Sri Lanka: Opposition parties, independent and ruling party MPs to back Alahapperuma for president

Parliamentarians will vote in a secret ballot to elect new president on Wednesday

By Qadijah Irshad

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Published: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 11:17 PM

Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties, minority parties, independents MPs as well as members of the ruling party announced Tuesday night, that they will back the ruling party member Dullas Alahapperuma against presidential hopeful and current acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe.

As Sri Lankans await their fate while 225 Parliamentarians will vote in a secret ballot to elect a new president on Wednesday, the contest is expected to be a close one.

On Tuesday morning, on the day of Sri Lanka’s presidential nominations, Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition party leader who had vowed to “listen to the struggling people of Sri Lanka '' once he becomes president, decided to quit the presidential race. Instead, he announced, he will support the ruling party candidate, former media minister Dullas Alahapperuma.

A detailed MOU has been signed between the two, that includes the abolishing of the executive presidency and re-introducing the 19th Amendment that significantly clips the wings of the all-powerful executive president and strengthens Parliament.

Premadasa’s decision, party sources told Khaleej Times, was “a calculated one”.

“We did the math and realised Sajith cannot win the presidential election this time. Ranil (Wickremesinghe) will end up winning. So we decided to reach an agreement with Dullas where we will support him for presidency and he will bring in Sajith as Prime Minister.”

The deal is a fail proof one – if Alahapperuma wins.

The ruling party that Alahapperuma belongs to, led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the recently ousted prime minister and brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who resigned on the run last week, holds a majority 145 of the 225 seats in Parliament. The votes within the party is split – though to what extent nobody knows - with one faction expected to vote for current acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has gained the reputation of using his powers to protect the corrupt Rajapaksa family; and the other to vote for Alahapperuma.

Six ruling party MPs have so far expressed their support for Alahapperuma openly.

While Premadasa’s Samagi Jana Balawegaya party decided to throw their weight behind Alahapperuma, the Sri Lankan Freedom Party, led by former president Maithripala Sirisena, which had earlier announced will refrain from voting, said they would also back Alahapperuma on Tuesday evening.

Other parties including the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, All Ceylon Makkal Congress, Tamil Progressive Alliance and the Tamil National Alliance – the main Sri Lankan party that represents the Tamils of Sri Lanka, announced they will back Alahapperuma.

Earlier today, Wimal Weerawansa, a Rajapaksa supporter with a colourful past, said a group of 16 MPs who belong to the Union of Independent Parties will use their votes tomorrow for the victory of Alahapperuma.

“We know for sure that victory is certain,” he said.

The island nation is already in turmoil the past week with mass protests demanding all Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe quit politics and “go home.”

Protesters took over several government buildings as anger and frustration mounts in a country that’s facing an economic meltdown and fast running out of basic necessities including food, fuel and medicines.

Meanwhile, in a joint press conference Tuesday night, presidential hopeful Alahapperuma and Premadasa promised the nation stability in a joint governance.

“People want a new beginning and a new system of governance. One party, one leader cannot get over this crisis. For the new Sri Lankan generation, we will solve the problems of this nation as one team, understanding the needs of the people,” Alahapperuma told reporters.

But the words “are now hollow with no meaning,” say protesters, who vow that they will not rest until all Rajapaksa supporters including Wickremesinghe are out of Parliament.

“Ranil or Dullas, either way, the Rajapaksas remain in power. We’ve sacrificed so much, come so far, we are not going to stop now,” said Fathima Munawwara, a mother of two. “Let’s see what tomorrow will bring. We are ready to fight on.”

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