announcing the nomination of Mr. Rajapaksa, silence has been the response of the President. This was not the case on earlier occasions, when the President’s office promptly denied reports in sections of the press about a possible meeting between the two leaders and the former President being fielded as the candidate for the post of Prime Minister.

But, the absence of any emphatic reaction from Mr. Sirisena need not be construed as a sign of his approval for Mr. Rajapaksa’s nomination. On Saturday and Sunday, at two separate events, the President struck a different note. In Matara in the southern part of the country, Mr. Sirisena, who defeated Mr. Rajapaksa in the presidential election in January, said he would not allow “family rule, corruption and the reign of terror” to return, all of which charges were used by the opposition in the Presidential election against the then Rajapakasa regime. The next day in Colombo, he praised the family of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, another former President and a critic of Mr. Rajapaksa.

On Mr. Sirisena’s silence, Dilan Perera, SLFP spokesperson, emphasises that there is “no confusion.” Referring to Mr. Premajayantha’s statement, he says the statement has mentioned that the decision was made after consulting and meeting Mr. Sirisena. He is hopeful that Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Sirisena can work together hereafter, given the fact that they had been members of the SLFP for over 40 years.

When asked for reaction to the criticism that Mr. Sirisena has let down the spirit of the January mandate, Gayantha Karunatileka, United National Party (UNP) functionary and Minister for Mass Media, replies that “it is too early to comment” as the President has not yet made any statement.

Muttukrishna Saravanathan, founder of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, a body engaged in social science research, says the nomination of Mr. Rajapaksa could be an opportunity for people to “debunk the Rajapaksa mystique” again and ensure the “longevity of the silent positive change” that took place in January. A political commentator from Jaffna, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that Mr. Sirisena has demonstrated that he is different from Mr. Rajapaksa by seeking to accommodate him, an act that the former President did not do with regard to his rival in the 2010 Presidential election, Sarath Fonseka.(The Hindu)

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