Lankan president opposes Rajapaksa's poll nomination

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Lankan president opposes Rajapaksas poll nomination
Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena.

Colombo - Breaking his two-week-long silence, Maithripala Sirisena said he opposed his party's move to allow Rajapaksa's attempts to get back into the political arena.

By Qadijah Irshad

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Published: Thu 16 Jul 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 16 Jul 2015, 2:00 AM

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday said that he opposed his party's move to allow former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's attempts to get back into the political arena and to become prime minister.
Breaking his two-week-long silence on Wednesday, Sirisena addressed an hour-long special Press briefing explaining his stance on the former president's controversial nomination for the August general election through his party.
"I still oppose the nomination," said the president. "Mahinda Rajapaksa will continue to lose," said Sirisena who was a former minister and ally of Rajapaksa before a surprise defection to an opposition party just weeks before the presidential election in January.
Sirisena came under heavy criticism from the public, media and his political allies when the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which he heads gave nominations to Rajapaksa to stand in next month's polls when Sri Lanka will elect its next prime minister.
The lack of an official response by the president, who earlier stated that he will "never" allow Rajapaksa to be nominated through his party, fuelled the rift between Rajapaksa supporters and anti-Rajapaksa members in the UPFA ranks.
Sirisena said that he allowed Rajapaksa to run in the parliamentary poll because the failure to do so would have resulted in his resignation from the party and a free reign for the former president who is being investigated on several corruption charges.
"...if I had resigned from the party leadership he (Rajapaksa) would have become the party president and appointed only his people as candidates for the election, leaving out all those who supported the common candidate at the presidential election," said Sirisena.
"To prevent that I decided to remain the party leader, but allowed them to nominate Rajapaksa as the candidate. But I still oppose it," he said.
Sirisena said if his party comes into power there are "many seniors apart from Rajapaksa who could be appointed as prime minister".
However, the UPFA has already indicated that Rajapaksa will be the prime minister candidate if the party secures majority seats in the August 17 elections.
The former president who ended a three decade separatist war in the country and ruled for 10 years before his shock defeat in the last elections still has a large number of supporters among the Sinhalese majority in the country.
Widely accused of corruption, Rajapaksa's decision to run for prime minister's office has upset Sirisena's allies who came together to make him president in January.
On Saturday several key members of the president's party signed up for nominations with an anti-Rajapaksa coalition citing their disappointment in president Sirisena's decision to allow Rajapaksa to contest.
President Sirisena said he will remain impartial in the upcoming elections.
"I will remain impartial in the coming election and urge the people to select those who are suitable to march forward with the January 08 (presidential election) mandate," he said.
In his election manifesto the president pledged to wipe out corruption and bring all perpetrators to justice despite their rank and position.
Rajapaksa and his regime still face a United Nations war crimes investigation. A report on alleged rights abuses in the final phase of the war is due in September. -

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