Members of Sri Lankan president's party join anti-Rajapaksa alliance

Citing Sirisena's last week decision to allow Rajapaksa to run in the upcoming election, some of President Sirisena's strongest supporters have left him isolated.

By Qadija Irshad

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Published: Mon 13 Jul 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 14 Jul 2015, 4:14 PM

Colombo - Several disillusioned members of President Maithripala Sirisena's party signed up with a common alliance on Sunday to contest the August general election and thwart former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's attempt to re-enter politics.
Citing President Sirisena's last week decision to allow Rajapaksa, who is facing corruption charges, to run in the upcoming election, some of President Sirisena's strongest supporters have left him isolated.
Around 13 politicians from the president's party as well as a majority of the parties that united together to oust the former president and thrust president Sirisena into power in January have joined the new alliance led by the opposition prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The anti-Rajapaksa alliance named the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFFGG) was formed on Saturday.
It comprises a section from President Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and some leading parties including the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), some Tamil and leftist parties, civil society organisations and leading members of the clergy.
Rajitha Senaratne, Health Minister and Vice-President of the SLFP, said that he along with other party members decided to contest under the new party after their "disappointment" in the president's decision to allow Rajapaksa to contest.
"We are very disappointed," said the president's close confidante. "We decided to contest the general election under the UNFGG banner after the announcement that Mahinda Rajapaksa who has been accused of corruption was granted nomination."
"We are not ready to go back on our promise to eradicate corruption and introduce good governance," said the stalwart who fought for President Sirisena's January victory.
SLFP ministers, including former cricket legend Arjuna Ranatunga, another prominent SLFP member M.K.D.S. Gunawardena as well as Minister of Power and Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka and Buddhist priest and parliamentarian Athuraliye Rathana Thera of JHU, will also contest from the new party's plate form.
Opposition member Lakshman Kiriella said that many more parliamentarians from the president's party are expected to join the new party for nominations.
President Sirisena came under severe criticism both from public as well as his party members and rights groups when he reversed his decision to allow Rajapaksa to contest in the August polls.
Since the announcement by, sources said that several close allies of the president, including former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, have expressed their resentment at the president's decision.
However, SLFP"s senior vice president S. B. Dissanayake defended the president's decision, saying that it was made to "preserve the unity of the party".
The UPFA, which President Sirisena leads and was headed by the former president for 10 years, has been split over Rajapaksa's attempt to use this year's elections to become prime minister.
Rajapaksa has announced that he will contest from Kurunegala district, a Buddhist strong-hold.
Despite President Sirisena's earlier assurances that members of his party accused of corruption and fraud would not get nominations, several members who are being investigated by the Financial Crime Investigations Unit, have received nominations under the UPFA. -

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